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MOOCs Need to Fight for Relevancy?

Posted on Feb 27, 2013

Paper pointing arrows at the words A,B,C, and D.Now that online learning programs, particularly MOOCs, have attracted significant amounts of attention, those programs need to figure out how to maintain that attention, claims The Parthenon Group. Throughout 2012, MOOCs were a constant topic of discussion, but Haven Ladd, a partner in The Parthenon Group’s Education Practice, says that “The world needs a more responsive education system with online offerings a high priority, though MOOCs are but one part of the equation, we’ve yet to see many institutions develop sustainable financial models for an online degree program that strikes the correct harmony of meeting the needs of target students and a school’s mission and resources.”

The demand for online courses is rising, and institutions have consequently started offering them. Previously, adults looking to earn master’s degrees were the targets of online education programs, but now, those programs account for only one-third of all online programs. As online programs become more available for undergraduates and K-12 students, relative shares are likely to shift further. The shift from brick-and-mortar to online brings at least three challenges with it, though.

The first challenge is recognizing that “online students need fundamentally different support services from on-campus students.” Exemplified by what happened in many MOOC courses, initial enrollment can be high, but retention can be an issue. Consequently, if institutions desire to maintain strong online learning programs, a support structure to help ensure students stay enrolled and continue to make progress. Failing to do this could result in programs bleeding students and losing credibility.

The second challenge is that there is not yet a good revenue model to which institutions can refer. The Parthenon Group frames the matter optimistically, claiming that “lack of clarity now means room for opportunity.” No one is quite sure how to capitalize on online programs similar to MOOCs, but it is a sure thing that the institutions that figure out how to implement an effective revenue model will experience great success, while institutions that fails to design and implement a good model will fall behind.

The third challenge is that, while demand for online courses is rising, simply taking material and putting it online is not adequate. Online learning differs significantly from traditional education, so it makes sense that institutions must take different steps to properly implement and maintain online programs. If an institution is interested in having good online programs, then that institution will need to fully invest itself in researching, developing, and maintaining respectable programs.

Josh Luthi is a computer science student at the University of Kansas and has a penchant for politics.

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