Researchers are trying to understand why the vast majority of students fail to finish free online classes and who is signing up for the classes to begin with.
One widely quoted dropout figure for students in massive open online courses is 90 percent. The number would be staggeringly high for a traditional class and has been used to cast doubt on the promise of MOOCs.
The number is simple to come up with: take the number of users who register for a course and compare it to the number still participating at the end. But is it fair?
If attrition rates are the measure of an online class then MOOCs fail.
However, attrition is just one measure (and not the best measure) of a massive open online class.