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Student reviews of TOEFL MOOC course: quality but inadequate content

The TOEFL test prep course that started on a MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platform last year, has gained popularity in a short span of time. In just 6 months, hundreds of students have taken the free course, and have tweeted and reviewed their experiences extensively. The course, hosted by edX, though free, comes with the advantage of video tutorials and feedback from TOEFL experts who have created the test. While this special feature, no doubt, has acquired many takers for the course, some students have expressed opinions negating its benefits as well. On Twitter, what seems like students asking the community to join them in the test, is actually publicity or some form of promotional campaign by the organising company, as there are exactly the same tweets appearing from multiple profiles. See images below.

Students on edX have spoken about poor and inadequate content in the course. David C, a student who has completed the course, has given it a 2.5 star rating on edX, saying, “The amount of practice questions is very little, and most of them are the same that you can get as ‘free content’ on the ETS website, therefore, they are not providing anything new. In the discussion threads, the instructors mostly used ‘copy-paste’ bits of text to answer to our questions – sometimes up to the point that the answer received wasn’t related to the question asked.” The section on course description on edX clearly specifies that a student needs to give only 2-3 hours a week to complete the course, thus implying, in a way, that the course material isn’t too vast to provide thorough practice. Students who have completed the course have confirmed to have used other platforms too to prepare for the test.

Another student, Burcu A, who dropped the course midway, says, “Though I was satisfied with the course, my experience wasn’t that good.  I paid for certification but they ended the course even before the deadline for the enrollment for the verified certificate closed.”

The big drawback of the course is the fixed dates, i.e it has a definite start and end date for all registered students, and each round of the course begins after an interval of a few weeks. Syed Abubakar, who is currently taking the course, has given it a 1 star rating on edX saying, “The course is not useful for students who are applying for TOEFL next month, as it is a 6-week course that starts only at certain intervals.” Unlike some other ongoing courses on MOOC, the free TOEFL course is beneficial only to a particular set of TOEFL takers, and not everyone who wants to run preps 1 week before the exam.

Most students, despite finding the course limited to prepare for the test, have agreed that the content is of good quality. However, the major consensus remains at the inadequacy of course content for thorough preparation and the fixed course schedule. Thus, however credible be the course, students shouldn’t expect overnight miracles considering the limited prep material and make an informed decision before enrolling for it.

The TOEFL course on MOOC is all set for its third round starting January 25, 2017. Registrations for the course are open on edxonline. Read here for more information on the course.

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