Massive open online course providers are dismissing the importance of course completion rates despite the fact that they are a solid measure of student satisfaction.
That is the view of Bethany Coates, assistant dean for global innovations programmes at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which has just launched its first UK-based course.
The 10-week part-time programme, called Stanford Ignite London, will be delivered both via the internet by Stanford faculty members in the US, and in person by several who will be resident in the UK.
“It’s not about reaching tens of thousands of students; it’s about keeping the student to teacher ratio down,” Ms Coates said of the course, which will cost $10,000 (£6,650).
“Mooc providers will tell you that completion rates don’t matter, but if you want to look at the impact your course is making on individuals, then completion is a very good proxy for that.”
The Ignite programme, covering “the fundamentals of business, and the practical aspects of identifying and evaluating business ideas and moving them forward”, has already been run in Bangalore, Beijing, Paris and Santiago in Chile.
The California institution says it is part of efforts to offer students who wouldn’t normally have access to Stanford the chance to learn from its academics.
But the three latest cities in which the non-degree course is being offered – London, New York and São Paulo – do not lack for prestigious institutions, so why is Ignite being rolled out to these locations?
“It’s democratisation of access to a Stanford education,” Ms Coates said. “There is no place like Silicon Valley anywhere else in the world, and Stanford and Silicon Valley have a very unique and deep symbiotic relationship. That’s what we want to extend out to the rest of the world.”
The course, which begins in September, can take a maximum of 55 participants. The university will deliver the lectures from the Canary Wharf offices of Infosys, a global technology firm founded in India.
“This is a very dynamic time for universities in general,” Ms Coates said. “It is incumbent on us to make sure we are providing the best educational experience for our students no matter where they are.”