Harvardx and MITx: Two Years of Open Online Courses Fall 2012-Summer 2014

By Elizabeth Blume

A new research report on massive open online courses (MOOCs) from Harvardx and MITx (two providers) draws on data collected from 68 courses, 1.7 million participants and 10 million participant hours in both the first and second year of operation. Analysis lends insight into how the landscape of MOOCs has changed (or not changed) since 2011.

Some of the key findings are summarized below:

  • Enrollment is steadily rising. Cumulative enrollment has grown at a steady rate of 2,200 participants per day. On average, a unique participant has entered into 1.7 HarvardX and MITx courses.
  • Participation declined from a course’s first offering to its second (by 43%). Participation was essentially unchanged from the second to the third version.
  • Among participants responding to a survey about intentions, 57% intended to earn a certificate. Of those participants, 24% went on to actually earn a certificate.
  • Interestingly enough, 39% of survey responders were past or present teachers taking a course in their core subject area.
  • Computer Science courses (CS) had average participation numbers almost four times higher than that of other subject areas.
  • Certification rates are high among those who “ID-verify” their certificates by submitting a photo ID and paying a fee. This group is slightly older, more educated and more likely to be from the United States than non-verifying participants in the same course.

The authors of the report plan to use the results to inform how they might increase the number of participants and certificate earners from underrepresented and underserved groups and to advance research on online learning.