The Case for the Anonymous User - Appsembler

The Case for the Anonymous User

So you’re offering a bunch of online training courses and loving it, but something just isn’t quite right. Your courses are MOOCs, so you’re not collecting revenue, and you aren’t really concerned with access to your content. You just want people to learn. Good for you! The issue is, you want to be able to learn how to do it better, and you seem to be attracting a lot of the wrong kind of attention. You have a seemingly high number of people signing up and enrolling in your course, but few students actually make it through the entire thing, completing all of the assignments, taking all the tests, etc.

This is a fairly common issue with MOOCs. It creates unreliable data, making it difficult to figure out what students are actually absorbing, and where you should concentrate efforts on improving your course. A big reason why this occurs is that students are enrolling simply to check out your course. They want to see what you’re offering so they can know if it’s going to be worth their time. Essentially, they’re window shopping – except, in this scenario, your “shop” doesn’t have any windows, so they’re walking in the door, taking a look around and then leaving. Conversely, you could also be attracting attention that doesn’t quite make it all the way inside your course. They seem interested, but once they see the barrier of needing to create an Open edX account, they walk right on by.

So why not provide a window for potential users? This is where the anonymous user experience comes in. How can we provide a way for anyone to check out a course in its fullness before signing up for it? Well, Stanford University has actually already done a pretty slick job of making just that happen! Take this Intro to Relational Databases course for example. You have the option to register for the course or use the other option – the Explore Course button. By clicking this option, a user has the ability to view all of the course content as if they are a full user. The only difference is any progress the user makes won’t be saved.

This additional "Explore The Course" button allows you to check out the course as if you're a user.
This additional “Explore The Course” button allows you to check out the course as if you’re a user.
I can now explore all of the course content, but am made aware that progress will not be saved.
I can now explore all of the course content, but am made aware that progress will not be saved.

The advantages for a “non-registered mode” such as this are numerous! Curious window-shoppers won’t be added to the data of students who couldn’t (or simply didn’t) finish the course. Students who do want to take the course now have less barriers to making sure the course will fit their needs. Also as an added bonus, this capability allows your course content to be indexed by Google, making it much more likely that people will find out about the course when searching relevant keywords.

This is just one of the many ways you can customize your Open edX installation. The open source nature of the platform makes it possible to add, subtract, or change any feature in order to make the best courses you can make. Not a developer? That’s cool too, because with teams like Appsembler, you can leave that stuff to the experts, and concentrate on making great courses.