MOOC Meltdown....

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by gbrogan, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. gbrogan

    gbrogan Member

  2. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    Online learning is fine. MOOCs, however, are completely over-hyped, and I chuckled when this particular MOOC went down.

    I don't get the MOOC craze. I've been in higher education long enough to realize that if it lowers the student's cost (translation: lower's the institution's revenue), it's going to face quite a bit of institutional resistance.

    I think there is a place for them, particularly as preparation for challenge exams to test for credit, but I don't think we will ever see MOOCs in their current form go mainstream.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2013
  3. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    At some point, people are going to have to acknowledge that MOOCs, at least in their present form, are financially unsustainable. That's when the real meltdown will occur.

    For example, let's compare Coursera's costs and revenues:

    OK, so investors have put tens of millions into Coursera -- and they can now expect to get "a couple thousand" back through Amazon click-throughs. I'm not convinced that this model works.
  4. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    Very well said, CalDog.

    I can't imagine why people threw so much money at MOOCs.

    They will make money only if the MOOCs offer real credit for real degrees or certificate programs that are recorded on a university transcript. Of course, the big-name universities that are presenting MOOCs would never do that without having stringent standards and high tuition, which, of course, would make them regular online courses and not MOOCs.

    Alternatively, similar classes could provide instruction to prepare people for industry certifications, but using the free model wouldn't help here.

    I could see some potential for higher-tier universities to offer "canned" courses to lower-tier universities that want to augment their online course offerings without the demands of curriculum development, but this option would likely be extremely limited.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2013
  5. ryoder

    ryoder New Member

    Over hyped I think. People should just go with CLEP, the proven way to earn credit cheaply and without attending a brick and mortar school.
  6. AUTiger00

    AUTiger00 New Member

    Don't be naive and think that selling text books is the only revenue stream these guys have thought of. Coursera's model for revenue generation is actually pretty vast (I've seen one of the decks they send to potential investors). One of their revenue streams is a plan to charge an optional fee of $100-$250 for a certificate upon completion of the course. Anyone can still take the class, but you have to pay the fee if you want the documentation that you successfully completed the course. Another plan is to use the MOOC as a feeder into a paid program. For each student who enrolls in a program after completing a MOOC Coursera will receive a commission (eCornell is already doing this, though they aren't using Coursera to deliver the MOOC).

    It takes years for a startup to start generating "real money". The firms funding Coursera are a collection of savvy investors (NEA, KCPB, etc) that know how to take calculated risks. Clearly there is high risk investing in Coursera, like there is with all startups, but the returns have the potential to be phenomenal. Angel Investors and funds putting in capital in series A round financing aren't looking for a quick return, they know their money will be there for years. I predict you'll see Coursera generating millions in revenue in the next 3-5 years.
  7. Sauron

    Sauron New Member

    I've been impressed with the presentation and quality invested in the courses I have taken, many of which outclass static distance learning portals common in online education, especially at the cost cutter level. Sebastian Thrun took a huge leap with Udacity so there is great potential. MOOCs represent a new mode for distance education that many people will be resistant, even distance education advocates but that is expected.

    Arguments against MOOCs are not well fleshed out and many are looking for it to fail, but there is great opportunity for success and innovation. Already, thousands of people worldwide are engaged in high quality education and content from esteemed educators and institutions at little to no cost, thats a game changer. If they can make money along the way, then even better.
  8. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    It's clear that MOOC promoters have thought of many ideas for revenue streams. The NY Times story cited in Post #3 above lists lots of them, such as:

    - advertising
    - subscription fees
    - free intro courses acting as a gateway to paid follow-up courses
    - optional fees for completion certificates
    - optional fees for proctored exams and ACE transcripts
    - licensing course materials to universities

    The problem is that so far, none of these options have shown any signs of taking off. For example, the University of Washington has tried offering Cousera courses under the "fee for credit" arrangement, but there was little interest. And as of January 2013, Coursera had a licensing arrangment with exactly one school, covering an enrollment of exactly two students.

    Again, this is clear. The headline on the NY Times story is: "Students Rush to Web Classes, but Profits May Be Much Later".
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2013
  9. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    An argument against MOOCs:

    (1) MOOCs, in their present form, don't make any money.
    (2) At this point, it's not clear what they can do differently in order to make money.
    (3) In the long run, it's hard to keep a business (like Coursera) going if it doesn't make any money.

    This argument seems well fleshed-out to me. Do you disagree with any of these points ?
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2013
  10. IrishJohn

    IrishJohn New Member

    I agree that folks should go with CLEP or DSST if possible, but those MOOCS which seek ACE or NCCRS approval shouldn't be ignored. Some folks may prefer more structure to learning the material and there should eventually be such MOOCS for which there just isn't a CLEP or DSST.
  11. IrishJohn

    IrishJohn New Member

    No. This is probably one reason why Coursera and Saylor are both sloowly seeking approval for their courses from ACE and NCCRS. Personally, I leave their business model to them and have no problem taking advantage of what they're offering in the meantime whilst they work out the kinks. :)
  12. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

  13. Sauron

    Sauron New Member

    (1) MOOCs currently don’t make money but neither did FaceBook or LinkedIn on inception.

    (2) To this day I still don't understand how FaceBook or LinkedIn make money but I am probably not their target demographic. Udacity has partnered with SJSU to offer three of their courses for a modest fee. Coursera is pursuing ACE credits for some courses as well. A lot of really smart people like Sebastian Thrun see the social implication of MOOCs which can be socially good and profitable. Then there is edX, which at this point, doesn't seem interested or desperate for money.

    (3) This is obvious and true but I’m not going to prejudge what is obviously a good thing.
  14. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    OK, allow me to explain. is the second most visited web address in the world (after Facebook claims that they got "618 million daily active users on average in December 2012". That's almost one out of every 10 people on Earth checking Facebook daily.

    So how does Facebook make money? Advertisements. When your audience is that large, you can charge for advertising. Is this model applicable to MOOCs? My guess is "probably not". If a MOOC gets 100,000 students, that's a big deal -- but it's obviously not in the same league as Facebook.

    How about LinkedIn? It's less popular than Facebook, but it's still one of the world's top websites; furthermore, it tends to be used by professionals, which represent a valuable demographic. So LinkedIn also makes money from ads. But LinkedIn makes even more money by selling data to corporate recruiters and HR specialists. If you are looking to hire an experienced professional in a particular field in a particular place, LinkedIn can search its records and give you a list of people who might fit -- even if those people are not aware of your job opening.

    Is this model applicable to MOOCs? Again, probably not. A database of experienced working professionals is worth a whole lot more than a database of students who have taken some introductory courses.

    So it's possible to understand how Facebook and LinkedIn make money. But with MOOCs, this is still an open question.
  15. Sauron

    Sauron New Member

    I get the idea of ad generated revenue on these sites. It didn't seem plausible to me that it would generate so much income, but LinkedIn and FaceBook did not turn a profit for many years despite what seemed obvious, so I expect Coursera to be deliberate and thoughtful on how they will generate income.

    MOOCs will not make money for some time but this is quite normal for any startup venture. Their mission has great societal implication with relation to accessibility to high quality distance education on a global scale. Much worse ideas(FaceBook) have been very profitable.
  16. AUTiger00

    AUTiger00 New Member

    Some Coursera courses/professors are putting high performing students in touch with recruiters. Not sure if they are monitizing that, but it may be a way they look to generate revenue.
  17. AUTiger00

    AUTiger00 New Member

    Just noticed something on Coursera. Georgia Tech is offering something called "Signature Track" where for a fee of $79 GT issues you a certificate and Coursera will provide a unique URL where employers can verify your courses with them. Currently running an introductory price for $39. Only course I noticed it on was Computational Financing. Not sure if other schools are also offering "signature track".

    EDIT: Just found this. Several other classes offering Signature Track
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2013
  18. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2013
  19. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    From last year:

    And from this year:

  20. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    This is just stupid. I always thought MOOCs were kind of pointless. Straighterline charges $99 per month plus $49 per course for courses that are ACE-approved for college credits. They also have partnerships with dozens of colleges. Why would I give my money to Udacity when I can earn real college credits through Straighterline and other organizations that offer courses that are ACE or NCCRS-evaluated? offers Java courses that are NCCRS-approved. There is also Propero, Sophia Learning, and AlignDegree. Saylor is offering free courses that are NCCRS-approved. All you have to do is pay the fee for ProctorU. They are also working with TESC and Excelsior to align courses to TECEPs and Uexcels.

    I could learn how to code on the dozens of free websites out there and earn a certification that's already recognized by the industry. Udacity had a few courses ACE-approved, but never offered the proctored exams required. They dropped the ball on this one. Look at how successful Straighterline is by offering courses that can actually be put on a college transcript. Udacity is charging $150 for verified certificates.

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