MOOCs: Expanding Education for the Lifelong Learner
Massive Open Online Courses (“MOOCs”) have come a long way since they were first developed six years ago. What once began as free online courses provided by just a handful of universities has now developed into an impressive 9,400 courses with participation from more than 800 universities. MOOCs were created with the goal to increase access to higher education globally. However, as the popularity of the programs grew, educators began to worry that MOOCs’ online approach and (initially) free courses would shake up traditional teaching pedagogies and disrupt the post-secondary education system.
However, as MOOCs have developed, they’ve turned out to be less of a threat to higher education and more of a supplement. As the job market changes and technology becomes obsolete, continued education has become essential to maintaining the necessary skills required for tomorrow’s jobs. MOOCs have (whether intentional or not) met the demands of this evolving trend, providing an effective solution to what has become their largest customer segment: lifelong learners.
Lifelong learners are turning to MOOCs to deepen and refine their skillset. MOOCs provide flexibility through their easy-to-use online model (many classes are self-paced) and offer classes at every price point. Furthermore, they provide an extensive and diverse selection of topics. Providers, such as Coursera or edX, offer classes on nearly everything – topics range from traditional college courses, such as Psychology or Russian History, to classes covering entrepreneurship or even critical thinking. By enrolling in a MOOC, users can learn the skills needed to succeed regardless of what stage of life they’re in, making MOOCs an attractive option for continued education.
As platforms advance and quality content becomes easier to develop, MOOCs have never been better equipped to serve professional and lifelong learners. In fact, MOOCs are incredibly well positioned to capitalize on the large professional development and continuing education market, as they provide a unique service offering compared to that of traditional corporate training. Professional development can be expensive and keeping up with new technology is no trivial task. MOOCs provide a manageable and cost-effective option for acquiring the combination of skills needed to achieve career growth, making it easier for someone that doesn’t have time for formal education or whose employer isn’t ready to foot the bill.
The rise of lifelong learning is certainly heralding a time of transformation and development throughout the MOOC landscape. The number of paying users is outpacing the number of non-paying users, and total business and technology classes now comprise 40% of courses. The MOOC market is shifting, and although the market’s rapid growth has cooled off in recent years, MOOCs aren’t going anywhere. Instead, they are on the cusp of a critical, transformative phase, developing to best serve the needs of their largest and most lucrative end market.
Source: Class Central