FIve Things You Missed.... if You Missed Kizilcec's Talk on Closing Achievement Gaps in MOOCs

Rene Kizilcec
October 22
Taylor Rose, MIT '16

As part of the xTalks series René Kizilcec spoke on “Closing Achievement Gaps in MOOCs with Psychological Interventions” on October 15.

Kizilcec brought to light some causes of educational disparity. Educational inequality persists even though academics predict massive online open courses (MOOCs) will provide quality education to the world’s poorest regions and lift huge populations out of poverty. So, why is there is a large performance gap between people in developing nations and those in the first world?

(Items 4 & 5 are the crux of his argument.)

  1. Research is limited. The performance gap present in MOOCs is largely based on six areas: language, internet access, access to good resources, pedagogical style, lack of background information, and motivation. It remains difficult to gain quantitative data on these subject areas.

  2. Motivation. Learners in the US and Canada are more likely to take a class for fun or challenge, whereas individuals in the developing world are motivated to take a class to receive a certification. This motivation correlates highly with the desire to complete the class more than the motivation of fun or challenge, but it does not correlate with actual class completion.

  3. Predictors of Class Completion. Personal factors often predict a person’s success in completing a class. For example: women, learners with masters level education, and learners living in Africa are the less likely to complete courses when compared with other groups.

  4. Social Identity Threat. Fear of being negatively judged because of one’s group identity also poses a significant threat to success. People in the developing world are at risk of social identity threat when taking MOOC classes, because they assume people elsewhere will believe they will fail due to stereotypes associated with the developing world. This fear can lead to students dropping out of the class.

  5. Interventions Close the Gap. Kizilcec uses reflective self-affirmation exercises and social-belonging activities with MOOC participants in the developing world.  When compared to a control group, learners who participated in these interventions scored huge gains in perseverance and academic achievement. Thus social identity threat can be ameliorated through easily implemented psycho-social activities.

Kizilcec is in the process of publishing a paper supporting his research. We will make it available to the xTalks community once it is distributed publicly. If you weren’t able to attend this event, you can listen to the audio recording here

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