Why MOOCs aren’t so cheap … for colleges

The “Massive” in MOOC refers to class size, but one might think it stands for cost savings as well. MOOCs are free for students who register and cheap for those who seek credit, The Fiscal Times reports.

Few colleges and universities plan to grant credit for MOOCs, but of those who do, the cost to the student is typically a few hundred dollars per course; sometimes, it’s only the price of paying for a proctored exam.

But MOOCs are not terribly cheap for the colleges and partner platforms producing them. Building a MOOC is tricky work.

It involves writing lecture scripts, rethinking course structure, creating a slew of multiple choice quizzes, adapting grading software, filming lectures and (sometimes) discussion groups, editing footage, and building a course page. Once the course goes live online, someone has to pay for chat feed monitors, glitch repair, and a squad of tutors and administrators.

All this for a product that’s supposed to resemble a frozen dinner: pre-packaged, simple to prepare, and consumed in front of a screen.

So what do MOOCs actually cost the producers? Some are cheap, like self-produced off-the-cuff lectures delivered in front of a webcam and uploaded via an open source platform like Google’s Course Builder. However, MOOCs that professionally shot and edited and then spliced with interactive features can cost on the order of a quarter-million dollars.
… Georgetown, when it announced a partnership with EdX, planned to invest $2 million in the Harvard-MIT brainchild, while Amherst College expected to spend a total of $2.2 million, though the faculty voted down the proposal. Meanwhile the University of Texas shelled out $5 million to join EdX.

Read more