The Attack of MOOCs

After slowly coming around to higher education, the DOTCOM mania has the teachers and administrators under its spell. After the launch of Udacity and Coursera, two of Silicon Valley start-ups offering free education through MOOCs, the ivory towers of academia have been shaken to their foundations. Centuries of brand building by universities are now being forced to rethink the possibility that information technology will, rather quickly, make their business model outdated. While MOOCs continue to multiply in number, resources, and student recruitment—without having figured out their own business model.

Universities are joining the MOOCs revolution to avoid being guillotined by it, while continuing to provide their own online courses to their students. Coursera has formed partnerships with 83 universities and colleges around the world, including many of America’s top-tier institutions.

There is plenty of experimentation with business models taking place. MOOCs may be free, but those behind them are seeing the dollar signs. Coursera has started charging to provide certificates for those who complete its courses and want proof, perhaps for a future employer. It is also starting to license course materials to universities that want to beef up their existing offering. However, it has abandoned attempts to help firms recruit employees from among Coursera’s students, because catering to the different needs of each employer was “ not a scalable model.”

Udacity is in contrast; working with companies to train existing and future employees is now at the center of their business model. It has tie-ups with several firms including Google. Recently Georgia Tech hoped on board, offering a master’s degree in computer science. Course materials will be free, but students will pay around $7,000 for tuition.

What do you think about MOOCs business model?