[Skip to Content]
News Story

Whither MOOCs?

Posted on 06/05/2019

Remember MOOCs from the early 2010s? Massive Open Online Courses caught the attention of many around the world who could suddenly enroll in courses offered by top professors from world-class colleges and universities on a wide variety of topics, either for free or a small fee, often with the promise of a certificate or credential at the end of completing the course. It was not uncommon for tens of thousands of people from many different countries to enroll in a course, depending on the topic and/or the instructor. Almost overnight, companies like Coursera, edX, and Udacity became household names in the world of edtech. Education was going to be "disrupted" by MOOCs.

Since the start of MOOCs, the results have been mixed. The completion rates for these courses has been notoriously low, as many participants realize that they don't have the time, energy, and/or discipline to stick with an online course, even though they might be really interested in the topic, or taking a course would help with job prospects or advancements. The organizations behind MOOCs, though, have learned after a few years of being at it and overcoming many stumbling blocks how to do a better and more effective job of delivering content on a massive scale.

A couple of recent articles show how MOOCs are evolving to better meet the needs of students and providers. In the article For Best Results, Pair MOOCs With In-Person Support External link opens in new window or tab, some instructors and providers have learned that adding an in-person networking component, with other local students or local professionals, helps participants be more successful and lead to more course completions. This mirrors the larger trend in the edtech world, that blended learning (some combination of face-to-face instruction and online learning) is proving a more effective instructional model than 100% face-to-face or 100% online which is how MOOCs first started and many still do.

Corporations are also looking at MOOCs as a possible training solution for current employees who need more skills training and as a way to get potential employees into a hiring pipeline that will match developing skills with company needs. As the article To Attract Talent, Corporations Turn to MOOCs External link opens in new window or tab points out, corporate learners in MOOCs outnumber currently-enrolled students from high school through graduate level programs, so it's a relatively easy argument to sell corporate America on the value of online training like a MOOC, especially if a MOOC could be customized for a national or global entity (along with customized certification) and top-level instructors and universities could be recruited as partners. Corporate giants like Salesforce, Google, IBM, and Amazon are leading the charge on this new kind of learning.

The world of online learning is ever changing, and MOOCs are a good example of how the field is trying to respond to the varied needs of learners. We will see how these changes affect the future of online learning in general and MOOCs in particular.

Article: For Best Results, Pair MOOCs With In-Person Support External link opens in new window or tab from EdSurge

Article: To Attract Talent, Corporations Turn to MOOCs External link opens in new window or tab from EdSurge

Illustration of man using laptop with headset microphone
Photo by mohamed_hassan