What’s Wrong with Free Online Courses

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With the advent of easy access to information and knowledge, the dropout rate is maximum. People are not committed enough to the online education system the way they used to be in the traditional education system. 90% of the people drop out of online courses and never finish what they have started.

Nowadays almost all knowledge and the information is freely available and the online institutions (like Coursera, Udacity) is starting to make conventional education system obsolete but they also are going through a challenge which is “easy in and easy out”.

Since there is no barrier of who can take up the course, everyone is eligible and that too with minimal or no cost involved and people get in easily. However when the going gets tough people quit, and because there is no penalty or risk involved it’s an easy out. Due to this, many people who enroll in these courses so enthusiastically seldom finish the course on time or never finish at all. To tell you the truth, I also have enrolled in 4 free courses from Coursera but haven’t completed any of them yet.


I crossed 200 posts landmark today.

Published by Faisal

I am Faisal , a software developer @ Oracle, Hyderabad. Trying again my hands on blogging after several failures. Apart from blogging, I like cycling, running, and clicking pictures(who doesn't), I like to be productive in general.

2 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Free Online Courses

  1. You bring up a good point.

    I think there are several websites aimed at improving people’s skills at different levels of details. Udemy for example, has smaller courses aimed to give you a quick runthrough of a skill set while websites like Coursera and Udacity aim to get you a job, or a significant career benefit. This kind of benefits require learners to go through a much more vigorous course for anything significant to happen, hence most of the courses found on these websites are fairly challenging and time consuming.

    To setup a benchmark for course completions, the traditional college completion rates are around 50% within the US.

    In my personal opinion, I think the reason that the completion rate is so low for online courses is mostly because the barrier to entry is very less allowing all learners (committed and not committed ones) to at least enroll in the course. These causes us to get the following mix of people to come to online courses:

    1) Committed learners who are looking to get a career benefit (promotion, switch) via gaining a skill set. These are the learners who end up paying within Coursera and are fairly motivaed. Surprisingly, the completions rates for this section of learners is not too far off from the benchmark we setup above for traditional colleges.

    2) Not-committed learners who are looking to get a new skill set but are not motivated enough. They mostly are in the exploratory phase, don’t want to pay for the courses, and are just looking to learn something new but lack the motivation or don’t see the course providing them enough benefits to justify the effort required to complete it. These are the learners which significantly reduce the completion rate average.

    What I want to argue is that although online courses have alot of scope for improvement and better motivating learners to complete the course, but the 90% completion rate is a little biased of a number and doesn’t portray the whole picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You may be right about 90% completion rate since I got this number way back. That’s the reason I shared the post with you 🙂 since you are working in this industry you would have more insight than me. Thanks for the comment. Also, if you can, please let me know what’s the current number for completion rate.


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