The MOOCs that ate themselves
Martin Weller, Program for Online Teaching, Feb 15, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Martin Weller outlines "quite a depressing scenario" that may unfold as MOOCs follow invaiably the part set out by Coursera and the rest of them (I don't think that will happen - but that's a separate story):

  • They become unsustainable - a good MOOC is so expensive to put on that it simply isn't worth doing. You're providing it for free after all.

  • Only elite institutions offer them - given the expense, only those institutions who have the money, or the skills to produce broadcast quality content will provide them.

  • They are conservative - as Georgia Tech found, it's better not to try anything risky or innovative, because the cost of failure is too great.

  • MOOC failure will be costly - if you fail publicly and damage your own, and your institution's reputation, don't expect them to give you promotion. So why risk it?

I agree this would be depressing - but I think what's happening is that after this first burst of MOOCs using these (quickly built) platforms, we are seeing an unveiling of many more MOOCs on any number of different platforms. Which means they won't be controlled by the big elite institutions (as if they ever could be) and that there will be tens of thousands of them in short order. Yes, then the bubble will burst, but the fact of open online education will have been established. [Image by David Kernohan]

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