Carlos Salerno over at Inside HigherEd wrote a piece on the Bitter Reality of MOOConomics. The major point he makes is that because students need to acquire credentials from top universities/colleges for better employment prospects whereas colleges are loath to provide these credentials through MOOCs because they have no barriers to entry (in terms of student proficiency or past credentials), what incentive does the student have to participate in MOOCs?

Inaccurately suggesting that the MOOCs were born at “two of the nation’s most elite colleges” and suspecting that the MOOCs, rather than being “evolutionary equivalents of modern-day humans”, are more equivalent to Neanderthals, Carlos makes the following conclusion:

Still, what our elite higher education institutions have produced in the MOOC looks and feels like one of Ford Motor Company’s futuristic concept cars – something that provides a vision for how tomorrow might look, or which includes niche features that may be built into near-term models, but in its current form is simply not road-ready.

I don’t quite understand the parallel and I sincerely hope that no MOOC be ever considered a product that can be “road-ready” and sold/operated like that. It is a testimony to our current trying times that we are looking at these college MOOCs as being representative of the Connectivist philosophy, as a recipe that solves the problems of employability or of student choice and as an evolutionary development in educational systems (rather than a transformative one).

Jeffrey Young has a great article over at The Chronicle where he analyzes the Coursera contract and possible business models around MOOCs. Essentially Coursera and other private companies are following the model of getting to market quickly and then adapting to “consumer” demand quickly, rather than a deeply thought model for solving our current challenges.

My belief is that there are operative (business and non-commercial) models here. However, we need to recognize the potential for transformation. This potential cannot be realized unless we leverage the power of connective learning.

At the heart of such a MOOC model are a few things.

  1. A Connectivist way of being (learning as a process of making connections, knowledge as the network, changing roles of teachers and students, critical literacies, learning analytics)
  2. Learning As a Platform rather than a preset configuration of pedagogy, content and technology (the primacy of the interaction)
  3. The learning network itself
  4. Acceptable methods for measurement of proficiency (this is as yet largely unsolved at scale; and there may be instances where that measurement is totally unnecessary)
  5. An emergent operational system that is driven and designed keeping in mind that learning is a complex adaptive system (as experimented with in CCKxx)

If we are able to keep these principles in mind, business and operative models will follow. The challenge is now more to understand that the college MOOCs are not representative of these principles. Rather, they perpetuate (riding on the brand equity of these colleges), an existing system – which is also why companies like Coursera will benefit.

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