Harvard, MIT online courses dropped by 95% of registrants

About 95 percent of students enrolled in free, online courses from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology dropped them before getting a completion certificate, Bloomberg reports.

Out of 841,687 registrants in 17 courses offered in 2012 and 2013 by the universities’ joint EdX program, 43,196 saw the classes to conclusion, according to an e-mailed statement from the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based schools. Some of the students signed up for multiple courses, according to the statement.

Harvard and MIT began the $60 million EdX project in 2012 as an experiment to research the potential of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. The data released today show that while there’s broad interest in the classes, people are accessing them for many other reasons besides obtaining a certificate of completion, said Andrew Ho, an associate professor in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

“The data are demanding that we think of new metrics beyond certification rates to capture the diverse goals of users,” Ho, who conducted the research along with MIT electrical engineering and physics professor Isaac Chuang, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think there’s any reason to be concerned that many more people are interested and many more people are learning.”

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