MOOC providers, possible game-changers in education one day, seek profitable niche
By Douglas Belkin
One of the largest providers of massive open online courses is teaming up with several major financial and technology companies to offer new classes this fall, the latest sign MOOC providers are scaling back their ambitions to upend the world of academia to make a profit.
Coursera’s new offerings are sponsored—and partially designed by—several major financial and technology corporations. Instead of the Great Books, they focus on skills training and professional development.
Coursera’s collaboration is the latest step the nascent online sector has taken toward monetizing is massive, global audience by trying to bridge the yawning skills gap that continues to dog the U.S. labor market. Studies show that 40% of employers in the U.S report difficulty filling jobs.
Rick Levin, Coursera’s CEO, said the courses—dubbed the Global Skills Initiative—will enable companies to expand the global pool of available talent in their respective industries and help universities provide courses that are in tune with what employers want.
“This is a natural evolution, we’ve found over the last year that there is tremendous demand for job relevant skills,” said Mr. Levin. “We embrace bringing universities and companies together.”
MOOCs were developed in Canada around 2008 and have been dominated by three providers who have teamed up with hundreds of universities to create courses ranging from introduction to philosophy to nanotechnology. Though they have drawn wide interest and grand pronouncements, they have fallen short of the hype that accompanied their birth. Courses can cost schools several hundred thousand dollars to produce and the percentage of students who finish a class has been mired in the single digits.
[ Full article available at The Wall Street Journal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/coursera-partners-with-tech-financial-firms-for-online-classes-1438696601 ]