Motives for online learners examined

Finnegan Schick for YDN writes: As Yale increases its online presence through Massive Open Online Courses, a new study shows that more people are using these classes to advance their professional careers rather than to pursue academic goals — a finding that may be surprising at a University that prides itself on the liberal arts and spurns pre-professionalism.

A study of over 50,000 online learners conducted this month by Coursera — an online company headed by former University President Richard Levin that offers online lectures from professors at over 100 universities — found that 52 percent of Coursera users surveyed said they took online courses to improve their professional careers, while only 28 percent of respondents turned to Coursera for academic benefits. Professors interviewed said they were not surprised by the study’s findings, but noted that certain academic fields attract more career-minded learners, while others, like the humanities, will likely keep drawing those interested in learning for its own sake. And while faculty said the online courses extend Yale’s reach to an untapped international community of learners, some argued that an online course cannot replace a classroom experience.

“Those courses that tend to be more STEM-oriented tend to serve a younger demographic and a demographic that is degree- or vocation-driven,” said music professor Craig Wright, adding that Coursera humanities courses like the one he teaches on classical music appeal mostly to people who are taking the class for fun rather than for credit.  SNIP, the article continues @ YDN, click here to continue reading….

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