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Revenue not likely, MOOC faithful say

For college administrators, it’s the big question surrounding massive open online courses (MOOCs): Can these ostensibly free classes ever actually generate revenue for the universities offering them?


A new study suggests that college leaders and faculty do not view massive open online courses (MOOCs) as an immediate path to revenue or cost savings.

While MOOC platforms and providers hope the verdict on revenue is still to come, a new study indicates that college leaders and faculty may have already made up their mind, and they’re not seeing dollar signs on the horizon.

The study, which was conducted by the American Council on Education (ACE) and InsideTrack, was based on interviews with campus administrators and instructors who all have first-hand experience with MOOCs, which are not free to produce but are often free to take.

Both groups said they don’t see MOOCs as an immediate path to revenue, or even to cost savings.

“Like making a big budget movie and finding out no one wants to see it,” one interviewee said, “if you try to generate revenue out of the gate, you will lose money.”

That’s not to say faculty who have taught a MOOC don’t like the courses.

Nearly all of the respondents said that teaching a MOOC had been beneficial to them, and all but 8 percent said they planned on teaching more MOOCs. More than two-thirds of the interviewees said they would recommend teaching a MOOC to a colleague.

In short, these faculty members are fans of MOOCs. They just don’t see them as a way to make any money.

See Page 2 for why universities’ pessimism regarding MOOC revenue is not for lack of trying.

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