5. Strengths and Weaknesses of MOOCs

5.3. The Audience that MOOCs Mainly Serve

In a research report from Ho et al. (2014), researchers at Harvard University and MIT found that on the first 17 MOOCs offered through edX.

  • 66 Percent of all participants, and 74 percent of all who obtained a certificate, have a bachelor’s degree or above
  • 71 Percent were male, and the average age was 26
  • This and other studies also found that a high proportion of participants came from outside the USA, ranging from 40-60 percent of all participants, indicating strong interest internationally in open access to high quality university teaching

In a study based on over 80 interviews in 62 institutions ‘active in the MOOC space’, Hollands and Tirthali (2014), researchers at Columbia University Teachers’ College, found that:

Data from MOOC platforms indicate that MOOCs are providing educational opportunities to millions of individuals across the world. However, most MOOC participants are already well-educated and employed, and only a small fraction of them fully engages with the courses. Overall, the evidence suggests that MOOCs are currently falling far short of “democratizing” education and may, for now, be doing more to increase gaps in access to education than to diminish them.

Thus MOOCs, as is common with most forms of university continuing education, cater to the better educated, older and employed sectors of society.