If last year was The Year of the MOOC, this one is the year of disenchantment with massively open online courses, Motherboard reports.

Haven’t you heard? Online courses are a bust. New studies say so. The media says so. But are online education really a flop, or have we just reached the downward crash in the hype cycle that inevitably follows bloated expectations?

Well, let’s look at what the latest research suggests. A study from Princeton University on arXiv looked at hundreds of thousands of student discussion forums from 73 Coursera classes, to a discouraging result. It found, like plenty of MOOC studies before it, that participation in the classes dropped significantly over time, and worse, courses with engaged teachers actually had an even steeper dropout rate.

It also found that the social learning element of the course wasn’t working because one-third of the chatter in discussion forums was useless “small talk” too tough to navigate through to the valuable stuff.

That study came on the heels of another probe into Coursera from one of its partner schools, the University of Pennsylvania. Penn researchers looked at one million students from 16 classes over a year and found that only half of students who signed up for courses actually took them, engagement dropped off dramatically in the first few weeks, and a paltry 4 percent completed the course they’d registered for.

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