Why Is The Attrition Rate So High In MOOCs?

The Attrition-Rate

Completion rate seems to be the bane of MOOCs. A widely cited Harvard report found that only 4% of registered students actually completed them. Once heralded as the poster boy for cheap and affordable education, MOOCs have lost their charm. High dropout rates currently the biggest worry for MOOCs. Here are some reasons why completion rates are abysmally low:

A large number of students are only window-shopping:

The Harvard report about the 4% completion rate also mentioned that focusing on completion rates alone is limiting and ‘too simplistic’ a view. This is because a large number of students who enroll for MOOCs aren’t really planning to complete their course. They’re there either to audit the course or are unsure of their intentions. About half of these students never login at all. Only a few of them intend to complete their course, while a majority of them are interested only in specific elements within the course.

MOOCs do not encourage students to complete:

Unlike conventional classroom, students do not have to re-apply to participate in a course. They do not gain anything by completing the course, neither do they lose anything for dropping out. There’s little or no incentive for students who stay back and complete the course.


Students who sign up for MOOCs form an eclectic mix of middle aged professionals, students and the elderly. Almost all of them are juggling work, family, and other commitments. It becomes very difficult to manage of these and stay focused on academics.

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