New study suggests steps to boost MOOCs' retention rate

March 09, 2016

Thomas Dee and two Stanford doctoral alumni analyzed data from 44 online courses to identify why some retained more students than others. Why do so many students fail to complete massive open online courses (MOOCs) while a small number manage to finish?

A new study from researchers at Stanford, University of California-Irvine and Vanderbilt schools of education suggests that the dismal retention rate can be significantly improved through changes in course design and subtle alterations in how material is presented.

“Several student and lecture specific traits were associated with student persistence and engagement,” the three authors write. “For example, the sequencing of a lecture within a batch of released videos as well as its title wording were related to student watching.” They also noted that “students were more likely to complete the course if they completed a pre-course survey or followed a quantitative track (as opposed to qualitative or auditing track) when available.”