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The Daily Tar Heel

New online courses should be improved before wide use

If the University continues to pursue Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), it should first work to ensure that its current offerings are effective before expanding opportunities.

A recent University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education study has revealed a pattern of shockingly poor engagement in the classes, with only a small minority of students receiving satisfactory grades. The average course completion rate in the study was 4 percent, and only about half of registrants viewed even one lecture.

UNC began offering MOOCs through Coursera last semester, starting with just four courses not recognized for course credit.

These course offerings, while perhaps an exciting look into the future of higher education, are currently in their extreme infancy, and, as such, should be given no more than their due weight.

Expansion before adequate perfection of the current system would be a disservice to the professors working hard to offer these courses with limited success as of now.

In light of these recent findings, it is important that the University focuses on exploring ways to make these courses more engaging and works to retain students.

This study, with a sample size of only 17 courses at a single university, cannot offer a truly comprehensive conclusion and, as such, should not constitute a death sentence for MOOCs. However, it is still a warning sign that educators should not ignore.

MOOCs offer a unique platform to pursue interesting courses that are often not otherwise offered in a traditional educational setting, and this could be a good opportunity to pursue moving forward. But, as of now, the University would be wise to hold off on dedicating more resources to MOOCs until it is clear that they are viable sources of education.

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