Many of the comparisons and reports of “failure” miss the whole point of MOOCs. The originators were looking beyond the current 4-year college degree “education”. They believe that everyone should take control of their own learning. Everyone can try something for free, then decide if they want to dig deeper or look for something else. The assumption is that many people who are really interested will participate. People with subject knowledge will share. People who are interested will ask questions. The facilitators and the “course” are there to provide guidance, and in some cases – structure.
The original MOOCs were the work of a couple of Canadians. Many of the current MOOCs are just variations of structured on-campus courses – lectures, reading / watching, assignments, tests. Others are more open, less-structured.
Some of the really exciting and innovative MOOCs are being developed and offered outside North America. These include but are not limited to New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, India and Africa. You won’t hear too much about some of the African mini-MOOCs – they are offered in local languages to much smaller widely dispersed groups of learners.
The completion rates as “so low” because people are free to sample anything – this is good. They are under no obligation to complete the course if it is not appropriate, not interesting, too much work, boring,… People can really learn what they want and need to learn, what interests them at a level that builds on what they already know (or don’t know). Maybe rocket science is for you – check it out!