"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Do We Learn Online?

Of course, the answer is that some people do. The worldwide web can deliver as much content as any book does and with technology, it can be interactive, dynamic and almost limitless. This blog has been active for almost two years now. With more than 700 posts, this blog is certainly more than thousands of pages long. The blog covers topics under basic education emphasizing the role of evidence-based and peer-reviewed research in deciding what actions must be taken to address challenges and problems in schools in the Philippines and the United States. Currently, there have been more than 600,000 pageviews from about 350,000 visitors. Most of the pageviews and visits to this blog come from the Philippines. The important question then is whether readers from the Philippines are learning from the content provided by this blog. Four percent of 350,000 is 14,000. I grab the number four percent from findings reported by schools that provide courses online. Four percent is the fraction of registrants in massive open online courses (MOOCs) who actually finish.

Obviously, I am expecting too much. This blog after all is not from Harvard, MIT or UPenn. Reading this blog also does not grant the viewer a certificate of completion. This blog does not confer credits toward professional development. This blog does not perform any assessment so it cannot even determine whether a reader is in fact getting the main points of a post or not.

Harvard and MIT just came out with their report on the first year of MOOCs offered by the two institutions. The results are no different from those of the University of Pennsylvania, which were highlighted here in a previous article. Harvard and MIT offered the following courses:


Above copied from Ho, Andrew Dean and Reich, Justin and Nesterko, Sergiy O and Seaton, Daniel Thomas and Mullaney, Tommy and Waldo, Jim and Chuang, Isaac, HarvardX and MITx: The First Year of Open Online Courses, Fall 2012-Summer 2013 (January 21, 2014). Ho, A. D., Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, D. T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., & Chuang, I. (2014). HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses (HarvardX and MITx Working Paper No. 1).. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2381263

And the results are summarized in the following figure:

Above copied from Ho, Andrew Dean and Reich, Justin and Nesterko, Sergiy O and Seaton, Daniel Thomas and Mullaney, Tommy and Waldo, Jim and Chuang, Isaac, HarvardX and MITx: The First Year of Open Online Courses, Fall 2012-Summer 2013 (January 21, 2014). Ho, A. D., Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, D. T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., & Chuang, I. (2014). HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses (HarvardX and MITx Working Paper No. 1).. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2381263
It is also interesting to note the makeup of the course takers. These are mostly holders of bachelor degrees or higher:

Above copied from Ho, Andrew Dean and Reich, Justin and Nesterko, Sergiy O and Seaton, Daniel Thomas and Mullaney, Tommy and Waldo, Jim and Chuang, Isaac, HarvardX and MITx: The First Year of Open Online Courses, Fall 2012-Summer 2013 (January 21, 2014). Ho, A. D., Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, D. T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., & Chuang, I. (2014). HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses (HarvardX and MITx Working Paper No. 1).. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2381263
And most are young adults:

Above copied from Ho, Andrew Dean and Reich, Justin and Nesterko, Sergiy O and Seaton, Daniel Thomas and Mullaney, Tommy and Waldo, Jim and Chuang, Isaac, HarvardX and MITx: The First Year of Open Online Courses, Fall 2012-Summer 2013 (January 21, 2014). Ho, A. D., Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, D. T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., & Chuang, I. (2014). HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses (HarvardX and MITx Working Paper No. 1).. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2381263
There are also several thousands of registrants who come from the Philippines:

Above copied from Ho, Andrew Dean and Reich, Justin and Nesterko, Sergiy O and Seaton, Daniel Thomas and Mullaney, Tommy and Waldo, Jim and Chuang, Isaac, HarvardX and MITx: The First Year of Open Online Courses, Fall 2012-Summer 2013 (January 21, 2014). Ho, A. D., Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, D. T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., & Chuang, I. (2014). HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses (HarvardX and MITx Working Paper No. 1).. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2381263

Although both United States and the Philippines appear on the list of top 25 countries by numbers of registrants, both countries disappear when it comes to completion rate (not even in the top 30):

Above copied from Ho, Andrew Dean and Reich, Justin and Nesterko, Sergiy O and Seaton, Daniel Thomas and Mullaney, Tommy and Waldo, Jim and Chuang, Isaac, HarvardX and MITx: The First Year of Open Online Courses, Fall 2012-Summer 2013 (January 21, 2014). Ho, A. D., Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, D. T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., & Chuang, I. (2014). HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses (HarvardX and MITx Working Paper No. 1).. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2381263
These are courses provided by some of the top universities in the world yet the completion rate leaves a lot to be desired. The small percentages are indeed still large numbers in absolute terms since 4 percent of 800,000 is still a big number, 32,000. A student population of 32,000 is quite large in any decent size college campus in the US. This year, Georgetown University has about 7,500 students enrolled in its undergraduate programs. Thus, the reach of MOOCs is actually very substantial. One, however, should not discount the fact that these MOOCs are already coming from the best institutions of higher learning in the US.

It illustrates what one sees online almost everyday. One only needs to see which posts get so many shares and likes on Facebook, and compare their content with those provided by these MOOCs. One often sees "online learning" as a phrase, but the two seem to be not a match made in heaven. We are still quite a long way from learning online.





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