Colleges Resistant to Utilizing Free Online Courses Despite Industry Growth
Massively-open online courses, or MOOCs, have been one of the most talked about advents of the last few years, so much so that the term “MOOC” topped many lists of notable buzzwords in 2012. But according to a new study, U.S. colleges and universities have so far been unwilling to implement their use for fear of losing money despite the overwhelming enthusiasm felt for the medium.
The study released by Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusettss noted that the number of U.S. students participating in online education during 2012 surpassed 6.7 million, a record high. These numbers have been bolstered by the introduction of new MOOC platforms from presitigious universities, such as edX, a joint operation between Harvard, the University of California at Berkely, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford’s Class2Go.
“The rate of growth in online enrollments remains extremely robust, even as overall higher education enrollments have shown a decline,” said Jeff Seaman, co-author of the study.
But despite the massive growth that MOOCs have undergone in the last year, traditional brick-and-mortar institutions are somewhat less thrilled at the idea. Seaman and co-author I. Elaine Allen found that just 2.6% of all higher education institutions currently offer free online courses, and only 9.4% are even planning to use them in the next school year. According to the study, higher education officials are wary of how MOOCs could be used without causing their institutions to lose money.
“Institutional opinions on MOOCs are mixed,” said Allen. “Some praise them for their ability to learn about online pedagogy and attract new students, but concerns remain about whether they are a sustainable method for offering courses.”
Seaman went on to add that although the potential for getting a cheaper, Ivy-league quality education through MOOCS exists in the future, colleges and universities will likely not begin embracing free online education models anytime within the near future. Or at least until enough colleges find a way to make it profitable.
“It’s clearly not ready for prime time,” said Seaman. “People are saying this could make a real difference, but they’re not convinced there’s a sustainable business model.”