Making Sense of MOOCs
MOOCs differ from traditional in-person and ordinary online classes in two major areas: the large number of students they allow to enroll and the high attrition rate among enrolled members. Universities often promote the classes for the first reason, because they maximize enrollment and provide access to college courses to many people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in them. However, the high dropout rate indicates they may not serve students as adequately as ordinary courses.
Despite the widespread adoption of MOOCs, education researchers have carried out relatively few formal studies on their successes and failures. SED researchers have been looking at the retention rates and reasons for student dropouts for two MOOCs offered at Harvard University: "CS50x: Introduction to Computer Science" and "SPU30x: Super-Earths And Life”. These studies were supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.