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Education

Massive open online courses don't work as predicted

A higher-education effort to promote massive open online courses, or MOOCs in educational jargon, are not as effective as they have been touted, according to a number of recent reports.

The Penn Graduate School of Education measured the completion rate of students who participated in a MOOC from June 2012 to June 2013. It found that an average of 4 percent of students completed their courses.

Sebastian Thrun, a professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford who helped revolutionize the idea of MOOCs, was disappointed with the completion rates, according to The New York Times — particularly because MOOCs were designed to be free or cheap enough that anyone could participate. Additionally, 80 percent of users already had an advanced degree, according to the Social Science Research Network.

Thrun plans on abandoning the use of MOOCs for higher education and instead use them for corporate training instead of college courses, according to an article for Campus Technology. Nevertheless, Thrun said that he believes that failure is a part of the innovation process. He said he remains committed to extending affordable, quality education to everyone.

Forbes writer Susan Adams was less harsh on the MOOCs experiment. For example, as vocational training for employees, MOOCs have proven successful at helping IT workers advance in their field of work, she said.

Looking to the future, she believes that education innovators will work out the kinks of the current MOOCs and they will become a truly new and effective way to earn a college degree.

“I don’t believe MOOCs have failed,” Adams said. “They may not satisfy the grandiose claims of their pioneers, but they are already enhancing education for thousands of students.”

Sam Clemence is an intern for Deseret News where he works with the opinion section staff and as a reporter for the enterprise team.