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Online Universities? I am a big fan, but let’s be sober about the stats…

July 14, 2014

I am a big supporter of ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ (MOOCs).

Stanford University claimed that one MOOC had 160,000 people ‘register’ as students.


But let’s take a sober look at what ‘registration’ as a MOOC ‘student’ really means.

It does not mean filling in an application form, being interviewed, turning up on campus, and then getting in line/queuing to sign up.

It just takes one click on a MOOC website, such as the leading MOOC provider ‘Coursera’.

These stats from one online course show that of the 16,000 people who expressed an interest by ‘enrolling’, only 12% actually started the course, and of those only 13% completed it. More worryingly for Coursera’s business model, only ½% (89 people) gave over $50 for a ‘verified certificate’ (that’s less than $5,000 income for a course that cost $50,000 to create):

Coursera Exploring Quantum Physics stats 2014
Number of enrolled students 16,318
Number of different countries represented by enrolled students 152
Number of students graded (which is the number of those who submitted any of the homework or exams) 2,090 12.8%
Number of students who completed the course 272 1.7%
Number of students who completed the course, with distinction 65 0.4%
Number of students on Signature Track 89 0.5%
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