Lack of experience, technical issues hurt MOOC program

Limited internet experience, eMail glitches and confusing websites hampered many students struggling to pass online classes in a San Jose State University’s MOOC experiment that produced mixed results, a new report found.

Many students said they didn’t receive eMails.

The findings are in a newly released study, funded by the National Science Foundation, that attempts to tackle what worked and what didn’t for students in two math classes and a statistics class offered by the university last spring in collaboration with the online provider Udacity, which serves as a platform for massive open online courses (MOOCs).

The highly watched MOOC project, which offers low-cost, for-credit online courses, was put on hold for the fall after more than half of the participants failed the classes. Students who took the MOOC classes in a summer program performed better, but the latest research suggests that more improvements are needed.

A survey of participants found that 39 percent had never previously taken an online course. Fewer than half the students knew that support services were available online if they needed help.

The students used the Udacity website for coursework and exams but weren’t aware that grades would be posted on the San Jose website, the report said.In addition, many students were left in the dark because eMails failed to reach them, according to the study.