Academics on MOOCs—Where is This Movement Headed?

education online

education online (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

By Lillian Williams

Most U.S. colleges remain on the fence about MOOCs—the massive open online courses which have attracted so much attention lately.

As shown in a major survey, “Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States,” relatively few U.S. institutions of higher education have jumped the broom into MOOC territory–at least not yet.

But make no mistake–growth of online courses in general remains strong. The number of students at U.S. institutions taking at least one online course now surpasses 6.7 million. (For background on MOOCs–a special sector of online education–see an earlier post of this blog.)

“Only a very small segment of higher education institutions are now experimenting with MOOCs with a somewhat larger number in the planning stages,” according to the survey report. “Most institutions remain undecided.”

This tenth annual survey, released on January 8, was conducted by Babson Survey Research Group in collaboration with the College Board. It’s based upon responses from more than 2800 U.S. colleges and universities.

Concerning the much talked about MOOCs, the survey found:

  • “Only 2.6 percent of higher education institutions currently have a MOOC, another 9.4 percent report MOOCs are in the planning stages.
  • “The majority of institutions (55.4%) report they are still undecided aboutMOOCs, while under one-third (32.7%) say they have no plans for a MOOC.
  • “Academic leaders remain unconvinced that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses, but do believe they provide an important means for institutions to learn about online pedagogy.
  • “Academic leaders are not concerned about MOOC instruction being accepted in the workplace, but do have concerns that credentials for MOOC completion will cause confusion about higher education degrees.”

But the survey reinforces another key point: the importance of online learning, in general, as a component of higher education.

“Learning is no longer limited to four walls – learning can happen anywhere – and it already is happening everywhere, everyday,” explained Todd Hitchcock, Senior Vice President of Online Solutions, Pearson Learning Solutions. “The growth of online learning underscores this need for quality, flexible education programs that meet the demands of our 21st-century workforce.”

Other significant findings of the survey include:

  • The some 6.7 million students enrolled in at least one online course during fall, 2011, represents a 570,000 increase of students over the previous year.
  • Of U.S. higher education students, thirty-two percent take at least one course online.
  • About 9.4 percent of U.S. colleges report that MOOCs are in the planning stages at their schools, and only 2.6 percent of higher education institutions currently have a MOOC.
  • Of the academic leaders surveyed, 77 percent view learning outcomes of online education as the same, or superior, to those in face-to-face courses.
  • About faculty attitudes, the proportion of chief academic officers who believe faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education has not increased – it stands at only 30.2 percent.
  • The percentage of chief academic leaders who believe online learning is critical to their long-term strategy is at a new high– 69.1 percent.
  • Lower retention rates for online courses remain an issue: The majority of chief academic officers believe that lackluster retention rates for online courses present a challenge for growth in online education.

Read the entire survey here.

It’s your turn. What are your thoughts about the future of MOOCs, and about online education in general? What role should online education play in the strategy of an institution?

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3 Responses to Academics on MOOCs—Where is This Movement Headed?

  1. Pingback: PBS NewsHour: The New Wave of Online Courses | E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum)

  2. Pingback: “Online Education Changing the World”–World Economic Forum Discussion | E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum)

  3. Pingback: Taking a MOOC This Summer? Consider this One…. | E-Learning (A Digital Education Forum)

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