April 29, 2014

Got MOOCs?

MOOC Facts

MOOC is the acronym for “Massively Open Online Course.”
• The first MOOC had over 160,000 registered students, back in 2006.
• There are 2,230 operational MOOCs serving all educational levels and many interests.
6,700,000 students are enrolled in MOOCs.
58% of enrollees in U.S. MOOCs are international students.
83% of MOOC students already hold a two- or four-year diploma or degree.
• Courses in the sciences, technology, math and business courses are the most plentiful and popular, making up 58% of total offerings.
• Drop out rates for MOOC courses are high; the most common estimate is approximately 90%.

MOOC History
If you pay any attention to trends in education, you have probably heard of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses). Originated in the same year that brought us Twitter, Google Docs, and Windows Vista, the first MOOC was a year-long online seminar for professionals examining the potential of Online Learning.

It wasn’t called a MOOC in ‘06, but it was Massive (with over 160,000 registrants), Open (free and available to anyone with Internet access), Online, and it was a Course. To learn more about this seminal offering, visit “What Was the First MOOC?

MOOCs Today
Since that first experiment, the MOOC arena has become more crowded, diversified, and at times controversial. The current landscape consists of over 2,230 operational MOOCs, serving almost any educational level or interest from pre-K to post-doctoral and professional education. Some are not free, most are not massive, and the most prominent resemble online schools, vs. a single course.

High profile MOOC brands, like Coursera (the largest), edX (offering free enrollment as a nonprofit), and Khan (which prefers not to be called a MOOC) are helping to bring the entire sector of Educational Technology (or Ed Tech) into the mainstream vernacular of educators and consumers alike.

MOOC Students
The wide variety of MOOCs include those targeting college, university and professional students, others that target young K to 12 scholars, and those dedicated specifically to educators. MOOCs such as Udemy, Udacity, and Lynda primarily target adults interested in professional and/or personal development.

People who register for MOOCs include precocious high school students, college students looking for more ways to study a subject they are studying in a traditional classroom, and even educators who are interested in how other faculty teach. Other users are stay-at-home parents and retirees who sign up because it’s a positive way to use their time. Last, but not least, are the professionals who are either fortifying their job skills or retooling for career shifts.

For the time being, the majority of MOOC enrollees are international students (roughly 58%) and are likely to already be professionals in their field (83% of MOOC students hold a two- or four-year diploma or degree). It’s easy to understand why. By their very nature, MOOCs are available on a massive, international scale; and because they are accessible 24/7 online they appeal to people whose daily schedules provide limited flexibility to accommodate a course at pre-set and inflexible times/days.

The number of people who have registered for MOOCs is estimated in the millions worldwide. But researchers have no pat answer for why so many do not complete their courses. The most common estimate cited for MOOC drop outs is 90%, but researchers are now speculating that the percentage of drop outs varies according to the motivation of the student; i.e., why he/she is taking the course may be an indicator of their completion probability.

The “C” in MOOC
The breadth and depth of course offerings is expansive. Considering how rapid and recent the rise in MOOC popularity has been, an enormous number of courses have sprung up to entice registrants. But the sciences, technology, math and business courses are the most plentiful and popular.

MOOCs customarily provide certificates of completion for their courses. Traditionally, MOOC course credits were not recognized by accredited colleges and universities, but that is changing too — although mostly on a case-by-case basis.

Some of today’s MOOCs are more “open” than others. For example, Coursera, Minerva, and Udacity charge tuition and, unlike the original model, are actually for-profit enterprises. By contrast, edX and the Khan Academy have retained the original openness of the early offerings and are formally structured as nonprofits. Some are transitioning to a blended model in which fees depend on whether the student is taking a course for credit or not. The former option requires a fee, albeit a relatively low one compared to customary tuition.

MOOC Controversy
The controversy surrounding MOOCs primarily swirls around how they integrate with existing educational and business models. And, for most educational institutions, the answer is “Experimentally.”

Although that first MOOC-style course was offered eight years ago, MOOCs are still considered by many institutions to be “experimental,” risky, or unproven. At the same time, however, its important to realize that experimental programs have real benefit and attraction in higher ed. Experiments often attract exceptional faculty, leading subject matter experts, technology specialists, and early adopters; i.e., those who are interested in being part of something innovative and groundbreaking. Regardless, uncertainty exists around the extent to which MOOCs will erode traditional enrollments.

Among educators the question is, where do they fit? Do they supplement traditional instruction in a “blended” model? Or do they replace the classroom altogether? Do they work with classroom instruction, or does the classroom simply provide the practice activities to support the MOOC (this is a “flipped” model)? There are a myriad of strategies to chose from.

But the big benefit may be somewhat unexpected: Offering MOOC courses can extend an institution’s brand in a very big way.

Brand Enhancement and Extension
Rather than compete with educational organizations, MOOCs provide a unique opportunity to expand the reach of institutional brands by demonstrating the quality of their instruction and curricula to a greater number of students worldwide. Similar to “try and-buy,” experience marketing on this level and on a global scale is extraordinary, if not unprecedented.

MOOCs can also go a long way toward fortifying the organization’s brand by highlighting its research, as well as underscoring its reputation for innovation – all on a global scale.

Faculty and trainers also benefit from MOOC participation. Many professors have found their ability to connect on such a large scale with other experts has lead to previously unavailable opportunities for collaboration. In addition, popular professors tend to develop a worldwide following that not only impacts their personal brand, but reflects favorably on their institutions.

Why MOOCs?
The research is still being done, and will undoubtedly continue as this sector continues to evolve, but there are three sound reasons to embrace the MOOC phenomenon that are not likely to change soon:
1. To extend the reach of your brand.
2. To develop new and effective ways of connecting and communicating with students.
3. To expand global networks.
4. To gain a foothold in an area that holds great promise for future revenue generation.

Have you had a firsthand experience with a MOOC? Why did you enroll? What are your thoughts on them?

Just have questions? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us an e-mail or leave a comment below.

To learn more about MOOCs, we recommend these articles and websites.

MOOC News & Reviews, http://moocnewsandreviews.com/

The Perfect Storm: Factors Driving the Future of American Higher Education, Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/mooc/

Inside Higher Ed, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/08/researchers-explore-who-taking-moocs-and-why-so-many-drop-out#ixzz2zouDPGYI

MSN News, http://news.msn.com/us/colleges-offer-credit-for-massive-open-online-courses

News at Princeton, http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S39/71/57E81/index.xml?section=topstories

Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, http://agb.org/sites/agb.org/files/report_2013_MOOCs.pdf

MOOC-Ed, http://www.mooc-ed.org/

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