The Fifth Dimension Series: When Admissions Free, You Pay to Get Out – The full spectrum of MOOCs
Recorded: Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 @ 7:00 am - 7:20 am HST
Duration: 20 minutes
The emergence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is attracting attention comparable to the technology bubble of the late 1990s. From academic blogs on LinkedIn to trade magazines, MOOCs are being debated and discussed with rigor as the idea of offering free higher education to learners in a time of global economic trouble appears a dream come true for many with limited funds seeking advanced education. MOOCs vary but most are free, offering no certifications or college credit from recognized accreditation agencies. Other MOOCs do offer certifications, and recently college credit, upon passing a test from a partnering institution and for a reduced fee. The University of Texas anticipates such a MOOC partnership would result in a cheaper path to a Texas degree (Kolowich, 2012.) These programs are only in their infancy and on first blush, it is understandable that offering free education through MOOCs would get a lot of attention. The dropout rates of these courses are substantial (Watters, 2012.) and it is not easy to understand why Milton Friedman-inspired corporations, whose social responsibility is to increase profits (Milton, 1970), are investing in MOOCs without an avenue for return on investment in some way, shape or form. According to Boxall (2012) from Guardian Professional, free MOOCS, “attracted over $100m of private venture capital investment this year already, as well as enthusiastic support from global information industry giants like Google and Pearson.” This would seem to indicate that corporations do foresee a future where free information is given in exchange for something that can be leveraged for their self-interest. The research explores the potential return on investment MOOCs offer to corporations and for-profit universities in an information-is-power-age. It considers the future impact MOOCs will have on society through producing learned yet non-examined members. It measures the profitability in gathering big data through the use of intelligent agents, and ultimately, what learners are actually paying for free or open online courses.