Until recently, Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) were seen as one – if not, the – key mechanism through which future higher eduction schemes would be delivered.
From their first use in 2008, educators, entrepreneurs, and reformers had been queuing up to talk about the virtues of a learning model that offered the prospect of an education system where thousands of people could learn together.
Throughout 2012, and even up until last year, the idea that MOOCs would represent a fundamental part of the future of higher eduction was still common – but then something changed.
As 2013 drew to a close, that general idea that told of MOOC providers moving from strength to strength was replaced with what I can only describe as resignation.
The mood shift – as I saw it – suggested that MOOCs would join a list of technologies that had once been presented as a way to bring about great transformations in education, only to flounder and fall by the wayside at some later date (Radio tuition or VCR teaching, anyone?).
The shift has been overly pessimistic. Despite the cooling of interest, MOOCs are here to stay. And while they may not grab the centre ground of higher education in the way it was once thought they might, it’s likely the future development of MOOCs will be corporate, rather than academic.
It’s important to remember that MOOCs are still young – and uses of them are still being established. Increasingly, companies will use open online courses to recruit employees, market their products, support vendors and develop relationships. MOOC providers will partner with corporations to fill educative gaps existing universities do not – or cannot – adequately address.
To date, MOOC providers have been predominantly US-based companies, but there-in lies the real opportunity. If their future isn’t solely to in higher education, UK publishers will be well placed to work closely with corporate institutions and build a new and exclusive market.