While Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) may allow free education on an enormous scale, one of the biggest criticisms raised about MOOCs is that although thousands enrol for courses, a very small proportion actually complete the course. The release of information about enrollment and completion rates from MOOCs appears to be ad hoc at the moment - that is, official statistics are not published for every course. This data visualisation draws together information about enrollment numbers and completion rates from across online news stories and blogs.

How big is the typical MOOC? - while an enrollment of 180,000 is often cited as the largest MOOC so far, 50,000 students enrolled is a much more typical MOOC size.


asked 26 Feb '13, 13:29

robrambusch's gravatar image

robrambusch ♦

edited 26 Feb '13, 13:31

It's long known to people who have taken part in MOOCs that only a (relatively) very low percentage finish the course. This is of course a consequence of the courses being completely free. So are you saying that if college were free, much more people would enroll, and much more people would drop out, compared to traditional ~$1e5/year college?--Go figure! ;-)

Is this a bad thing, considering that it's a consequence of the courses being offered for free?

Also, "enrollment" statistics aren't very meaningful, precisely because it's totally free, currently I'm "enrolled" in some upcoming courses to get the email reminder when they start, but if then I don't have the time I won't even start them. I remember that at the start I didn't want to enroll in courses until I was sure I was going to try and complete it (ooh otherwise they'll know I've stepped back... as well as tens of thousands others... What a shame ;-)

Perhaps it would be more meaningful to use statistics of people who completed the first week (even if they failed). Of course MOOCs may be interested in publicizing inflated figures of 1e5 enrolled and such... In this regard the statistics release for example by DB-class were good (they used the number of "students turning in some work [composite score > 0]").


answered 26 Feb '13, 15:03

XavierP's gravatar image


edited 26 Feb '13, 15:04

Thanks for passing this along. I think she did a good job of capturing the salient features of the data and displaying them effectively (I wonder if it is possible to change the points to bubbles sized by number of completions). It would be interesting to see a more comprehensive version of this in a few months.

I also liked the tabular display of the data (select "BROWSE AND COMPARE ALL DATA").

One quibble, Think Again has not finished yet (i.e. submissions accepted until 3/11) so it's a bit early to be publishing completion statistics for it.

P.S. I ran across an interesting page while chasing links from the graphic: http://101.edstartup.net/archives/tag/coursera/ Much of it I had not seen before.


answered 26 Feb '13, 18:09

rseiter's gravatar image

rseiter ♦

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