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MOOC’s are a Step in the Right Direction, but only a Step

The free online course providers are not seeing the results they expected

The initial vision of Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs) was to provide affordable higher education for all. This is a brave cause, considering the average cost per year for attending college is around $23,000 per year. Like it happens with all startups though, your users usually don’t end up being who you think they will be, and this requires some adaptation on the founders’ parts. Here are a few things that caught MOOC providers off guard.

1) Low completion rates – Most higher education classes are known to have a completion rate of around 70%. Meaning, 30% of kids generally drop the class or fail. MOOCs, on the other hand, have an average completion rate of 10%. Yes, 10%. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. This doesn’t mean that 90% of the people don’t learn. They may just take more time in completing the course. This is especially important when we look at the second point.

2) Most of the users already have a degree – It is difficult to target higher education when the majority of your users already have a bachelor’s degree. It seems that users are looking to improve their skills rather than to pass a class. Many of them are working professionals who have full time jobs. As a result, it can often be difficult to keep up with a course designed to be taken by full-time students.

3) Half the students are from developed nations – Higher education “for all” is also challenging when the benchmarks for higher education are based on the US system of education. Additionally, since the lectures are delivered over video, they require high internet connection speeds that are not available to students in all countries.

Where is this all going?

A good analogy of MOOCs to higher education is an analogy of Google Fiber to the Internet Service Providers. Google does not seem to have aggressive plans to expand fiber to compete with the ISPs because it would require billions of dollars in investment. However, they have showed them up by providing internet that is just mind-blowingly fast. The threat is obvious for the ISPs.

Similarly, MOOC providers have already stuck it in the face of universities. Rather than partnering with the bureaucratic institutions, I imagine Universities feeling threatened and trying to create their own version of MOOCs that will be offered for a similar tuition to a college class, along with a credible degree.

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