Another dot in the blogosphere?

Same data, different emphases

Posted on: January 18, 2017

I read two reviews of research on MOOCs. One was by Campus Technology and the other by TechCrunch. Both processed the same article and data, but each had each its own take.

The Campus Technology review was decidedly positive:

Certification is a big draw. The granting of certificates for successful completion of a course also steadily increased up until the point in early 2016 when that option was no longer free. Overall, 159,000 unique individuals have earned a total of 245,000 certifications, both free and paid.

The TechCrunch was more critical and dove deeper in on aspect:

In 2015, each university saw about 800,000 participants all told, a peak for both. This year those numbers dropped precipitously, to about 540,000 at HarvardX and 670,000 at MIT. Combined with an increase in the number of courses, this meant the number of participants per course hit record lows. Certifications per course also dropped to the lowest numbers ever, though the total certified in 2016 did manage to beat the first year’s numbers.

Data is just that. It is subject to interpretation and bias no matter how objective you wish such studies to be. It is better to state that bias upfront than to feign neutrality.

This is also a good reminder that there are three sides to the coin: The head, the tail, and the side that goes all round.  The side that goes all round is what gives it depth. The same could be said of the discussion of data, studies, reviews, and articles.

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