Since then-Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun opened his Fall 2011 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course to tens of thousands students around the world, there has been a lot of interest and excitement surrounding MOOCs, or massive, open online courses, Singularity Hub reports.

Thrun went on to found a for-profit online university, Udacity, with the backing of some of Silicon Valley’s most influential investors. Two of Thrun’s former Stanford colleagues launched a competitor, Coursera, with the support of the granddaddy of all venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins. Not to be outdone, the most prestigious universities on the East Coast set up the nonprofit edX.

It seemed clear that the future of education would be in MOOCs. And who wouldn’t want to make lectures given by the best teachers at top universities available online to students in developing countries and poor and remote parts of the United States? MOOC enthusiasts also believe the format can deliver improved professional development by freeing workers to pursue their studies at their (or their employer’s) convenience.

But a few years into the courses’ existence, research on their effectiveness has begun painting a grim picture of their ability to educate students. Can the courses iterate to overcome the challenges?

… MOOC platforms have certainly seen the same research and are moving to address it. The question is, can they up the educational ante and protect the profit margins that keep all but the non-profit edX in business?

Coursera has quietly moved to shorter courses to reduce dropouts, a shift that will have negligible effects on its margins.

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eCampus News staff and wire reports


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