Are MOOCs Forever?

By Jeffrey R. Young

This is the latest episode of our new podcast series on the future of higher education. You can subscribe in iTunes, to get prior and future episodes.

Think back to the early days of MOOCs. Professors at Stanford and Harvard and other places were suddenly teaching really big classes, free. Hundreds of thousands of students at once were in those courses. It was an unprecedented giveaway of what had traditionally been the most expensive education in the world.

Back then, I met several students who were binging on the courses the way you might binge-watch a season of your favorite show on Netflix. They took as many courses as they possibly could, powering through and finishing as many as 30 courses in a year. When I asked why they were in such a hurry, the most popular reason was that they thought it was all too good to last. As one of those binging students told me, “I’m just afraid this whole thing might end soon.” Surely, universities would change their mind about this, or the start-ups working with colleges might lock things up.

Fast forward to last month, when Coursera did something that stirred up all of those concerns again. On June 30 the company deleted hundreds of its earliest courses, as part of a shift to a new software platform. Reaction, as you might expect, was negative on social media and blogs. One programmer called it cultural vandalism.

To be fair, many of the courses will actually be brought back on the new platform. For the company, the reason to upgrade was a philosophical shift, to offering courses that start on demand rather than just once or twice a year, as their early courses did. Coursera said it had found that completion rates were just better when people could start at their own convenience, but the episode did raise continuing concerns about the future of MOOCs. Will the free courses really stick around, and do MOOCs have staying power?

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: ]

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 14, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News



A University’s Offer of Credit for a MOOC Gets No Takers

Students and their professor looking at a computer screen.

Students at as many as seven colleges will earn course credits for MOOCs this fall, predicts Ray Schroeder (standing), vice chancellor for online learning at U. of Illinois at Springfield.
[ U. of Illinois at Springfield ]

It was big news last fall when Colorado State University-Global Campus became the first college in the United States to grant credit to students who passed a MOOC, or massive open online course.

For students, it meant a chance to get college credit on the cheap: $89, the cost of the required proctored exam, compared with the $1,050 that Colorado State charges for a comparable three-credit course.

That is a big discount.

Yet almost a year after Global Campus made the announcement, officials are still waiting for their first credit bargain-hunters.

Not one student has taken the university up on its offer.

Jon Bellum, the provost, said the university had not expected a deluge of transfer credits from Udacity, the MOOC provider it is working with. The offer applied to only a single MOOC, in computer science, and the credits might be useful only to students who intended to finish their degrees at Global Campus.

The Colorado university is not the only one that has noticed a lack of activity on the pathways between MOOCs and credit-bearing programs.

The Council of Adult and Experiential Learning, through its LearningCounts program, helps adult students assemble evidence of outside-the-classroom learning into portfolios that can be redeemed for credit at some colleges.

After free online courses exploded onto the scene, the council expected that freelance learners would come calling in hope of converting their MOOC success into college credit.

But none did.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: ]





Are MOOCs Key To Ensuring Your Skills Remain Valuable?

By Adi Gaskell

Last week I chaired a panel discussion at the EdTechX Summit in London on the skills required in the future workplace, and the panel touched on the crucial role lifelong learning will play if we, and our organizations, are to adapt to the rapidly changing times we find ourselves in.

It’s a crucial discussion to have because automation is widely regarded to be set to cause massive disruption to the careers of the present. Estimates vary, but we can probably expect perhaps a third of existing careers to be automated within the next 20 years, and yet these are exactly the careers that higher education is currently training people for.

Crossing The Chasm

Despite this apparent need for a more flexible, affordable and on-going approach to learning, platforms such as MOOCs have thus far failed to “cross the chasm” into the mainstream.

Most courses are taken by those already beholden of a degree, and there is a strong sense that HR departments are failing to capitalize on the courses available to ensure that employees are constantly learning and developing their skills. Indeed, a recent survey found that just one in four HR and learning and development professionals formed an established part of the training on offer to employees.

It was a perspective shared by Daphne Koller, founder of Coursera, who I spoke to at EdTechX. Despite the huge number of students enrolled on hers and other platforms, she still believes that MOOCs are in the early adopter stage of the innovation lifecycle.

Using MOOCs For Professional Development

Earlier this year, Wharton published an ebook that was specifically designed for professionals wishing to try out MOOCs as a way of brushing up their skills. The book chronicles the adventures of a number of professionals who have used MOOCs to bolster their resumes in ways that would ordinarily have been denied them by a combination of time and money.

