The March 2014 issue of Harper's Magazine came today and had these items in the "Index":
*Percentage of students enrolled in a massive open online course who view no more than one lecture: 49.
*Percentage who complete the course: 4.
*Percentage of students enrolled in such courses at UPenn last year who had already earned a college degree: 79.
Interestingly, the "Index" also has these items:
*Percentage of U.S. students who started college in 2007 who have not completed their degrees: 1/2.
*Percentage change since 1980 in the rate of labor-force participation among U.S. women: +5.7
Clearly, we have not yet found the best role for MOOCs here in the U.S. However, it is also clear that there is a significant societal demand to help adults complete their college degrees so that they can be more competitive in the workforce and so that our society can better compete in the new global economy.
At the same time, it is clear that we need to greatly increase the impact of agricultural and other research in developing countries so that they can participate more equally in the new economy. Here, perhaps, is a way that America's research universities--and, especially, our land grant institutions with their long history of research transfer and extension--can make good use of MOOCs.
The "Index" also had some bad news from the K-12 realm:
*Portion of white U.S. students taking AP math exams last year who received passing scores: 2/3.
*Of black U.S. students: 1/3.
*Number of 882 SAT takers from Camden, New Jersey, in 2012, who were scored "college ready": 3.
If we are to meet the workforce needs of the new economy, we desperately need to produce more high school graduates who are prepared to go on to college. Here, again, MOOCs might help by making available to teachers open educational resources in critical disciplines and developing the teacher's ability to effectively use them.
There is a future for MOOCs in the U.S. We just need to focus on the societal need.