eNEWSLINE - Business Education News from AACSB International

Where are MOOCs Headed?

September 2013

By Sari Wakefield, Manager, Digital Communications, AACSB International

In August, Michael Lenox, the associate dean and executive director of the Batten Institute and Samuel L. Slover research professor of business at the Darden School of Business, joined AACSB's president and CEO, John Fernandes for an eNEWSLINE Live episode focusing on MOOCs and open-access education trends. The episode was quite interesting, in that it really took a look at where exactly MOOCs might be headed. The two discussed major players, strategies for starting a MOOC, and overall market predictions.

Who are the Major MOOC Players?

Coursera—a social entrepreneurship company founded by Stanford University professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. The company partners with 85 educational institutions that offer more than 400 courses in a variety of disciplines. Coursera runs synchronous courses with asynchronous materials. The synchronous nature of the courses allows for the development of discussions between students, as well as the creation of study groups, explained Lenox.

UDACITY—a platform developed by an entrepreneur from Silicon Valley that offers a more simple approach to a variety of courses, from "How to Build a Startup" to "Introduction to Physics."

edX—a third major player, established from a partnership between Harvard and MIT, which now includes the Australian National University, Berkeley, and several others, also offers many classes covering a variety of subjects.

A few other providers are listed below. Of these providers, notice how the international presence is growing—a sign of expanding market saturation and consumer demand for offerings related to parent country languages and learning styles.

Khan Academy
Open Course World

In addition to the increasing number of global MOOC startups, institutions have joined the marketplace almost as quickly. Even though MOOCs were originally invented by universities, they have not been as quick to respond as startups have been—who seem to be more organized and strategic with their approaches. However, universities are getting much better at developing and delivering such massive, free offerings. They also are beginning to realize the benefits of starting a MOOC (such as developing brand awareness and creating global collaborations) despite the lack of revenue flow from such a venture.

Where's the Market Going?

According to Lenox, it is only a matter of time before the MOOC industry becomes completely saturated and heads toward a shake out. Although, he believes this scenario is not going to happen tomorrow, it is inevitably coming in the future based on the number of players entering the market on a continuing basis. At the end of the day, the industry is wondering how many players will be left standing? Lenox says, it's hard to say how many will actually be left in the market, however, it is likely there will not be one dominate player, but several large players due to the demand for differentiation from course takers.

To differentiate themselves in this ever-crowding market, entrepreneurs are beginning to take MOOCS to interesting proportions. For example, MOOC.me has a tab on its website entitled "virtual phd." The page says, "coming soon."1 In a somewhat related example, a 32-year-old MOOC student says, "I think we'll see more MOOC programs, where there is a well laid out sequence of courses that lead to one gaining something equivalent to a MOOC degree.2" One can only wonder where this is heading ...


The eye opening fact when it comes to the scalability that MOOCs provide, is that Lenox "taught five times the number of students in the history of Darden in this one six week course," explained AACSB president and CEO, John Fernandes. Even more awakening is when you think about a university having 200,000 alumni over its history versus 100,000 students enrolled in one massive online class. The numbers are just staggering. As an educator, Lenox explains one of the most powerful experiences of participating in a MOOC is "seeing that breadth of impact." For example, this one particular course he was involved with had enrolled students from 180 countries. Of the students that finished the course, 120 countries were represented. There were study groups in 60 different countries that physically met to learn the course materials—a truly amazing reach.

The human desire to learn and access knowledge can surely be seen here. However, the big questions involve assessing true learning and coursework usability in the workplace. Will MOOC students eventually expect to receive credentials from their coursework? Or, are MOOCs merely means of supplemental education versus replacements for traditional, evaluated education? I do not think anyone really knows the answers to these questions yet, but the management education industry is definitely thinking about it.

1. (2013). MOOC.me.

2. (2013, July 8). "Meet the Students—An Interview with Kevin Weatherwalks." TheGoodMOOC.com.

MOOCs and Open Access Education

View the full discussion with Michael Lenox and John Fernandes via eNEWSLINE Live.