Three years ago, the acronym MOOCs was added to the education sector’s vocabulary. Standing for Massive Open Online Courses, MOOCS are publicly available courses delivered for free online, and are offered by some of the world’s best universities. There was a 327 per cent increase in the total number of MOOCs within the last year.
Last year Massey University became the first institution in New Zealand to offer open online courses through Open2Study, created by Open Universities in Australia.
“Massey has more than 50 years’ experience in distance education – we’re good at it,” says Richard Shaw, director of BA External Connections at Massey University. “Enrolling in Massey’s MOOCs can be completed in less than 30 seconds and courses can be completed in about four weeks.”
US-based Coursera is the largest MOOC provider globally, offering more than 840 courses. It has found a way to monetise its MOOCS by offering verified certificates, which cost $30-70 per person per course. This has resulted in more than $1 million a month in revenues.
In 2013, Coursera founders Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller were listed in Time magazine’s Time 100, a list of the world’s most influential individuals.
Ng taught his first MOOC in 2011, which enrolled 104,000 students. That number grew to more than three million in 2013. To date, more than 10 million people have signed up for Coursera’s MOOCs.
For the most part education providers have failed to monetise their MOOCs, even though they require investment in resources to produce.
“MOOCs have become a way of rendering your institution even more publicly visible around the world than it would otherwise have been,” says Shaw. However, patterns are just starting to emerge on just how MOOCS are being used.
A recent study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that a disproportionate number of MOOC students are already well-educated, male and employed. And according to data from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, the completion rate for its 16 MOOCs was just four per cent on average.
“The pattern of engagement is that people start off with a hiss and a roar, but because you are doing it at home or in your lunch hour or over the weekend, it’s hard to keep up after about four or five weeks,” says Shaw. “Typically most people bail out, but in that time they’ve still learned something.” For many, MOOCs offer an opportunity to retool their skill sets to meet modern workforce demands.
Due to huge enrollment numbers, “smart systems” are being designed to track and predict learner behaviour while completing assessments. These assessments for MOOCs will be able to score and provide feedback to students.