How 6 higher ed institutions are continuing to approach MOOCs

As the debate continues over the value and purpose of massive open online courses — and whether they will become as revolutionary as they were originally touted to be — colleges and universities are examining their own MOOC efforts.

Several higher education institutions that recently launched MOOCs are reviewing their successes, failures, and costs. Many are either launching new rounds of free online courses or considering new MOOCs, largely for their perceived promotional benefit — and perhaps even for credit. Here's a look at what 6 institutions have done with MOOCs, and what they are planning or considering for their next steps.

Cornell University

Cornell University will add four new MOOCs in 2015. The school began with two MOOCs offered through edX in the spring, and the goal is to have four of the courses each year. There's no word in the USA Today story on Cornell's MOOC ventures regarding what the next round of offerings will include, aside from the return of "Civic Ecology." More than 55,000 students took the first Cornell MOOCs, and the university expects that most of the students are from outside the country. According to Joseph Burns, dean of the Cornell faculty, the cost of supporting a MOOC instructor, materials, and teaching assistants is an estimated $50,000.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University will launch five new MOOCs through Coursera by the end of the 2014-15 school year, bringing its total MOOC count to 11. Northwestern had also participated in 2U's Semester Online undergrad program, which launched in 2012, offering for-credit courses and charging tuition, but was ended in spring 2014. By the end of the year, the school will also seek proposals for new MOOCs to be developed over three to six months. For last year’s MOOCs, Northwestern drew 20,000 to 60,000 students per course. And some Northwestern students took an engineering MOOC at the same time they were taking the campus engineering course from the same professor, which helped them get up to speed faster on some of the concepts.

George Washington University

In the fall of last year, George Washington University launched its first MOOC on the Federal Reserve through a partnership with Pearson Education, Blackboard, and In The Telling. A second MOOC, also on the Federal Reserve, is expected in the spring. Four professors filmed segments and discussions for the course, and material from a Ben Bernanke lecture is also expected to be used. Still, student newspaper GW Hatchet points out that the university, which wants to use online learning to make up for declines in graduate enrollment, doesn't really benefit financially from offering MOOCs.

University of Texas System

The University of Texas system launched its first eight MOOCs in the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014, enrolling 281,000 students. The university system spent $5 million on the edX online learning platform in 2012 and has spent $1.5 million on MOOCs development. The system is reportedly considering offering online courses for credit, but the Daily Texan notes that Vice Provost for Higher Education Policy and Research Harrison Keller says various details still need to be fine-tuned before credit can be offered.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The University of Wisconsin-Madison will launch six MOOCs in 2015, following the first four it piloted through Coursera that registered 135,600 students in 2013. Those initial MOOCs covered concepts including video games and learning, globalizing higher education, human evolution, and markets with friction. The six new courses — which cover weather and climate change in the Great Lakes, energy and the earth, forests and humans, climate change and public health, virtual Shakespeare, and conservationist Aldo Leopold's legacy — are all reportedly connected by a theme of sustainability, according to the university.

Yale University

Yale University is actually a veteran of the MOOC movement, having launched its Yale Open Courses, a precursor to the movement, in 2007. Its official debut in the MOOC movement proper came in January, with four courses launched through Coursera, followed by another three this fall. The first courses enrolled 405,980 students, with 233,980 of them visiting the course after enrolling, 175,575 watching a lecture, 47,156 completing an exercise, and 20,385 making it through to completion. Students taking the Yale MOOCs can buy a verified certificate of completion for $49 if they finish their course.


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Top image credit: soopahtoe