Press Release

Converting MicroMasters MOOC “Zombies” into “Learners” – Research Award

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS, September 5, 2018 – An MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics (MIT CTL) research project titled “Converting Zombies into Learners: Improving MITx MicroMasters MOOC Learner Retention” has been awarded a grant of more than $ 124,000 by the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili).    

MicroMasters Mooc and Increasing Retention

Almost 9,000 learners have completed and earned a Verified Certificate in at least one SCx course (a supply chain MOOC or Massive Open Online Course), and 1,274 learners have completed MIT CTL’s highly successful MITx MicroMasters Credential in Supply Chain Management (SCM).  While these numbers are impressive, the team is constantly looking at ways to increase both registration and active participation.  In order to better understand the course dynamics, the program’s registrants have been categorized into four distinct groups:  Learners (who watch videos and complete the work to attain a grade), Voyeurs (who watch video lessons but do not complete the work for grade), Magicians (who do not watch any lesson videos and miraculously complete some work for grade), and Zombies (who neither watch videos nor complete any graded work).

The distribution of learners in these categories varies dramatically between verified (students paying a fee and electing to earn a Verified Certificate) and auditing (students taking the course for free) students.  On average, 85% of verified students are Learners, 10% are Voyeurs and 5% are Zombies. However, for auditing students, just 5% are categorized as Learners, 25% as Voyeurs and 70% as Zombies.

Although the number and geographic spread of MicroMasters students have far surpassed expectations, the program’s management team wants to reduce the number of students in the Zombie category, and increase the percentage of Learners and Voyeurs. Another objective is to reduce the number of Learner dropouts; individuals who complete some graded work successfully but cease to submit graded assignments or take exams and therefore don’t pass the course.

The research project will help the team to achieve these goals by devising a methodology for identifying the different categories of students and developing a model for predicting dropout rates. This work will enable the team to design effective interventions and other measures to reduce the dropout rate and improve MOOC learner retention.

Redefining Education

“MicroMasters is redefining supply chain education. This year, 40 MicroMasters credential holders from around the world enrolled in and graduated from MIT CTL’s campus-based Supply Chain Master’s Degree in Applied Science in SCM as the inaugural class of our new SCM Blended program,” said Dr. Eva Ponce, Executive Director, MITx MicroMasters Program in Supply Chain Management, who is leading the research project. “We are constantly working to improve the online program, and the research project funded by MITii will help us to refine the MITx MicroMasters in SCM and make it even more impactful.”

Ponce noted that the research will benefit other MOOCs too. The findings will be made available to other programs and could ultimately be used to improve the MOOC education model. Studies show that a relatively small proportion of MOOC participants complete their courses.

The research project is scheduled to start in September 2018 and end in October 2019. During

this 13-month period 10 SCx courses will run, allowing the researchers to implement and test different intervention actions. A paper based on the research will be submitted to an international academic journal by the end of 2019.

For more information please contact:

Arthur Grau
Communications Officer, MITx MicroMasters in Supply Chain Management


About MicroMasters

The MITx MicroMasters credential in Supply Chain Management consists of five intensive online courses covering all aspects of logistics and supply chain management (equivalent to one semester worth of courses in the SCMr program). Students submit graded homework every week and take mid-term and final exams in each SCx course. To earn the MITx MicroMasters Credential they also have to pass a proctored comprehensive final exam. The total cost of the MicroMasters Credential in SCM in 2018 is $1,200, including the cost of the five courses and the comprehensive final exam.

This innovative program in online education has reached over 260,000 learners in more than 196 countries across the globe. Learners enrolled in the program come from diverse backgrounds. Most of them are professionals from supply chain and related business fields who are expanding their skills, as well as students in other academic programs who are augmenting their knowledge base. A new intake of SC0x learners will start on September 5th, 2018.

Conversation with director Chris Caplice 

About MITili

Founded in February 2016, MITili funds, connects, and shares research investigating learning effectiveness. The research ranges, for example, from scans of individual learners in Brain and Cognitive Sciences to applying data analytics to understanding the implications of policy decisions in Economics to almost every department at the Institute.