It turns out that people who take classes using an MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) format do better when they also get outside help offline.

According to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

For online learners who took the first session of “Circuits & Electronics,” the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s hallmark MOOC, those who worked on course material offline with a classmate or “someone who teaches or has expertise” in the subject did better than those who did not, according to a new paper by researchers at MIT and Harvard University.

As the researchers explain,

On average, with all other predictors being equal, a student who worked offline with someone else in the class or someone who had expertise in the subject would have a predicted score almost three points higher than someone working by him or herself.

This should not be all the surprising. Researchers have known for years that the most effective forms of online learning are hybrid courses (those administered both in person and via the internet). Online education works a lot better when it occurs together with normal classes, where real people interact together in a real place.

Read about the “Circuits & Electronics” study, published in Research & Practice in Assessment, here.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer