Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): not disruptive yet, but the future looks bright


Student registrations in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will be up to over 10 million courses, a 100% increase over 2012. The low completion rates mean that less than 0.2% of all tertiary education courses completed in 2014 will be MOOCs. By 2020, however, over 10% of all courses taken in tertiary and enterprise continuing education may be MOOCs.

MOOCs differ from traditional courses in that they are massive, with potentially millions of users, and they are open, available to anyone, often for free or at minimal cost, much less than a traditional university or college course.

MOOCs are more efficient in that they avoid duplication of effort: first year physics courses tend to have very similar content at every university, which means MOOCs could be used to make a single, well-designed online version available to anyone, for a relatively low fee.

This efficiency also manifests in enterprise training. For example online training courses on spreadsheet use are common at accounting firms, but tend to be restricted to a firm’s employees. However, spreadsheet skills are fairly universal. It would make more sense for a single, well-produced and scripted spreadsheet course to be available to anyone. Enterprises are already beginning to adopt MOOCs for this kind of training.

At the moment, one of the biggest differences between traditional education and MOOCs is the completion rate: one survey found that 93% of students who register for a MOOC fail to complete their prescribed course of study. By contrast, most people taking a university course or corporate online training course want to complete it, need to complete it, and keep trying until they pass. Even at universities where dropout rates of 50% make headlines, students are still completing their education at a rate seven times higher than the average MOOC.

Deloitte predicts that by 2014, while student registrations in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will be up 100% compared to 2012 to over 10 million courses, the low completion rates mean that less than 0.2% of all courses completed globally in 2014 will be MOOCs. The growing awareness of online education will force educational institutions to increase investment in this area, drive more acceptance of online education as it becomes accredited, and increase adoption by corporate training groups.

Most large educational institutions will experiment with this form of content but MOOCs will not disrupt education significantly in the near term. Enterprise training (an £85 billion market) and continuing education looks likely to be the fastest adopter of MOOCs, with significant growth in 2014 and 2015.

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