[ Full article available at Forbes: ]

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 21, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News



Distance Ed’s Second Act

By Phil Hill

Now that the MOOC hype has died down and almost no one is arguing that those free online courses will upend the traditional university, are we instead entering a period where online education is having a real impact on the core of higher education? Not just for the for-profit outliers and not just for distance-education titans like Rio Salado College and Liberty University, but for the mainstream? While I would not argue that fundamental change has already occurred, there are some signs of a turning point.

The Babson Survey Research Group, which has tracked online college enrollment for the past 12 years, reports growth from 9 percent of U.S. students taking at least one course online in the fall of 2002 to more than 28 percent in the fall of 2014. The overall growth has slowed recently, but the drastic decrease in for-profit enrollment masks two very interesting numbers:

  • Sixty-seven percent of students taking online courses do so at public institutions.
  • The number of students at public and private nonprofit colleges who took at least one online course rose by 26 percent in just two years (2012-2014).

Online education is no longer the province of a small subset of colleges and professors. We are well above the 16-to-20-percent level in Everett Rogers’s technology-adoption curve that indicates a shift into the mainstream. As I described in a previous article, the characteristics of people trying out a new approach (primarily professors in this discussion) change significantly after the technology moves beyond the innovators and early adopters. You start getting people who are more cautious and even skeptical about the outcomes and who need more holistic support to make the jump. We are seeing signs that more and more professors accept that online education is inevitable, even in traditional institutions, and is appropriate for a growing number of nontraditional students and a growing number of disciplines.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: ]



3 Reasons to Try Out MOOCs Before Applying to College

Free online courses enable high schoolers to explore possible majors and preview college-level academics, experts say

By Jordan Friedman

Mahir Jethanandani’s California high school offered only a few classes related to business and finance – disciplines he was interested in exploring. So, he turned to massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offered through Coursera to learn on his own.

“It came with an extension of knowledge and fundamental concepts that I felt improved my understanding of subjects that I claimed that I loved” but didn’t have much exposure to, says the 18-year-old. MOOCs also led him to explore other disciplines he was curious about, including law and neuroscience.

Now a rising sophomore at the University of California—Berkeley, Jethanandani plans to triple major in economics, electrical engineering and computer science, and statistics.

MOOCs have been controversial, but these online classes enable curious high schoolers to explore a range of disciplines for free without having to commit to staying enrolled, or for a low cost if they want a verified certificate.

Kat Cohen, CEO and founder of IvyWise, an education consulting company in New York City, says a high school student’s decision to take MOOCs for credit versus auditing for free varies depending on his or her individual commitments and goals.

[ Full article available at U.S. News & World Report: ]



New Platform Aims To Revolutionize Executive Education

By Adi Gaskell

MOOCs, as with most other technologies, have stuck quite firmly to the notorious hype cycle that originally saw them destined to change education in profound ways.

Indeed, back in 2014, it was believed that the MOOC would not only disrupt higher education, but also executive education, with none other than the World Economic Forum backing MBA ala MOOC.

Alas, that revolution hasn’t really happened, with drop-out rates remaining very high, and student enrollment remaining largely the preserve of people that already have a good education.

As is common with the hype cycle, once the initial bluster dies down, organizations tend to tinker at the fringes and produce something better and more robust. This may be happening with the SPOCs that are being developed by the EMERITUS Institute of Management.

SPOC, which stands for Small, Private, Online Courses, are online courses that provide the “byte-size” nature of a MOOC but much better peer-to-peer learning that is more commonplace with a classroom-based course.

EMERITUS have teamed up with academics from the business schools at MIT Sloan, Columbia and Tuck to offer a range of classes on management and leadership. Whereas a typical MOOC might have many thousands of students, a course from EMERITUS will have maybe one to 200. These will then be further divided into small learning circles that will allow students to both put their learnings into practice and share expertise from around the world.

[ Full article available at Forbes: ]

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 11, 2016 in MOOCs in the News



This Mongolian Teenager Aced a MOOC – Now He Wants to Widen Their Impact

Photo of Battushig Myanganbayar

Battushig Myanganbayar

Free online courses changed the life of one super-smart Mongolian teenager. His name is Battushig Myanganbayar, and four years ago, while he was still a high-school student in Ulan Bator, he took a massive open online course from MIT. It was one of the first they had ever offered, about circuits and electronics, and he was one of about a hundred and forty thousand people to take it. He not only passed, he was one of about three hundred who got a perfect score. He was only 15 years old.

