MOOC (and related) News From February/early March 2019

I started this second blog focused on my forthcoming MOOC book with the best of intentions, but I’m already falling behind. That and there hasn’t been a ton of news stuff related to the MOOC book lately. But a few updates/bits of news:

“The MOOC pivot” by Justin Reich and José A. Ruipérez-Valiente is a short commentary from Science. It’s behind a firewall, though since EMU subscribes to it, I was able to read it. What’s interesting is this is a statistical analysis of all MOOCs run by edX from October 2012 to May 2018, and the results are more or less consistent with what those of us doing MOOC research on a much smaller scale have found for quite a while now. This study notes that the number of participants in edX MOOCs has declined, but based on the most current research I could do for the book, the number of student/participants in all MOOCs has actually increased. In other words, it would appear that edX in particular is perhaps engaging fewer students.

“Will Clay Christensen Put His Money Where His Mouth Is?” is a humorous little “bet” being presented to noted (and inaccurate) predictor of disruption in higher education, Clay Christensen. The very short version: Christensen has been predicting for years that higher ed is doomed and he has been wrong for years. For example, in his 2011 book The Innovative University, he predicted that half of American nonprofit private colleges would be closed by 2021-2026. So Mark Zupan, president of a tiny non-profit private called Alfred University, published an essay where he made a bet:”If at least half of all traditional universities fail or merge by 2030, then I will give $1 million to Christensen’s institute (provided it is not disrupted before then!). If, however, his prediction fails to materialize by 2030, then Christensen will contribute $1 million toward Alfred University’s endowment.” I assume Christensen has not responded.

“A University Goes It (Mostly) Alone Online” is about how Southern Methodist University is likely to start moving away from contracting with Online Program Management companies for future online courses and programs. Larenda Mielke, who is the associate provost for continuing education at SMU, says it’s not an issue of the quality of the services these companies provide. It’s about (for lack of a better way of phrasing it) doing the right thing. To quote from the article:

But as the person hired 18 months ago to help SMU develop a more strategic presence in online education, Mielke has concluded that building an in-house unit to create and operate most aspects of online programs aligns better with the university’s mission and interests than does turning over some strategic control — and not insignificant financial sums — to for-profit companies with overlapping but differing goals and motives.

OPMs and their owners have every right to earn profits, Mielke says, but universities like SMU would do better to pour revenues back into their own programs and purposes than to enrich shareholders and executives.

“I look at that and I think, that money comes from tuition,” Mielke said.

It’ll be interesting to see how long this stance stays an outlier.

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