Is now the time for a Rasch measurement MOOC?

Confusion about Rasch measurement continues to run deep in academia. Similarly, confusion about objective measurement in the social and behavioral sciences is prevalent among non-psychometricians, as the average person assumes latent traits cannot be measured with the same type of rigor as physical measurements. At present, information about Rasch measurement is primarily proliferated in a limited number of graduate programs at a limited number of colleges and universities and by leaders who have conducted online courses and physical workshops throughout the world. The success of these efforts is undeniable as interest in Rasch measurement has never been greater than it is today. However, a relatively new and extremely popular trend in higher education has been the use of MOOCs, which offers an opportunity to expand educational opportunities and reach learners throughout the world in a new way. The question is should Rasch measurement enthusiasts explore the use of MOOCs to expose the fundamentals of objective measurement to an entirely new, and broad, audience of learners? We think so.

So, what is a MOOC? In short, it is a "massive open online course" available free of charge to anyone, anywhere. MOOCs are similar to online university courses in most every aspect, except they currently do not offer academic credit. Numerous top universities and colleges such as Harvard, Stanford, MIT and a host of others are now offering MOOCs to worldwide audiences. To date, more than six million students have already completed courses in this format and numerous, powerful stories about how lives have literally been transformed due to this educational platform have been voiced in student reviews (Fowler, 2013). Many instructors are also very excited about MOOCs as they can now reach an enormous audience of learners. A 2013 Huffington Post article cites a philosophy course co-taught by Duke and University of North Carolina professors that had more than 180,000 students enroll. One of the professors cited 26,000 people were later classified as inactive and 70,000 people never watched a single online video. Despite the attrition, the professor noted he would be lucky to teach 8,000 students over the span of a 40-year career if he averaged 200 students per year. One MOOC has already allowed him the opportunity to teach more than 20 times the number of students he would expect to teach over the course of his entire career.

Rasch measurement history is full of stories about talented people from diverse backgrounds discovering the utility and potential of Rasch models. Many of these individuals experience a dramatic change in perspective and go on to disseminate Rasch measurement theory and applications in their respective "home" disciplines by illustrating new ways in which various types of data can be understood and made meaningful. Imagine the possibilities when a worldwide audience of learners from all walks of life obtains unobstructed access to the fundamentals of objective measurement. Surowiecki's (2004) book on The Wisdom of Crowds suggests there could be great promise for a Rasch MOOC as social science research has repeatedly shown that large groups of people are smarter than any handful of elite individuals. Thus, proper exposure to Rasch measurement through a MOOC could be a "game-changer" with regard to how the world comes to understand measurement in the social and behavioral sciences. What's more, it seems a multitude of new ideas and new applications for Rasch measurement could be just around the corner waiting to be explored.

In a quick survey of current MOOC offerings, there were more than 40 courses devoted to statistics and data analysis spanning a variety of disciplines and languages. The world is already tuning in to learn more about data analysis and how to make sense of data. Now would be an optimal time to bring the fundamentals of objective measurement to the forefront and expose thousands of new learners to psychometric science.


Duke University philosophy professor Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has 180,000 students in MOOC. Available at: Retrieved December 2, 2013.

Fowler, G. A. (2013, October 8). An early report card on massive open online courses. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

Surowiecki, J. (2004). The wisdom of crowds: Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies and nations. New York: Doubleday.

Kenneth D. Royal, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Melanie Lybarger, Independent Consultant

Is now the time for a Rasch measurement MOOC? Kenneth D. Royal, Melanie Lybarger … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2013, 27:3 p. 1437-8

Rasch Publications
Rasch Measurement Transactions (free, online) Rasch Measurement research papers (free, online) Probabilistic Models for Some Intelligence and Attainment Tests, Georg Rasch Applying the Rasch Model 3rd. Ed., Bond & Fox Best Test Design, Wright & Stone
Rating Scale Analysis, Wright & Masters Introduction to Rasch Measurement, E. Smith & R. Smith Introduction to Many-Facet Rasch Measurement, Thomas Eckes Invariant Measurement: Using Rasch Models in the Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, George Engelhard, Jr. Statistical Analyses for Language Testers, Rita Green
Rasch Models: Foundations, Recent Developments, and Applications, Fischer & Molenaar Journal of Applied Measurement Rasch models for measurement, David Andrich Constructing Measures, Mark Wilson Rasch Analysis in the Human Sciences, Boone, Stave, Yale
in Spanish: Análisis de Rasch para todos, Agustín Tristán Mediciones, Posicionamientos y Diagnósticos Competitivos, Juan Ramón Oreja Rodríguez

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