Applying MOOC thinking to traditional passing rates

mischievous-studentrecent article in The Atlantic discussed the ways in which instructors of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) present their data, such as passing rates.  These courses are clearly a new frontier for education.  While some would argue that they represent the future of education (at least, higher education), a recent backlash and disappointing return on investment are causing some big players to rethink their role.

The author, a MOOC instructor, used some great graphics to show the relative numbers of students who enroll in the course, visit at least one page, watch at least one seminar, etc.  Her message was this: the sheer size of the course and the low barrier to entry make it unfair to count most students as being “in the class”.

Her point is a valid one.  It is clear that the extremely low cost and easy access of MOOCs lead many students to enroll who have neither the time nor the motivation to actually take the courses.  But couldn’t something similar be said for public school classes? Continue reading