Free – or very inexpensive – online courses have become quite a trend in education. Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) providers currently offer thousands of courses and have enticed millions of students to enroll. The emphasis in MOOCs is often on lecture videos that students watch and learn from.

However, a study published in the Proceedings of the Second (2015) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale shows that this central approach of MOOCs – having students watch to learn – is ineffective. Instead, the emphasis on interactive activities as advocated by Carnegie Mellon University’s Simon Initiative helps students learn about six times more.