He was hailed in The New York Times and other media outlets as a boy wonder, and soon he got accepted to the real MIT campus. It was a feel-good story that matched the hopeful narrative about MOOCs at the time. These free courses were touted as a way to bring top education to underserved communities around the world. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman soon wrote that “Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems.” This was the peak of the MOOC hype.

Today, Mr. Myanganbayar remains a fan of MOOCs, but he also has a critique of this knowledge giveaway, and he questions how much good it’s really doing for people in the developing world.

After taking a MOOC, “What do you do?” he asks. “If you’re just learning for the sake of the learning, the knowledge alone is useless without the opportunity to build, or show, or to use it.”

While at MIT, he has continued to take free online courses on the side, especially those on data science to help him with research projects that he’s worked on here. Like many students that I’ve met at MIT, he’s focused on trying to solve real-world problems with his student research — he helped build an electronic glove for the blind, for instance — and that’s his main problem with how colleges have handled MOOCS.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: ]

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 4, 2016 in MOOCs in the News



Developing country MOOC users not like those in the U.S.

Unlike in the U.S., completion and certification rates are actually growing for developing country MOOC users

By Ronald Bethke

A new study from researchers at the University of Washington has revealed that half of developing country MOOC users are receiving certification. And while many assume that the main barrier to developing country MOOC use is lack of technology skills or access, the huge barrier to sign-up has nothing to do with technology, say non-users.

These are just of the interesting statistics gleaned from a survey of 1,400 MOOC users and 2,250 non-users between the ages of 18 and 35 in Colombia, the Philippines and South Africa–part of research conducted by the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington’s Information School. The data shows that learners in developing countries are using MOOCs very differently than their developed world counterparts. Namely, it found that these learners have much higher MOOC completion rates as well as different user demographics.

“Many people assumed that in developing countries, MOOCs would only be used by the rich and well-educated,” said lead researcher Maria Garrido, a research assistant professor at TASCHA. “We were excited to find that this is not the case. Many users come from low- and middle-income backgrounds with varying levels of education and technology skills.”

As it turns out, less than half of the MOOC users surveyed had even completed college, with a quarter of MOOC users reporting high school as their highest level of education completed. This is striking compared to the 71 percent of college graduate users found in a 2015 study from edX that had nearly a third of its respondents based in the U.S.

Despite the developing world users’ lower education levels, though, it was found that they had much higher completion and certification rates. In fact, 49 percent of MOOC users surveyed had received certification for at least one course, and that rate jumped to an even higher 70 percent when limited to employed respondents. In addition to that 49 percent who received certification, another 30 percent of users reported completing at least one course.

[ Full article available at eCampus News: ]



CU system reaping the benefits of MOOCs


By Sarah Kuta

The University of Colorado is starting to see some revenue from the free, massive open online courses it offers to the world through the website Coursera.

Though course content is still free, students are beginning to pay for certificates showing they’ve completed a CU course or a multi-course unit in the same subject.

Since September, these online course certificates have generated roughly $110,000 across the CU system, a number that is likely to go up this spring with the launch of new multi-course units, said Deborah Keyek-Franssen, associate vice president for digital education and engagement for the CU system.

That’s been somewhat of a welcome surprise, as CU did not necessarily expect to make money when it began offering the courses three years ago, Keyek-Franssen said.

Conservatively, she estimates that the CU system could generate $250,000 a year from courses offered on Coursera.

But, she cautioned, revenue isn’t the main reason why CU is investing time and effort into massive open online courses, also known as MOOCs. The courses help disseminate research funded by tax dollars and have the potential to introduce millions of people to CU, she said.

[ Full article available at eCampus News: ]

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News



Research: Facebook May Keep Students in MOOCs

By Michael Hart

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have published a study that suggests students may be more likely to stick with massive open online courses (MOOCs) if they use Facebook.

Saijing Zheng, a former doctoral student at Penn State and current research scientist at Microsoft led the research and said she found that open course students were more engaged on Facebook groups and preferred interacting more on the social media site than through the course tools. That may be good news for MOOC instructors who, according to Zheng, get frustrated because 90 percent of students who enroll in MOOCs leave the course after less than two weeks.

“Social media may provide another communication channel for the students,” Zheng said. “Current MOOC platforms do not include collaborative features for students to work together or good conversation channels between students and between students and teachers.”

Interacting with fellow students and teachers in Facebook groups and other social media sites is sometimes easier than through the conventional course tools. One advantage of Facebook groups is that users tend to sign up with their real names while students can create fake personas on course message boards and forums.

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: ]

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 28, 2016 in MOOCs in the News