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MOOCs Evolve Into Professional Development Courses With Alternative Credentials

Where are the MOOCs heading? Clearly, into professional development and the training sphere with alternative credentials recognized by employers.

A reputable academic analyst, Cathy Sandeen, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges, claims first on a article in Inside Higher Education that the term “MOOC” will go away (morphing simply into “online courses”), and a viable business model will emerge. “Free and open is no longer completely true. Emphasis on personal enrichment is no longer the value proposition.”


  • “All of the major platforms now charge fees for certifying completion. The original three MOOC platforms appear to have found their niche by migrating to the nondegree professional development and contract-training sphere, taking advantage of the growth of alternative credentials (e.g., nondegree certificates and microcredentials) that are recognized by industries and employers. Many offer and charge for badges or other credentials that can be displayed on social media platforms like LinkedIn. For example, Udacity offers nanodegrees, edX offers MicroMasters and Coursera offers specializations. Some of these credentials also include university credit through university or alternative credit providers. Computer and data science, programming, and software development dominate the offerings. Students pay to earn these various credentials and certifications, and some platforms offer need-based financial support.”Both the MOOC platforms and universities emphasize using MOOCs and alternative credentials to support professional development for working professionals, mainly in technology fields where employers are willing to provide ample financial support.
  • MOOCs are now revenue driven. “While general reputational enhancement and the exploration of online teaching innovation no doubt result from an institution’s involvement in MOOCs, generating revenue (at least covering costs) and integrating MOOCs into degree-granting programs appear more common.”Georgia Tech continues to offer a low-cost, high-enrollment master’s degree in computer science on the Udacity platform with support from AT&T. Well over 3,000 students have enrolled in the program. The university has recently added a second high-enrollment, low-cost master’s in analytics on the edX platform.”

    Arizona State University offers the Global Freshman Academy on the edX platform, providing credit-bearing, self-paced lower-division courses to a domestic and global audience. ASU also offers individual self-paced and instructor-led credit-bearing courses with edX. Though the courses and programs are not free, the relatively low cost of these programs, combined with the robust online platform, seem to contribute to the access missions of these large public institutions.”

    “With some exceptions noted previously, MOOCs are mainly a technology business, focused on providing a return on investment (even for nonprofits like edX) by targeting the large nondegree professional development and technology training market.”


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