Sergiy Nesterko, HarvardX Research Fellow
As the second semester of the 2013/2014 academic year beings and residential students return to campus we’re examing enrollment data for the online HarvardX courses offered via edX. The image below is linked to a “beta” interactive visualization of worldwide enrollment data for all of the HarvardX courses . Once finalized, the HarvardX research team will officially release the tool as part of the growing Research section of the HarvardX site. As of December 29, 2013 we estimated there were 893,956 regisrants for HarvardX courses in 226 countries.
The visualization interface allows users to “mouse over” or tap specific countries to explore HarvardX enrollment data across all courses. In addition, through the drop-down menu, users can focus in on a specific HarvardX course. More detail about how this was created is available here.
Additional Background Information
Global reach and enrollment. During the 2012-2013 academic year, HarvardX offered 6 courses on edX. As of today, the total number of courses (past, current, and future) is over 20 and growing, including many brand new courses due to launch in early 2014.
As the number of courses increased and more individuals learned about edX/HarvardX, worldwide student enrollment in HarvardX courses reached 800,000 in the winter of 2013. Since then, enrollment has increased exponentially. Students from almost every country in the world are now enrolled in at least one HarvardX course.
While the total global enrollment in HarvardX courses is impressive — representing more students than Harvard College has graduated in its entire 377-year history — HarvardX students are different from their residential counterparts. Part of the HarvardX research agenda is to investigate the intentions and behaviors of online students as well as identify the most effective ways to deliver learning experiences to this diverse student body in this new and evolving environment.
Initial Insights. While the data is still being refined, the map gives you a sense of the kinds of insights researchers hope to glean with “massive” amounts of student enrollment data. Here are a few examples:
- American HarvardX students account for less than a half of all HarvardX students.
- In Africa, Nigeria is the most enrolled country.
- Spain and Great Britain have the most students in Europe. • India is the highest-enrolled country in Asia.
- In South America, Brazil has the most enrolled students who registered for HarvardX courses.
Note: Enrollment per country is estimated based on known total enrollment and relative numbers of students with reported and recognized countries. The enrollment may be affected by various factors such as country population, Internet use in each country, legal regulations, and cultural patterns.
Future inquiries. HarvardX student enrollment data suggests that the courses are indeed of global interest. A quick look at the tool also suggests opportunities to further that reach.
- The majority of global HarvardX learners come from English-speaking countries. (This is not surprising, as most HarvardX and edX courses are taught primarily in English, with select foreign language subtitles.)
- Only about 1.62% of enrolled students (estimated), hail from China—in spite of its large population of 1.3 billion (over 19% of the Earth.)
These findings suggest that we can further adapt HarvardX educational content to different cultures, languages, and student learning goals.
A technical document that specifies the way the data were obtained, lists possible limitations and links to source files can be downloaded here. The HarvardX worldwide enrollment dataset as of August 18, 2013 can be downloaded here.
This piece was originally written for HarvardX blog.
Sergiy Nesterko is a HarvardX Research Fellow working on adaptive media and gamification at edX. He is also a founder and principal at Theory, a place where research in statistics, machine learning, and interactive visualization connects to data-driven business, non-profit, and government problems.
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