Coursera is a for-profit, venture educational technology company offering massive open online courses (MOOCs). The company has partnered with major universities and other organizations to make their courses available online. The courses range from physics, engineering, biology, mathematics and social sciences among others (Siemens, 2013).
Over time, the company the business development model of the company has focused on the user acquisition. They have developed a series of mechanisms that aim increasing the number of its users. Their model of increasing the number of enrolled students is seen as having both an internal and external motivation tool. Internal motivation is the kind of motivation experienced when you do something because you find it interesting. Extrinsic motivation, however, involves doing something to acquire external rewards or incentives. It can take the form of doing an activity to avoid negative consequences. The enrollment into online courses has been on the rise, but the number of students completing the course is imperatively low. Massive drop outs of up to ninety percent have been witnessed (Halawa, Greene, and Mitchell, 2014).
Halawa, Greene and Mitchell, 2014, argue that majority of the people signing up for online courses include high school students and college students who are looking for better ways for study the subjects they are learning in their various schools. Others do it for the purpose of doing faculty comparison, i.e., what other colleges teach in their subjects. Notable is the fact that other people sign up for the courses to “spend their free time better.” They have nothing more than that.
The number of students who complete MOOCs is small (Williams, 2015). The completion of the course depends mostly on the intention of enrolling in the course. The intention is, therefore, the greatest predictor of course completion. Old and more educated students are found to have higher completion rates than young students. Completion also has its basis on persistence throughout the course. Persistence is modeled as a function of the percentage of total session days in which the students are active.
The high drop-out rate from the courses has raised many questions regarding the fate of MOOCs. There are some reasons for the huge dropout rate that borders on both the user, the MOOC offering organization and other external factors. First, many have no real intention to complete the course. Many people who have been quoted as enrolling for MOOCs “out of curiosity” and the need to get more knowledge about MOOCs rather than to learn the subject per se. Suggestions have it that people who have no intention for full participation, including other professionals with intentions of gaining the format to develop their content and courses. Those who enrolls as casual recreation usually evade the examinations which are used as a measure of completion ((Halawa, Greene, and Mitchell, 2014).
Secondly, lack of time has been cited as part of the reasons for the dropout. Students fail to devote time to the study of the course. Lack of time has been witnessed even in the students’ with high motivation and intention of completion. Though personal circumstances may be blamed, the workload of the courses is sometimes overwhelming. It is because of the “one size fits all” format of MOOCs. It is not adaptable to the individual needs. Notable among the drop out is the course difficulty with minimum support about some disciplines that may have otherwise required one-on-one explanation.
Halawa, Greene, and Mitchell, 2014. Note that, lack of digital learning skills has been cited as a reason for the dropouts. The systems of the format may prove uncomfortable for the new students irrespective of technological knowhow. The confusion and frustration with some MOOCs platforms are evident. Bad experiences have been noted as barriers to the continuation of participation in the forums. The peers have behaved inappropriately; there is a lack of focus and improper coordination and poor quality and unfitting learning materials and technical problems in the MOOCs platforms.
Furthermore, many students have registered for MOOCs with tiny comprehension of the requirements of the course (Halawa, Greene, and Mitchell, 2014). They, therefore, develop unrealistic expectations. These expectations may be related to the course or can be personal ability to undertake the course. Students who start some classes late have a hard time coping up, especially in situations where there is extensive use of community discussions. Support groups and learning networks that have been established already at the time of their entry. It means that new learners have to struggle to catch up and fit into the existing structures. MOOC platforms that use peer grading system have experienced a very low completion rates as compared to others. Many students are not happy with the peer review system. Many have been disheartened by the experiences from peer reviewed work which can include dismissive comments, lack of response and the findings of plagiarism in the peers’ work.
Coursera has put in place series of extrinsic motivational incentives that include free courses; reducing the cost of classes it is offering (Brady, Fisher and Narasimham, 2016). It has been done through the use of instant computer-based marking. The students can grade their peers’ homework assignments in some cases where computer-based marking system is not applicable. Furthermore, they have employed statistical methods to validate the assessments. To encourage increased accessibility of the needy students to education and certificates, Coursera has developed a Financial Aid program. The program is specifically designed for those students who have significant economic hardships. These people can be given an opportunity to earn a Course Certificate at minimal or no cost. The program has made an important impact as it has allowed those with genuine needs acquire the certificates.
However, the incentives have been received both positively and negatively. People argue that the incentives have facilitated the enrollment and increased the rates of completion of courses (Bates, 2015). However, those against the incentives cite them as a marketing game plan and a recruitment tool for universities. Some scholars argue that Coursera has a lucrative business deal with to get equity from universities. They argue that even though many students may enroll and complete the online courses, there will be no employer willing to absorb them into the social market. These online course platforms are a threat to the non-brands (Lazaroiu, Popescu, and Nica 2016). They say in as much as incentives are in place, Coursera will not replace online education that students will pay fro to get credit. It only serves to destroy the current education model.
On a positive note, there have been vibrant supporters arguing that the incentives put in place have increased access to knowledge and information. They argue that MOOCs are a sensible response to the growing tsunami-like learning requirements. The fact that there is the lack of space in the current education market can be best dealt through online education. It has created access to a talent pool globally and generation of high-quality content and projects.
Therefore, in as much as Cousera has been promoting online education through offering free courses, the simultaneous high enrollment numbers and high rate of dropouts has rendered the credibility of the system questionable. The incentives that have been put forward, though effective have not been efficient enough to guarantee better reception.
Bates, T. (2015). What’s Right and What’s Wrong About Coursera-style MOOCs?, 2012. Blog entry retrieved from http://www. tonybates. ca/2012/08/05/whats-right-and-whats-wrong-about-coursera- style-moocs.
Brady, K., Fisher, D., & Narasimham, G. (2016, April). Exploring the Effects of Lightweight Social Incentives on Learner Performance in MOOCs. InProceedings of the Third (2016) ACM Conference on [email protected] Scale (pp. 297-300). ACM.
Halawa, S., Greene, D., & Mitchell, J. (2014). Dropout prediction in MOOCs using learner activity features. Experiences and best practices in and around MOOCs, 7.
Lazaroiu, G., Popescu, G. H., & Nica, E. (2016, July). THE FEASIBILITY OF COURSERA AS A PLATFORM FOR CREDIT-BEARING COURSES. InThe International Scientific Conference eLearning and Software for Education(Vol. 3, p. 46). " Carol I" National Defence University.
Siemens, G. (2013). Massive open online courses: Innovation in education.Open educational resources: Innovation, research and practice, 5.
Williams, B. A. (2015, March). Peers in MOOCs: Lessons Based on the Education Production Function, Collective Action, and an Experiment. InProceedings of the Second (2015) ACM Conference on [email protected] Scale(pp. 287-292). ACM.
Yuan, L., Powell, S., & CETIS, J. (2013). MOOCs and open education: Implications for higher education.