Sramana: Will this consumption and sharing of open education resources occur via shared MOOCs?
Gary Matkin: Open education resources will expand dramatically beyond formal higher education. The big driver here is the need for more and more people to become better and better educated, often for very specific things in their lives. They need to be able to access education resources to meet their needs in a very convenient and inexpensive way. That is the imperative that is driving all of this.
MOOCs are a form of open education but they are a rather restricted form. In fact, they are not open at all. They are only open to individuals who want to learn for their own sake. Right now most of the MOOCs available are not downloadable and usable by other institutions. Open education, including the open education that UCI offers, is generally under a Creative Commons License, which is the least restrictive license of all. That means anybody can use the materials we put out in any way they want including, in some cases, commercial uses.
MOOCs are nested within an area called open education where open education is the name for the universal access that I am talking about. Because UCI was dedicated to open education a long time ago we saw MOOCs as another element of that whole trend. For us getting into MOOCs was a natural thing to do. We did not go to a lot of institutional introspection or controversy about it. We just did it. We took some of our open courses and put them on Coursera. We have offered 13 courses that, at last count, had 648,000 people enrolled in those courses. Most of the people who enroll in the course do not complete them. We use those numbers to measure people’s interest in those courses.
Our initial interest in MOOCs was driven by our desire to experiment. We wanted to do that as part of the commitment to open coursework that we had already made. Now we are beginning to look at other ways of using MOOCs. A number of our MOOCs are available under Signature Track, which is the Coursera options for students who want to take evaluations and get some recognition for those learning evaluations. At least half of our courses have that option on Coursera now.
Sramana: What percentage of students who are enrolled in your courses are taking advantage of those options?
Gary Matkin: Very few.
Sramana: It is a well-known fact that students who are enrolling in MOOCs are not completing the course. What is your analysis of that phenomena?
Gary Matkin: People are looking for opportunities to learn things for free. That means that they are going to be looking for opportunities to learn that do not have to come in large chunks that come in courses. They could be parts of courses or just looking at some videos. They could be hoping for a general understanding of a subject without having to do anything. All of those are legitimate human impulses to learn. For everybody to get excited about the low completion rates is a complete misunderstanding of what MOOCs are meant to be.