MOOCs And The Future Of The University

The advent of Internet-enabled mass access to college level educational content offers a number of opportunities to both consumers and providers. Consumers can shop for any number of content items online from a wide array of providers, choosing products based on the subject, the prestige of the provider, and the subsequent value of participation. Providers will have access to large potential markets with low overhead expense and most importantly without an obligation to validate the preparation and capabilities of the consumers or guarantee a level of successful completion.

This element of the MOOC process is of great significance, because the assessment of student preparation and the assumption of responsibility for student success represent major institutional costs, both financial and reputational.  For many public universities, struggling to provide access to as many students as possible, to achieve high graduation rates to satisfy often misguided legislative requirements, and to maintain reasonable standards of academic performance, the Internet environment offers an escape.

Students who sign up for MOOC courses represent a market created outside the university, but that requires the university to provide the faculty, the branding, and eventually the certification that will enhance the value of MOOC provided products to consumers.  The university can deliver the faculty without risk, although with some cost.  Universities take no responsibility for anything related to student success until the student succeeds. Students can present the university with documentation that justifies the inclusion of successfully completed MOOC courses in a portfolio that qualifies for some form of institutional certification or degree. Then, the university can take ownership of the student’s success.

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