The online education market started to grow rapidly in 2012 with the emergence of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) segment. Then the key market players – Coursera, Udacity, Udemy launched their activities. Online platforms have been created since that time by hundreds, investors willingly invest in this line of business. The world froze in anticipation of a revolution associated with the democratization of education: new technologies were supposed to provide a high level of education to everyone who was previously unavailable.

However, recent research suggests that learning is less effective than traditional face-to-face teaching methods. The expert community is increasingly talking about the fact that such education is ineffective.

In particular, this is stated in the latest report of the staff of the Center for Educational Policy at the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University. The authors of the study made recommendations to the US Department of Education that reducing the share of offline education in favor of online would violate consumer interests and worsen the quality of education in the country.

Regular and meaningful interactivity of students and teachers was named as the main value of education.

Researcher Justin Reich from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also said last summer that expectations for the online education market are, to put it mildly, overestimated, in an article in which he explained why MOOCs will not fulfill their intended mission.

Firstly, only 3% of those who started online training finish what they started

The main concern of researchers is the so-called yield indicator. Most of the students drop out before completing the courses they have begun, and over the years the rate of profitability only decreases. If in 2014–2015, among almost all MOOK participants, only 6% of students completed the course, then in 2016–2017 this figure was 4%, and in 2017–2018 – only 3.13%. At the same time, most of the buyers of online courses do not even open them.

Secondly, the geography of education is not expanding

In addition, the thesis of democratization and greater accessibility of education in connection with the emergence of MOOK was not confirmed. A study by Justin Reich found that MIT and Harvard online students overwhelmingly live in highly developed countries. There has been no penetration of education into countries with a low standard of living thanks to the Internet.

The reasons for the decline in interest in online courses can be the following factors:

1.     Low involvement in the process

Low engagement is due to the fact that students do not believe that the time and financial investment will pay off with a corresponding increase in their value in the labor market.

2.     Lack of motivation

Online course trainees cannot keep themselves motivated to take courses, and educational program creators cannot do anything about it. The lower the level of self-regulation, the worse it turns out to learn on your own.

3.     Controversial quality of courses

MOOCs often include teaching methods that have not been proven to be valid.

4.     Lack of an element of live communication

Online takes out of the educational process an important component in the form of human communication – or greatly narrows its possibilities. At the same time, it has been proven that the educational process is carried out, in particular, through the socio-psychological mechanism of “infection” and imitation. This mechanism is almost impossible to reproduce online.

Online education contradictions

Researchers Eric Bettinger and Suzanne Loeb of Stanford University have shown that online courses are strongly contraindicated for the least prepared students and students without special learning talents. This is supported by data from a study conducted in Chicago high schools. Students who failed the algebra exam were randomly assigned to retake either online courses or regular courses. The former mostly failed the exam again, while the latter passed much more successfully.

Another study was conducted by professors from Harvard and Stanford with hundreds of thousands of students at DeVry University, which offers online and face-to-face versions of all of its courses using the same textbooks, grades, assignments and lecture materials in each format. Even though the courses appear to be identical, students who go online feel significantly worse.

At the same time, for highly motivated people and people with increased abilities, online courses can help to expand knowledge as complementary (in addition to traditional) educational platforms.

Not the same

Of course, this is not to say that online does not work at all. After all, online courses can be broken down into several categories, and some of them are quite effective.

For example, research shows that those who study in a blended learning setting, combining predominantly online learning with additional offline elements, perform almost as well as those who study in a purely traditional format. In this model, online resources complement, but do not replace, traditional learning.

If we talk about fully interactive models in which the student can never be in the same room with the teacher, then this category of educational platforms is recognized as the most problematic. Classes without a teacher require a very high level of motivation, self-regulation and organization – the required level is inherent in no more than 3-5% of those who started training.

Alarming notes in education

Despite all this, online education continues to confidently enter the market on all fronts, from school to university education. It also remains in high demand in the corporate sector, since it significantly saves time for adult students and allows you to pump skills in parallel with work processes.

Of course, this plays into the hands of specialists, since it allows them to apply new skills immediately. However, online training in the corporate sector also shows the best results when combined with an offline format: files alone are not enough for reading, it is important to hold workshops, as well as face-to-face meetings to discuss results, problem areas and build a further development trajectory.

In 2019, the online education market has grown to $ 188 billion, and market participants expect it to grow to $ 319 billion by 2025. Artificial intelligence and / or virtual reality are expected to be the next driven innovations in educational technologies. However, MIT researchers urge not to make any hasty conclusions about the “revolutionary” transformations that new technologies bring: the online education market has already proven that they do not solve anything by themselves.


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