- Open license: Most MOOC content is not openly licensed so it cannot be reused in different contexts. There are, however, a few examples of institutions using Creative Commons licences for their courses – meaning they can be taken and re-used elsewhere. In addition, there is a trend for MOOC to be made available ‘on demand’ after the course has finished, where they in effect become another source of online content that is openly available. Those OERs and online content can be used to develop blended learning courses or support a flipped classroom approach in face-to-face teaching.
- Online learning pedagogy: New pedagogical experiments in online distance learning can be identified in addition to the c/xMOOC with variants including SPOCs (Small Private Open Courses), DOCCs (Distributed Open Collaborative Course) and SOOCs (Social Online Open Course or Small Open Online Course). It is likely that they will evolve to more closely resemble regular online courses with flexible learning pathways. These will provide a range of paid-for services, including learning support on demand, qualitative feedback on assignments, and certification and credits (Yuan and Powell 2014).
- New educational provisions: The disruptive effect of MOOCs will be felt most significantly in the development of new forms of provision that go beyond the traditional HE market. For example, the commercial MOOC providers, such as Udacity and Coursera, have moved on to professional and corporate training, broadening their offerings to appeal to employers (Chafkin, 2013). In an HE context, platforms are creating space for exam-based credit and competency-based programs which will enable commercial online learning providers to produce a variety of convenient, customizable, and targeted programs for the emergent needs of the job market backed by awards from recognised institutions.
- Add-on Services: The development of online courses is an evolving model with the market re-working itself to offer a broader range of solutions to deliver services at a range of price levels to a range of student types. There is great potential for add-on content services and the creation of new revenue models through building partnerships with institutions and other educational service providers. As these trends continue to unfold, we can expect to see even more entrepreneurial innovation and change in the online learning landscape.
I gave a presentation on “MOOCs and Higher Education” at the SCONUL annual conference in Dublin last week. In the presentation, I examined the potential of MOOCs as a disruptive innovation and an emerging technology in higher education, and explored the concept, business model and trends of the MOOC phenomenon. The full presentation is available at here.
The Gartner Hype Cycle has been widely used to illustrate the processes of maturity, adoption and applications of emerging technologies in society. A question I posed in my presentation was, will MOOCs fall into this pattern of technology adoption?[..]
The question to MOOC or not to MOOC has perhaps been discussed in many institutions’ committee meetings recently, such as this tongue-in-cheek one on Tony Bates’ blog! While some leading universities in North America and Europe have joined Coursera to offer MOOCs, a recently published report from Queen’s University in Canada, which made recommendations about the institution’s policy and strategic planning on online learning, suggested that “Queen’s does not become involved in MOOCs until and unless there is greater support for online learning (within the university)”. It has also been reported that some institutions have been denied the opportunity to offer MOOCs through Coursera because, as a company policy, it only works with ‘elite institutions’, e.g. the ‘top five’ universities in countries outside of North America. No doubt discussions on what institutions should do about MOOCs will continue until the hype cycle has passed.
Coursera recently announced that it made $220,000 profit in the first quarter of 2013 by charging for verified completion certificates and receiving revenue from Amazon through learners buying books suggested by the professors headlining MOOC courses. This ‘brand + content = revenue’ model seems a win-win business proposition. Students pay for certificates from elite universities and the professors sell more of the books they’ve published to a mass audience, publicised via recorded lectures on their MOOC courses. In this case, many would argue that online learning should be considered a pedagogical choice (e.g. cMOOCs) rather than a cynical money making approach to education.
Whether institutions have been involved in MOOCs or not, it is clear that the development of MOOCs has re-focused institutional attention on how to provide effective online learning in order to gain competitive advantages in a global educational market. As the Queen’s University report suggested, the university needs to have “a plan that sets clear goals for online learning, identifies the resources needed, and makes the necessary organizational and structural changes”. Institutions will need to rethink their organisational structures and business models to make teaching and learning more effective, pedagogically and financially, either via face-to-face or online. Following on from the recently published CETIS MOOCs report, we believe that there is a need to make sense of the new pedagogical approaches and business models around MOOCs and other forms of online courses, and produce an analysis to help inform about institutions’ policy and strategic planning with regard to online distance learning.