Sunday, December 6, 2015
Online Classes Appeal More to the Affluent
DEC. 4, 2015
By SINDYA N. BHANOO
Free online educational courses may not be democratizing education as much
as proponents believe, a new study reports.
John D. Hansen, a doctoral student at Harvard University’s School of
Education, and his colleagues looked at registration and completion patterns
in 68 massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offered by Harvard and M.I.T.
The data covered 164,198 participants aged 13 to 69.
In a study published in the journal Science, Mr. Hansen and his
colleagues reported that people living in more affluent neighborhoods were
more likely to register and complete MOOCs. Each increase of $20,000 in
neighborhood median income raised the odds of participation in a MOOC by
27 percent, the researchers found.
Yet the vast majority of MOOC participants are not the very affluent, who
are comparatively small in number. Mr. Hansen said that it ought to be
possible to adapt or redesign online courses so that they are more appealing
and accessible to lowerincome people.
“Just because it is free and available online, it does not necessarily mean
that the chief beneficiaries or users are going to be the less advantaged,” Mr.