Even if you are not working in or on the Education sector you cannot have failed to notice the rise and rise of the phenomena of Massive Open Online Content (MOOC) courses. Whether in the media or as a (potential) student, your curiosity should be aroused by now. The term was coined in 2008 but started to become common in education, business and technology circles from mid-2012. From Coursera to EdX to Udacity the universities of the world are flocking to participate by delivering (at least) some courses via this digital channel. Up until late 2012 this was limited and experimental. The cry to arms is ‘do not be left behind’ but with the qualifier that the cost and impact is still unquantified. The MOOC is emerging from the experimental stage. The question of ‘why MOOC ?’ is being answered rapidly as MOOCs are ‘milked’ – or ‘monetised’ – by resourceful innovators and old education hands alike.
- MOOCS attract very large numbers of consumers – 40,000 or 50,000 enrolments are common. Not all come to complete the courses, many are putting a ‘toe in the water’, but the opportunity to build potential student databases and a worldwide consumer audience, of learners and the intellectually curious is immense.
- MOOCs currently are not homogeneous in their delivery formats – video and audio technology varies widely, as do the quality of teaching performances in delivery, and the methods of testing and certification. This should, over the course of 2013, start to standardize to create a better learning and teaching experience and making it easier for entry of new students and content producers
- Content producers are mostly academics and lecturers converting on-campus courses to online formats. Some course appear to be designed exclusively for MOOCs such as social media network modeling, associated with the design of MOOCs and therefore probably created by first movers (‘Alpha’ organisations in Gartner’s organizational definition).
- Big data is being collected, from very big data sets of users. The opportunity today to study these users’ preferences and patterns of use is immense.
- The availability of MOOC content is only limited by access to the Internet, adequate telecommunications bandwidth and speed, and in some countries by power (e.g. limited power leads to limited access episodes, limiting participation length in lecture and tests). Language is also an issue as English appears to be the major lingua franca of MOOCs today.
- MOOCs will open the eyes of potential students to easier access to education, anywhere anytime… which will lead to increased demand for dedicated (fee-paying) online institutions and blended online/on-campus delivery in traditional institutions
- Age is not a barrier, and it appears it may be the older generations (third agers) leading the way, while the digital natives are still accessing traditional education (still at school or college).
- Emerging economies (BRICs and beyond) have an opportunity to exploit the range and reach of MOOCs to accelerate the education of their population at a low entry cost.
- If you are working in a higher education institution you should prepare and deliver some compelling, ‘brand-extending’ courses via a reputable MOOC, to build a coalition and extend your brand to the MOOC market
- Use MOOC delivery as a way to experiment and refine your blended delivery of courses, to encourage your content producers (academics and teaching staff) to craft online and on-campus delivery as a ‘norm’ for the future
- Watch and potentially follow the first movers who are creating MOOC specific courses and content
- Explore revenue generation opportunities in ‘click-through’ sales of products such as textbooks (e-books ideally) and references
- Watch the certification offers which are starting to appear on MOOCs – these will evolve into premium products
- Assessment through third-party examiners such as Pearson’s VUE for signs of revenue opportunities and more secure online invigilation, which will increase the value of MOOC courses to institutions, consumers and employers of those consumers
- Track the rise of big data analytics and predictive learning through MOOCs – both in collection, research and analysis of interactive learning patterns of millions of MOOC users through to the application of those findings in adaptive and personalized learning e.g. Knewton
- Watch for the start of privacy concerns among users. Security of data and use of learning behavioral data has not yet been flagged as a concern by governments and individuals.
- Governments, particularly in emerging economies with limited resources, should consider encouraging MOOC use and investing in the extension of infrastructure (telecommunications for Internet access) that will provide access for many more students.