Whether the massive open online course phenomenon is a welcome or a threatening prospect for higher education institutions divides informed writers. There is consensus that MOOCs offer education institutions a useful lever for restructuring and transition, The Australian reports.

On balance, the literature expresses the view that MOOCs will probably not threaten traditional forms of university teaching in the short term, but a sub-group of credible writers foresees wide, sudden changes and disruptions to institutions from MOOCs.

The maturing of the MOOC format is attested to in the literature by the emergent picture of MOOC models delivering falling costs and growing revenues. Whether this adds up to a viable business model is being tested with a new generation of low-cost accredited degrees based on MOOC principles being prepared by some leading US colleges.

Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the first to experiment with online and MOOC models, revealed what was possible when it was forced in May to release internal papers under an Open Records Request to Inside Higher Education.

Written up by a journalist, these documents give a flavour of the business implications: “Georgia Tech expected to make millions of dollars in coming years, negotiated student-staff interaction down to the minute, promised to pay professors who create new online courses $US30,000 or more, and created two new categories of educators – corporate ‘course assistants’ tasked with handling student issues and a corps of teaching assistants hired by Georgia Tech who will be professionals rather than graduate students.”

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