A few months ago, I blogged about the emergence of a trend in top-tier standard education being delivered Online free to anyone with a decent Internet connection in the US.
Now, it seems the phenomenon has made a dash across the pond as a coalition of UK based Universities pull rank in an effort to offer the public access to higher education courses via computers, tablets and smartphones.
Indeed Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are being touted as the new frontier in education as providers look to exploit new technologies and pander to this generation’s electronic lifestyles.
Courses will be on offer next year from the partnership which includes the Open University, Exeter, Birmingham, East Anglia, King’s College, Lancaster London, Leeds, Bristol, Warwick, Cardiff, Southampton, and St Andrews.
Classes may be made up of include thousands of students at a time, challenging the teacher-student relationship many favour as best for delivering learning outcomes. Compared to an old-fashioned class with a teacher and 15 students, will MOOCs be able to deliver the goods?
The potential is massive – MOOC providers will take the ascendancy if they can forge relationships with publishers and academic libraries to offer students access to scholarly articles and e-books. Of course, it will be a massive undertaking to develop a user-friendly system that matches, or even surpasses, the fantastic service provided by Google Scholar.
How the phenomenon will be monetised is far from clear; hit-driven advertising is an obvious and well-thumbed way of generating revenue Online, but will providers ever see figures that challenge the £9000 p/y course fees charged by many UK institutions?
Perhaps the MOOC model will be run similar to that of Google or Facebook, where the cost of their basic service is zilch, yet the information gleaned from its users holds real value. Harvesting the shared information that comes with having millions of people using your service is invaluable; this intelligence is of massive value to third-party businesses who, according to The Telegraph, paid Google $40 billion (£25 million) for access to it last year.
So MOOCS have the potential to move away from the traditional model of course fees and towards a more web-savvy approach, cashing in on the intrinsic value of the dedicated, intelligent and ambitious students that they recruit by selling on their details to employers. There are vast amounts of money to be made here.
The future is far from clear, but as the MOOC movement gathers momentum and crosses borders; there are interesting times ahead in education…