Democratizing education? Examining access and usage patterns in massive open online courses | Science | December 2015
Abstract: Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are often characterized as remedies
to educational disparities related to social class. Using data from 68 MOOCs offered by Harvard and
MIT between 2012 and 2014, we found that course participants from the
United States tended to live in more-affluent and
better-educated neighborhoods than the average U.S. resident. Among
those who did register for courses, students with greater
socioeconomic resources were more likely to earn a certificate.
Furthermore, these differences in MOOC access and completion were
larger for adolescents and young adults, the traditional ages where
people find on-ramps into science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM) coursework and careers. Our findings
raise concerns that MOOCs and similar approaches to online
learning can exacerbate rather than reduce disparities in educational
outcomes related to socioeconomic status.