Five lessons on MOOC success

Price, access, change, user habits, integration

eCampus News rounds up five takeaways from colleges and universities implementing MOOCs in innovative ways.

1. Offering MOOCs is expensive.

Many schools offering MOOCs say that lowering costs is not even a goal, nor is improving their finances, according to research by Fiona Hollands, associate director at the Teachers College of Columbia University's Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education, and Devayani Tirthali, a Brown University independent researcher.

MOOC's total costs can run a university from $38,980 to $325,330, according to the Hollands and Tirthali.

2. Not everyone can access them.

Though MOOCs are free and open, they still do not pave the way for underserved populations on the other half of the digital divide.

"For access to be meaningful—and not just an empty advertising slogan—students must have a real chance, if they work hard, to succeed in getting a quality education," says Susan Meisenhelder, professor emeritus at California State University, San Bernardino.

Faculty members must push for more independent research that scrutinizes sponsors' claims, she says.

Competency-based education: Fact vs. Fiction

3. MOOCs are still evolving.

The "massive" courses are getting smaller and more easily digestible. Personal learning network platform EdCast created a new sort of social media that allows people to post video snippets of "mini-MOOCs," which are essentially informal, short online courses.

Users can follow other users, groups, or even channels broken down by subjects, such as robotics and architecture.

4. Online learning is different.

In a study of how 100,000 of edX's online students engaged with course materials, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab found five insights for instructors:

  • Do not use static PowerPoint slides;
  • Talk quickly—the optimal speed is 254 words per minute;
  • Keep videos no longer than six minutes;
  • Take a long pause when presenting diagrams; and
  • Make web-specific content—do not just repurpose existing content.

5. MOOCs will not thrive on their own.

Studies and best practices show that universities find the most success with MOOCs when integrating them as part of a larger strategy, either in-classroom or entirely online.

Smaller institutions may use them to reach a larger goal of earning online credentialing, while larger schools might use them to flip their classrooms.

"The online program or course has to fit with the institution's mission and those developing the program or course need to have a plan or list of everything they need to complete the program to present to the university before anything begins," says Luis Llorens, a University of Baja California, Mexico professor (Stansbury, eCampus News, 8/11).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.


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