Thursday, December 20, 2012

Statistical Analysis of the Functional Programming Principles in Scala MOOC

(Post by Mark Lewis, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Trinity University)

It has now been a few weeks since my first MOOC completed. At the end of the course they did a survey asking for various information to help them plan potential future courses. Today I got an e-mail that mentioned they had done some analysis on the nearly 7500 responses to that survey. The following link was included in the e-mail.

I haven't heard of any other MOOCs doing this type of analysis or making this type of data available. Granted, part of the reason they are making it available is so that students can get further experience. That doesn't really make sense for anything that isn't CS related and of a sufficient level of difficulty.

Two things that really jump out to me from this data are that this MOOC was a standout in terms of completion and it had an interesting population of students. These are inevitably correlated. Most MOOCs have a completion rate of about 10%. This one had a completion rate of 20%. I know that many people point to these low completion rates as a sign that MOOCs don't work well. However, I think they are part of the fact that MOOCs work very well at doing something that other forms of education simply can't do, they make learning highly available to anyone who is interested, even if they aren't willing to put in the full effort to finish a course.

The reason for the high completion rate is almost certainly related to the student population of this particular MOOC. The survey respondents showed a very highly educated group of students with the largest subgroup being those who have completed a masters degree, followed by those who have completed a bachelors degree. Basically, the people who finished this course, were doing it as continuing education and the majority had strong backgrounds to build on. My guess is that this isn't as strongly the case for other MOOCs and that is why they tend to have lower completion rates.

The blog post highlights some other interesting aspects of this course and how it was run. On the whole, I think this course is probably an early model for a highly successful MOOC. Those who want to use this type of structure for education should probably look to this particular offering as a model to base their efforts off of.