Massive open online courses have unveiled a gold mine of data to University faculty and staff, The Daily Illini reports.

Typically, instructors evaluating the effectiveness of their teaching styles can only gather data from relatively small classes. But with the help of data from massive open online courses, or MOOCs, an instructor’s sample size expands from 50 to 50,000 participants.

“Nobody else has a data set like that to explore,” said Chuck Tucker, co-chair of the MOOC Strategy Advisory Committee. “There is data that you can get from a MOOC — from Coursera — that you can’t get from anywhere else. That is the power of the very large MOOC.”

But these free courses, which enroll tens of thousands of participants from around the world, require plenty of resources.

Each class costs about $30,000 to $50,000 to produce, not including the faculty members’ time spent on its development. In addition to faculty members’ curricula, the MOOCs require a staff of instructional designers, who in turn design the MOOC presentation; audio and video producers to nail down technical details; and copywriters to ensure that the material is in the public domain.

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