MOOCs that rely primarily on people watching lectures may be missing an opportunity to help their students learn even more by adding interactive activities. Recent research into massive open online courses suggests that students do six times better in the course by "extra doing."
The printing press long ago and the computer today have made widespread access to information possible. Learning theorists have suggested, however, that mere information is a poor way to learn. Instead, more effective learning comes through doing. While the most popularized element of today's MOOCs are the video lectures, many MOOCs also include interactive activities that can afford learning by doing. This paper explores the learning benefits of the use of informational assets (e.g., videos and text) in MOOCs, versus the learning by doing opportunities that interactive activities provide. We find that students doing more activities learn more than students watching more videos or reading more pages. We estimate the learning benefit from extra doing (1 SD increase) to be more than six times that of extra watching or reading. Our data, from a psychology MOOC, is correlational in character, however we employ causal inference mechanisms to lend support for the claim that the associations we find are causal.
Koedinger, K., Kim, J., Jia, J., Mclaughlin, E., & Bier, N. (2015). Learning is Not a Spectator Sport. Proceedings of the Second (2015) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale - L@S '15. Retrieved from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2724681