Saturday, March 3, 2012

Vast Lurker and No-lurker Participation in Open Online Courses: MOCCs and the AI Stanford like courses respectively.

Open online courses with a massive number of students have represented an interesting development for online education in the past years.
They have basically followed two very different formats: MOOCs and courses similar in spirit to the AI-Stanford course.
In this post I analyze the behavior (both in number and pattern), for both types of the massive courses, of what are described in the research literature  as lurker participants (see Rita Kop, 2011).
MOOCs represent an emerging methodology of online teaching with a structure inspired by the philosophy of connectivism. During the last years they  have been carried out with great success. Examples are CCK08, PLENK2010, MobiMOOC (2011), EduMOOC (2011), Change11, and LAK12. Their implementation requires conceptual changes in perspective from both “facilitators” (tutors) and learners.
These courses can be classified within the connectivist pedagogy (Dron and Anderson 2011, see also a previous post).

Figure 1 (extracted using google analytics to the home page of EduMOOC 2011) represents a typical behavior pattern of those participating in a MOOC. A big number register (2700 in this case) but after a few weeks the active participants reduce to less than 100. Activities like online meetings do not register more than a few tens. Participation in surveys is also small.
Figure 1. shows the number of visits from new visitors (dots) and returning visitors (squares) as defined in the Google Analytics analysis of  the main web site in EduMOOC for the period extending a week before the start until one week after.

Then an important question emerges: have more than 90% of registered participants dropped the course?
Lurker is a term used to define a participant that just follows the course, looks at the recordings, and browses the available course resources. He is mostly behind the scenes waiting for some interesting event as can be seen in Figure 1 and quantified in Table 1. A successful blog post or a particular debate posted to the Google group mailing list may obtain responses that could be 50% of those registered.

Table 1. shows the number of new and returning  daily visitors to EduMOOCs main web page. W0 is the week before the start and W8 the ending week. Thursday was chosen as the sampling day. The total number of unique visitors during the 8 weeks was around 10.000.

The AI-Stanford like courses and
The 2011 AI-Stanford class on Artificial Intelligence taught by Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig was also a massive open online course with 160,000 registered enrollees of which 20,000 completed all coursework. It was offered free and online to students worldwide from October 10th to December 18th 2011. A very similar pattern is followed by courses released and still in progress by
The Ai-stanford course included feedback on progress and a statement of accomplishment. The curriculum drew from that used in Stanford's introductory Artificial Intelligence course. The instructors offered similar materials, assignments, and exams.

These course can be classified within the cognitive-behaviorist pedagogy

Figure 2 shows the number of participants through the duration of the AI-course course expressed as daily reach (analytics extracted using A huge peak surges to nearly 100.000 (the daily reach of around October 10th (the beginning of the course). Very rapidly it stabilized at 25.000 active participants. The smaller peaks are linked to the weekly obligatory exams. Practically no lurkers participate and the change from 160.000 to 25.000 simply represents dropouts. 

Figure 2. Number of active participants in the Stanford AI-class.

Two very different course formats.

From previous studies it has become evident (George Siemmens 2012) that we are in the presence of different formats:

  • the AI-Stanford participants have totally different learners goals and preparation than those in MOOCs.
  • there exists a very different nature of the subjects studied: engineering  and  educational theory.
  • the AI-Stanford course falls into the cognitive-behaviorist pedagogy category and the MOOCs  into the connectivist.
The retention and lurker behavior described above adds another differentiation to the previous list.

tag for: #lak12 and #change11

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