Jan 21 2014

Another MOOC, Another Low Completion Rate

Just 3 percent of enrollees completed “The Walking Dead” MOOC. What does it mean for higher education?

Remember The Walking Dead MOOC run by the University of California, Irvine, and cable network AMC? Well, the results are in, and they are sure to fuel the already white-hot flames of controversy that surround MOOCs.

These two metrics tell you everything you need to know: Just 3 percent of enrollees finished the course, but a whopping 60 percent said they became a bigger fan of the TV show as a result. Oh, and according to Instructure, 80 percent feel more prepared for a zombie apocalypse. Welcome to higher education in 2014.

Even more interesting: The university isn’t disappointed with these results, according to the Huffington Post.

Melissa Loble, UC Irvine associate dean of distance learning and the course's architect, said the low completion rate doesn't bother her.

"I was more interested in students walking away with one idea or walking away with one new approach," Loble told The Huffington Post. "That was more of what success was to me."

To be fair, the course completion rate is roughly on par with other MOOCs. According to Inside Higher Ed, the average completion rate hovers around 7 percent. This course was as much a pop culture experiment as it was an authentic educational initiative. As education blends with marketing, social media and, in general, the disruptive force of the Internet, how can educators define expected learning outcomes? Should professors reassess their goals for the new standards being set by MOOCs?

There is no easy answer. We asked a few ed-tech experts on Twitter what they thought. Here are their answers:

D. Christopher Brooks, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota's Office of Information Technology, also weighed in.

Update: We received the following email from Instructure:

Once clarification: the completion rate for the course was actually about 10 percent, not the 3 percent reported in Tyler's article in the Huffington Post. The 3 percent number actually represents the ratio who completed all eight badges.

What do you think about the future of MOOCs? Let us know in the Comments.


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