C. Gibaldi

Harvard & St. John's University (UNITED STATES)
This paper and presentation will address the possible future course of action individuals and institutions might pursue with the advent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and what some of the ramifications could very well be.

As MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are considering issuing credit for courses taken, and many other options, venture capitalists are paying greater attention to the "potential" that MOOCs offer. What new version/s of MOOCs will we see next? What will they morph into? How might they begin to resemble "for profit" higher educational providers? It appears as though the business model will find it's way, and dominate what path the MOOCs will take. We will see highly reputable and elite institutions of higher education begin to sell their brand in newer ways with and through the application of MOOCs.

We can already see that some MOOCs such as Udacity have suggested that they/it is considering offering a "headhunter" service for companies that might like to hire some of its more impressive students; pursuing a profit. MOOCs can become the platform for advertising, and for commercial services such as advanced assessment and grading, individualized counseling and publishing, and some of the "bigger" name companies/institutions might begin to place a "low cost" pay wall in front of their advanced or more popular programs. One could also eventually begin to advertise/spotlight some of the top MOOC graduates, as a way of enticing/attracting more students (although they might be viewed as customers?). MOOCs could develop expedited 2 -3 year programs in computer science or business. Like for profit higher education MOOCs could define themselves as legitimate competitors to/for traditional institutions of higher education simply delivering differently. Although I think that they should be viewed and used as an educational supplement or tool or partner. The issue is that the business model will suggest to ill advised decision makers that they can compete as well as conquer markets such as China and India, where there are less traditional institutions of higher education, and a growing middle class looking for higher education. A more reasonable approach would be if MOOC providers sought to assist non-traditional students and life-long learners that are looking to re-tool and acquire additional new skills. Unfortunately my fear is that administrators that are concerned with the short term bottom line will use MOOCs to reduce cost by cutting faculty and again being blinded by the monetary potential.

As globalization sets in, more universities will develop a bled of local and global content. They will find themselves continually pulled toward the global side, which for a number of reasons will attract both a combination of "cost cutters" and marketing of an attractive brand and flashy content. With the broad use of MOOCs, not only will knowledge become available worldwide (democratization of knowledge), they (MOOCs) could enforce an unprecedented level of global sameness in higher education. The growth of MOOCs could mean the "Americanization" of knowledge, learning, and culture. My own thought/feeling is that we must be very cautious at this critical point in time. MOOCs were developed by a few well intentioned faculty for educational purposes, not as a profit center. Decision makers and venture capitalists are salivating at the prospect big "paydays", all of which could ruin the basic notion.