Survey uncovers why many students are skeptical of MOOCs

Concerns about course credit are also common

A new survey at one college provides important insights into how all students—not just early adopters—perceive MOOCs, Meris Stansbury reports for eCampus News.

Details on the survey

The survey was conducted by Andrew Cole, a communications instructor at Waukesha County Technical College, and C. Erik Timmerman, associate professor at the Department of Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They used an online qualitative survey to gather opinions from 84 undergraduate students from a variety of courses at one large urban Midwestern university.

How much do MOOC students really study?

Participants were asked to respond to eight open-ended questions. The researchers say the survey provides "fairly typical cross section of traditional college students with varied degrees of familiarity with the concept of a MOOC."

According to the researchers:

  • 81% of students expressed concerns about the reliability of information in MOOCs; and
  • 21% worried about outcomes MOOcs would provide;
  • And several students had concerns about whether MOOCs would provide transferrable credit.

Student comments supported the general feelings of wariness. One told researchers of a MOOC's content: "While much of the information is correct, I wouldn't use it much past basic facts and dates. "

Others worried about the instructional quality of MOOCs, with one student writing: "I would expect the instructor to be pretty overwhelmed with emails and questions from a much larger group of students."

The findings in context

The authors say the survey is important because it provides insight into an important—but little understood—group. "Despite the fact that college students presumably would be greatly affected by widespread adoption of MOOCs in higher education, very little attention is paid to current college students' perceptions and attitudes toward MOOCs," they explain.

Overall, the researchers say the survey suggests students have persistent doubts about the quality of instruction MOOCs provide, how much access they will have to instructors, and how to integrate the courses into their broader academic goals.

For instance, the authors note that, "Students often commented on the benefits of MOOCs to lifelong learning but, since higher education traditionally reflects a credit hour standard, students see the lack of course credit in MOOCs as a hallmark of lesser quality" (Stansbury, eCampus News, 8/21).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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