Learning from MOOC mistakes, one click at a time

  • Analysis of the edX data showed the static PowerPoint slides were an engagement killer, while more engaging visuals grabbed and maintained students’ attention.
  • Fast-talking professors proved much more engaging than educators who spoke at a decidedly slow pace. MOOC professors with the highest engagement rates said 254 words per minute, according to the CSAIL research.
  • Lengthy online videos had low engagement rates, while short videos kept students’ attention. Students typically stopped watching the online lecture after six minutes.
  • While fast-talking professors were key, long pauses for students to better digest complicated diagrams were vital in maintaining engagement.
  • Videos designed specifically for web-based audiences fared much better than existing videos that were simply chopped up and shown in snippets, according to the research.

At the University of London, where a massive course enjoyed a 90 percent satisfaction rating, around 90,000 of those MOOC students, or 42 percent, were considered “active” students, contributing to video chats and Twitter sessions in which course material was discussed with professors.

An “active” student was also defined as such if they downloaded a video lecture, took an online quiz, or posted to class forums, according to the university.

Even a sky-high satisfaction rate didn’t translate into much more than high marks for the university, however. Four percent of students completed the University of London MOOCs.

Mike Kerrison, director of academic development for the University of London International Programmes, said the school’s first MOOCs “have proven to be very successful. Considering that the courses are free and allow students to do as much or as little work as they like, the number of students engaging in the course materials is considerable.”