MOOCs now largely seen as professional learning tool
- Views on who the primary audience for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is have changed, Class Central CEO Dhawal Shah writes for EdSurge, noting that they were initially considered a disruptive force for universities and made for curious lifelong learners, but are now seen as a professional supplement for career learners.
- MOOCs have responded by putting more emphasis on marketable skills and instituting their own forms of alternative credentialing, with some providers like Coursera trying to reach customer bases in bulk by marketing to learners via the corporations they work for, which generally have substantial employee training budgets.
- MOOC providers have also partnered with colleges and universities to help them put courses and entire degree programs online, and also to try to make MOOCs applicable for academic credit.
Though many originally considered MOOCs to be a temporary focus for students and educators, the use of such classes grew substantially in 2016, with 58 million students across 700 colleges and universities enrolling in one. The explosion of MOOCs as a potential alternative to in-person classes could offer an opportunity for higher ed institutions to reach previously underrepresented populations through partnerships with MOOC providers.
A 2016 Harvard/MIT study found that the average MOOC user was a 29-year-old male outside of the United States, and as it remains unclear how the current political climate will affect international student enrollment longterm, MOOCs could be a cost-efficient but productive form of outreach for schools, introducing students who may not be able to physically visit an idea of how a course at the school operates. Additionally, as more MOOCs transition from being free to being behind a paywall, it could offer a boost of revenue for colleges and universities.
Additionally, several colleges and universities have formed pilot programs to offer MOOC AP courses for high school students in an attempt to boost advanced placement enrollment. Boston University, for example, is working on an AP Physics pilot program that is reaching more than 11,000 students in 150 countries, and worked with several Massachusetts schools that didn't offer a version of the course. Some 67% of the students involved were black or Latino, and three-quarters of the students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.
As higher ed administrators and educators continue to be concerned about how K-12 students are being prepared for college, partnerships with secondary schools to offer optional MOOC courses could allow colleges and universities a greater say in how students can choose to prepare themselves for campus life.