Not Free MOOCs Anymore! Welcome to the For-Credit, Professional or Just Revenue-Generating OCs


By Michael Amigot

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are about to lose the M and O of their name and just be OCs or Online Courses.

Courses intended for academic credit are the new trend, and in the edX universe we will see an explosion of offers, especially around the “MIT’s Micro-Masters” idea. Those who successfully complete the MOOCs –or the OCs– with a verified certificate ($50 to $150 per course), will earn a Micro-Masters credential and be able to apply to master’s programs on campus. The Micro-Masters credential will count as a semester’s worth of work.

An advantage of taking a for-credit course is that students will not need to have SAT scores or survive the admissions process. They will be able to just pass and purchase the credit. Or, in the case of the CLEP courses that Modern States Education Alliance– a non-profit in New York City committed to providing “freshman year at college for free”– will launch in the fall, learners will just pay a fee of $80 per exam at approved College Board centers.

Another turn is online courses as a professional development tool. Coursera has registered over 7.5 million enrollments in their sixty professional development-oriented courses.

Overseas, FutureLearn has recently announced that students taking some of its MOOCs will be able to earn course credits toward degrees, MBAs and professional certifications. In this way, higher education will begin the unbundling process.

All of it, in the U.S. and overseas, signals the end of the free MOOC model and the beginning of the freemium model, following the goal of bringing revenues to non-profit and for-profit educational organizations alike.

As MIT’s Prof. Dave Pritchard said last month on the MOOC Maker Workshop in Cambridge, MA, educational organizations consider that “it’s time to recover some cash, by charging for certificates and developing branded degrees” (see his explanatory slide above).