Thursday, October 20, 2011

MOOC participation - open door policy and analytics

The other day I was reading ZML Didaktik on the topic of MOOC participants. In MOOCs, one of the big questions is why are people lurking and not participating? If more than 500 people join a MOOC, why are only 10% contributing with any amount of regularity?  On the same blog, in a previous blog post, I had commented (it was an open stream of thought really) that perhaps there should be an open enrollment period, and then if the system sees that certain participants are bellow a threshold of activity, the system may give them the option to self-identify as a lurker, or un-register from the class.

This line of thought went along a view that compared to the traditional classroom; in a traditional classroom students register for the course, they can attend classes for a week and then decide whether or not they want to stay with the course or not. If they do stay with the course they know that there is a certain amount of "lurking" that they can get away with, but they do have to participate a certain amount.  This is what makes traditional classroom analytics easier. You know exactly how many people registered, how many people dropped the course (early in the semester) or withdrew (late in the semester), and you know how often people participated and the quality of their participation. There is also some artifact involved with their participation that indicates their mastery of the topic.

In contrast, most MOOCs (that I've been a part of), have open enrollment, the dip in-jump out aspect seems to be a big thing, there are many lurkers and many people who've signed up but don't come back (not even as lurkers), and for most registered users there is no artifact that shows their mastery. I am not saying that the that I want to eject people from any MOOC I create (like jupidu I want to give people an opportunity to participate), but the question is - how does one collect meaningful learner and learning analytics when there are so many no-shows in a MOOC? Perhaps a "snooze" button would be a good idea for measuring lurkers.

If people don't participate for X period of time, they get a notification by email. They can choose to "snooze" by saying that they are a lurker (and X weeks later they get notified again), or they can cancel the alarm by saying that they decided to opt-out of the course.  If they decide to opt-out we can find out why.  If they decide to lurk, we can find out how often they lurk, what topics they come out lurking for, and we can figure out if there is a lurking-to-participant or lurking-to-drop-out rate (and why).

Some questions I will leave you with:

  • Should MOOCs continue with this come-and-go as you please policy? What are the implication of either approach?
  • Should MOOCs actively interrogate/poll lurkers and drop-outs to figure out why the MOOC isn't to their liking? After all, a MOOC cannot be all things to all people.
  • What are ways to conduct a learner analysis in MOOCs? After all, you can't design a course if you don't know your audience.
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