Return on Investment: Contrary to Popular Belief, MOOCs are not Free

Return on Investment: Contrary to Popular Belief, MOOCs are not Free

Marie A. Valentin
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8170-5.ch010
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The primary purpose of this chapter is to examine the financial implications of the providers of MOOCs and to examine how and where financial gains are being felt. This chapter also examines the issues of sustainability of MOOCs. The research methods employed include a thorough review of literature published in refereed journals on MOOCs. The findings of the review of literature have revealed the profitability potential for platform providers, publishers, colleges, and universities, as well as test taking centers. Findings also reveal implications as to actual costs for student participants and benefits that may be assumed from participating in learning through MOOCs.
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Recently a new phenomenon has emerged that has implications of bringing about a revolutionary way to provide education to the masses. This phenomenon is referred to as massive open online courses (MOOCs). These types of courses are offered online are usually offered free from charge. MOOC participants are usually those outside of the presenting institution’s student body (Allen & Seaman, 2014). MOOCs offer opportunities to people from various economic backgrounds and various demographic locations to participate (Advantages and disadvantages of MOOCs, 2013). They offer educational free access and make it available equally to all. Benefits may be felt from participants who have experienced barriers to education often associated with poverty and lack of access, as well as inaccessibility due to demographic locations. MOOCs are advanced in their design in that they serve to motivate student engagement, and include the use of videos, blogs, forums, and podcasts, as a means of communication of course material and lecture delivery. Material can be revised at any time and are “infinitely scalable and can provide a massive amount of data” (Nielson, 2013, p. 2). MOOC is an avant-garde for postulating higher education to learners all over the world, without consideration of barriers to demographics.

As advanced as they may seem MOOCs are in the early stages of development (MOOCs: Pros and Cons, 2013). However, MOOCs have the ability to change the world of education, as we know it. MOOCs have been recently included in the options available for online learning (Liyanagunawardena, Adams, & Williams, 2013) and consist of course offerings from public and elite universities. Their main purpose is to make education accessible around the globe. Courses offered are free of charge to students and attract multiples of thousands of participants for any one-course offering with unlimited enrollment potential. OpenCourseWare offered by MIT currently contains 2,000 courses available to participants. MOOCs “have the potential to be an invaluable tool in offering education to marginalized groups such as women and minorities…they may also provide a way to fill a gap in local expertise by providing large-scale access to high quality courses on required skills” (Boga & McGreal, 2014, p. 4).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Profitability: The financial gain/revenue that is achieved after expenses.

Elasticity of demand: The degree of responsiveness of the quality of product or service demanded by customers to changes in the marketplace of the product or service.

Opportunity Cost: The loss of potential gain from other alternatives.

Informal Learning: Knowledge gained through other activities that are provided by non-trained educators or without a formal curriculum.

Sustainability: Diverse and productive form of maintaining, enduring, and supporting its own needs.

Human Capital Theory: The knowledge and expertise one accumulates through education and training.

Massive Open Online Course: An open access online course intended to gain unlimited participation.

Formal Learning: Knowledge gained through a traditional systematic school, academy/university/college/institution/university.

Return on Investment: A performance measurement used to evaluate the effectiveness of an investment.

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