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Study: real world learning helps online grades; few students complete online courses

Online courses benefit from real world studying.
Online courses benefit from real world studying. José Goulão/Flickr

Students who take online courses perform better when they spend time
studying outside the virtual classroom, according to a study by MIT and Harvard researchers.

Researchers from MIT and Harvard looked at the performance of students who enrolled in a massive online open course version of a popular class taught at MIT. They found that students who said they studied with a partner scored an average of about three points higher than those who studied alone.

But they also found that few did so. Only one in five students who completed an end-of-course survey said they collaborated offline with other students or subject experts. 

The course was based on MIT’s “Circuits and Electronics” class, which required for first year undergraduates in the Department of Electric Engineering and Computer Science. The online version consisted of lecture videos, an electronic textbook, tutorials and a discussion forum for students and teaching assistants.

It was the first MOOC developed by EdX, which offers a variety of online courses and which is governed by MIT and Harvard. The course ran for the first time from March 5, 2012 through June 8, 2012 and was free for anyone to take.

Lori Breslow, the director of MIT’s Teaching and Learning Laboratory, was the lead researcher and findings were published in the journal “Research & Practice in Assessment.” Researchers also found:

  • Less than 5% of the nearly 155,000 people enrolled in the course completed it.
  • Students came from 194 countries. Most came from the United States (26,333), followed by India (13,044), the United Kingdom (8,430), Columbia (5,900), and Spain (3,684).
  • The study showed no relationship between age and achievement or between gender and achievement.

Do you think more colleges should offer massive online courses?  Tell us in the comments below.

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