MOOCs for Writing Remediation

I am intrigued by research into non-credit developmental English MOOCs as a means of reducing the need for remediation.

The article linked above raises a very important point at the very beginning: “a large percentage of students who require remedial education become mired in courses that are taught using the same deficit-based pedagogy that contributed to their failure to master the curriculum in high school” (Whitmer, Schiorring, James, and Miley 1). If that’s the case, then why not try something very different, like the five-module MOOC called Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools for the Trade.

The study found that while only 8% of the enrolled students earned a passing grade for this non-credit course, 23% actively engaged with the materials and therefore may have gotten something valuable out of the experience. Engagement could be with instructional videos, discussion forums, quizzes, assignments, and surveys — a spectrum of ways for learners to pick up information about improving writing skills.

Probably the most interesting finding, to me, is this:

The act of taking the entry survey or participating in the online learning readiness quiz were both significantly related to participation (p < .001).

Note that it doesn’t say passing the quiz. Students who weren’t ready for online learning still participated in the MOOC at relatively high rates.

How can I use these data in my own, drastically smaller class? I give an optional “getting to know you” survey that I ask students to complete during the first week of a new term; I need to reach out more aggressively than I already do, perhaps, to those learners who haven’t done the short Google form questionnaire by the middle of week 2.


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