MOOCs are popular, but not profitable

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are expanding rapidly, reports the New York Times. But where’s the money?

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — In August, four months after Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng started the online education company Coursera, its free college courses had drawn in a million users, a faster launching than either Facebook or Twitter.The co-founders, computer science professors at Stanford University, watched with amazement as enrollment passed two million last month, with 70,000 new students a week signing up for over 200 courses, including Human-Computer Interaction, Songwriting and Gamification, taught by faculty members at the company’s partners, 33 elite universities.

In less than a year, Coursera has attracted $22 million in venture capital and has created so much buzz that some universities sound a bit defensive about not leaping onto the bandwagon.

. . .  New ventures like Udemy help individual professors put their courses online. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have each provided $30 million to create edX. Another Stanford spinoff, Udacity, has attracted more than a million students to its menu of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, along with $15 million in financing.

All of this could well add up to the future of higher education — if anyone can figure out how to make money.

Coursera is trying to create “revenue streams through licensing, certification fees and recruitment data provided to employers,” reports the Times.

Selling certificates of completion requires a way to verify students are doing their own work.  Verification could use typing patterns, reports the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

eCornell is trying to enroll MOOC students in a paid follow-up class.

If students can earn transferrable credit — or perhaps employer-designed certifications — then there’s gold in them thar MOOCs.

A wonderful site called Retropundit has the news from 1913:  In 50 years, Tufts professor predicts moving pictures will make professors obsolete.

In a speech reported by the Boston Daily Globe, Tufts Professor Edwin C. Bolles hailed recent inventions which “make moving pictures talk”  and predicted:

Fifty years from today a college faculty will consist essentially of a president, a janitor and a moving-picture man.  . . .  The professors will be able to give their lectures without even entering the class room, the moving picture films will reproduce their voice and every one of their characteristic gestures and postures.

“One suspects fifty years may prove too short a span of time for such radical changes in our system of higher education,” writes Retroprundit. ” Time will tell.”