Many have heralded MOOCs, or massive open online courses, as the way to provide education to the underserved and to make it affordable. “In theory, students saddled by rising debt and unable to tap into the best schools would be able to take free classes from rock star professors at elite schools,” NPR reports.
But completion rates and grades of MOOC students lag behind those in traditional classes. Students who do well in MOOCs are often already successful, or are taking post-graduation enrichment courses.
The lack of human connection can make the online classroom experience feel mechanistic and ineffectual, according to NPR, prompting some online course providers to offer more “human-centered support structures” — e.g., human mentors — to help students retain information and stay the course.