Technology and Innovation in Higher Education Blog Post

“When we no longer need multimillion-dollar gymnasiums with climbing walls because we don’t need walls, it’s going to change higher education completely” (Bersett, 2015).

Before this assignment prompt, I have never heard of MOOCs before, so I was very interested in learning about it. MOOC (massive open online courses) are large online courses offered for free by professors mainly at Ivy League universities. MOOCs have become a distributive force because they offer free online courses to whoever wants to enroll.

MOOCs were first started in 2008, but the impact of these courses was felt in 2011 (Bersett, 2015). In 2013, 5% of universities offered some type of MOOC, and that percentage triples for universities who enrolled more than 15,000 students. Of that, a small percentage of universities are offering MOOCs for credit (Bersett, 2015). In 2011, 106,000 students signed up for an AI course taught by a Stanford professor (Bersett, 2015).

I read a few articles where Colleges stated they are often afraid of MOOCs because they allow people to pick any type of courses they want online and take them for free. In the last decade, online courses have become attractive because (1) you do not need to be there, (2) it conforms to a single person’s schedule, (3) you do not have to worry about being accepted into these elite and highly competitive universities, (4) student debt has risen disturbingly high. MOOCs have become a new revenue model for higher education. The fact that MOOCs are free and open is what differentiates them from Universities who rely on acceptance into the school and tuition fees. One point that I could not understand was that the grading system is unclear, and there is either no or extremely limited interaction with the professor.

It makes you question the choices you made. Why did I spend thousands of dollars for a traditional college education where I could have completed self-paced college courses that only rely on me having an active internet connection? I could substitute my monthly tuition bill for a monthly internet charge.

The infographic I decided to share maps out the four key MOOC players (Coursera, Khan, Udacity, and EDX).  Thrun created Udacity which is a for-profit MOOC and Princeton and Duke professors are teaching courses. Coursera was created by two Stanford professors and EDX is a non-profit MOOC founded by MIT and Harvard. MOOCs are also backed by Melinda and Bill Gates.

(Nigel, 2014)

Works Cited

Bersett, K. (2015, February 16). Illinois State University. Retrieved from Illinois State eyes future as online courses reshape higher ed:

Nigel, H. (2014, March 1). MICHAEL SANDBERG’S DATA VISUALIZATION BLOG. Retrieved from Infographic: Major Players in the MOOC Universe (Nigel Hawtin):

2 Replies to “Technology and Innovation in Higher Education Blog Post”

  1. Hey Alex,

    I, too, was unfamiliar with the acronym “MOOC” before this assignment. Although I was familiar with the general concept design was, I would not have picked the correct answer on a multiple choice test as to what the official name for them was.

    I do find it interesting that most of the companies offer the classes for free, but many of them will charge a fee to get certification of completion, college credit, or ultimately a degree. I support that the professors teaching need to get paid, and that the overall cost of online versus in-person can be very much mitigated by the online classroom, but I would rather see a more defined and up-front price structure. Average completion of MOOCs tends to be low, although multiple studies have shown that those charging a fee have lower enrollment but greater completion rates. Essentially – only the dedicated will start. To me, this is a proper balance against completely and fully free. Paying $25 per person for a class of 1,000 students, the price should help pay the professor and offset other associated costs (although I honestly have no idea how the breakdown of cost works on them and if this is too high, too low, or completely obscure for a price). Understandably, the cost may be a fee that is a burden for some, to which financial aid could be provided. That said, if 16 hours of course credit cost me only $400 (and internet charge), I would have come out of school with a LOT less debt.


  2. Hi Alex,

    I’ve never heard the word MOOCs as well, and it was a concise review of the pros and cons. I also think that not all the college experience is replaceable by the online courses, since a lot comes from the hands-on and feedback from the instructor, that is not always possible when you have a class of 106,000 (!) students. I do understand that the way that these courses work can be a good way of complementing your skills and resume, but I am not sure about all the aspects involved in learning a career. I think that the main problem is how prohibited the costs of education has become, and that has to do more with the system than with the idea of the MOOCs. Thanks for posting!

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