MOOCS as Disruptive Innovation in Higher Education

In this blog I will explore how faculty has reacted to the implementation of disruptive technology and massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Christensen (2008) explores disruptive innovation, which is to make something that used to be complex, much simpler, attracting new entrants into the market. He analyzed this in the context of the Harvard Business School (HBS). He explains how Harvard is one of the best universities in the World and their students pay a very considerable amount for an MBA but this is with the promise of receiving higher salaries. The situation in which their alumni command higher salaries has prompted several companies not to go there to recruit them anymore. These companies in contrast have decided to build their own business schools something that eats away at the core of the HBS. MOOCs have been mentioned as a disruptive innovation and potential replacement of the university as we know it.

Several professors have been vocal against them, for example, Adam Sitze, assistant professor of law at Amherst College said (Rivard, 2013): “What makes us think, educationally, that MOOCs are the form of online learning that we should be experimenting with? On what basis? On what grounds?…2012 was the year of the MOOCs. 2013 will be the year of buyer’s regret.” The professors at Amherst College went on to reject an offer to join edX with 70 votes against and 41 for it. This shows that some of the faculty was interested in exploring MOOCs. Among the issues for not joining edX it was mentioned that Amherst values of “small residential community” and “close colloquy” were not compatible with having a MOOC class with thousands of students. For Kelly (2014) the MOOCs are more like “Health Clubs” where a person will be more motivated to participate and exercise if it is free. Then the health system as a whole benefits from having healthy patients and can focus its assets and efforts in other patients that require more attention.

In reality MOOCs serve as a tool where anyone with an internet connection around the world can have access to knowledge. As they are structured currently, any person around the world can have access to education from elite universities and have access to information that previously they would not have the possibility of obtaining in this readily fashion. Time will tell how much of the market share they take from the traditional university.


Christensen, C. (2008). Disruptive Innovation and Catalytic Change in Higher Education. In Futures Forum, Harvard Business School.

Kelly, A. (2014). “Why MOOCs Are More Like Health Clubs Than Hospitals.”, <> (May. 1, 2015).

Rivard, R. (2013). “EdX Rejected.”, <> (May. 1, 2015).

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