Widely recognized as game-changing in education, they offer radical reach and democratize access to education unlike anything we’ve ever seen. However, the rise of anything new and exciting is typically accompanied by criticism. In the case of MOOCs, it has been heavy. Skeptics point to uncertainty in scalability, assessment, engagement — the list goes on.
The main argument being made against MOOCs attacks the perceived lack of success as measured by their low completion rates (Mass MOOC Dropouts). The interpretation of this metric varies greatly.
Critics are obsessed with the infamous five percent rate, pointing out that “If 95 percent of students who enrolled in a residential college course dropped out or failed, that course would rightly be considered a disaster.”
Some take it further (the MOOC Racket), claiming that MOOCs are a platform for evangelizing academic rock stars to the detriment of students and teachers, and arguing that educators can’t teach tens of thousands of people at once — “that MOOCs only deliver information, but that’s not education.”
What is clear from all the fur flying is that people aren’t satisfied with the current state of affairs in U.S. education. But are MOOCs really failing to make the grade? Is this the right interpretation of that troubling five percent?