Global reach of MOOCs: A comparison of HarvardX and MITx

MOOCs are a learning innovation with technology as it's backbone. Any technological innovation goes through a phase of irrational exuberance to mature reality (Remember, the dot-com bust and now dot-com revival). MOOCs are going through similar evolutionary pangs. Learning innovations face quite a complex set of barriers due to the sheer sociopolitical and traditional nature of the education ecosystem and hence the future of MOOCs even more uncertain. However, I am optimistic about the access, outreach and continuing education potential of MOOCs. Consider the recent data released by HarvardX and MITx which provides insights about its global reach:

- World map of certificate attainment: 17.5% certificate attainment rate of student from Spain for HarvardX
- World map of gender composition: 28% of registrants from Oman for MITx were female; higher than Germany (25%)
- World map of education composition: 85% of registrants of MITx from France held a Bachelor's degree or higher as compared to 56% for Poland
- World map of age composition: Median age of registrants for HarvardX from Egypt is 23 years as compared to 31 years for Italy
- World map of enrollment: 5,100+ students enrolled from Ghana for HarvardX
Above comparative chart shows "worldwide certificate attainment" of students registering for HarvardX and MITx. While there is critique of MOOCs as having low completion rate, the metric is "misleading" for MOOCs. They are open access models with no barriers to entry and hence cannot be measured by the same metric as a traditional university with admissions and upfront cost as the self selection mechanism. Despite the lack of irrelevancy of completion rate to MOOCs, the chart shows high interest for certificate completion coming from countries like Greece (1,500+ certificate earners) and Spain (1,600+ certificate earners). This indicates that there is interest from 'glocal' students and as the blend of technology and learning innovation matures, along with the acceptance in the marketplace by employers, there will be a higher traction for MOOCs in international markets.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha