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Global MOOC trends half a decade in – towards professionalized models?

Class Central, an aggregator of MOOCs including top universities like Stanford, MIT, Harvard,  founded back in 2011, has released latest figures investigating current and emerging global trends.  The data explores developments at the global stage of MOOCs both in terms of numbers in enrolment and growth of courses, as well as how the landscape of MOOCs is expected to evolve.

Zooming in on quantitative findings reveals:

  • Registrations on MOOC platforms increased by two-thirds exceeding growth expectaions – 58 million students signed up for courses compared to forgone estimates at the 35 million mark in 2015
  • Regional MOOC platforms, notably in Latin America and China, are now drawing significant numbers of new students – around 25% of the total number of new course entrants.
  • With 2100 new courses in 2016, the total number of MOOCs reached 6850 
  • 700 universities have been actively providing MOOCs

What the findings tell us about MOOCs 2016 onwards?

  • No longer “Massive”:  Many courses now support self-paced learning and more frequent course sessions, resulting in many students studying in smaller cohorts
  • Expansion of credentials, college credits and degrees: MOOC providers offer more than 250 credentials and many drive a strategy of expanding their profile to postgraduate degrees and master’s program offers.
  • Regional MOOC provides attract more and more students by offering courses in the local language.
  • A move from a dominant model of free courses to paid only courses is observed - some of the biggest MOOC providers piloting new fee based courses
  • A Push Towards Business to Business (B2B): products targeted towards the world of corporate training are emerging, with MOOC providers rolling out specific degrees tailored to business needs.
  • Trends in courses subjects: courses in Business and Technology (Computer Science, Data Science, Programming) form a big part of the new generation of MOOCs, together making up 40% of all new courses added the last year

These findings provide not only insights but raise critical question as to the future of MOOCs and the upholding of original purpose as widening access and participation, which were at the core when the first courses were rolled out in 2011 by pioneering institutions as Stanford.  Half a decade later, a range of features in MOOCs as videos, assignment and certificates that were previously freely and openly accessible have shrunk over the years. Providers seem to shift focus on new target groups of ‘professional’ learners, that opens questions as to how new selling points will shape course models as potentially more career driven, and affect the benefits of MOOCs for groups as lifelong learners and students of diverse socio-economic background.

Class Central – MOOCs Stats and Trends 2016