B-School Stats You Can’t Miss
You’ve heard the prediction. MOOCs will cannibalize higher education. Professors will teach from a studio instead of a lectern. And students will pick-and-choose courses from various institutions as degrees carry less weight.
Well, you might want to revisit those assumptions, as the MOOC revolution may be more hype than harbinger. That’s the lesson from data from the Babson Survey Research Group’s annual survey on online education, which was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week. Surveying 2,800 academic leaders, the study found that MOOCs may be less of a menacing disruptive force than previously expected.
Let’s step back to 2012, where 28% of the same survey’s respondents felt MOOCs were sustainable. That number has dropped to 16% in three years…at a time when MOOCs are seemingly on the upswing. And there was an even bigger divide between respondents who felt MOOCs weren’t sustainable. That number jumped from 26% to 51% in just three years.
In economic terms, just 6% of the sample viewed MOOCs as a way to “generate income” or “explore cost reductions.” “What this means,” Steve Kolowich reports in The Chronicle, is that academic leaders seem to understand that “any returns on their investment in free online courses will be indirect and possibly hard to quantify. They seem to be at peace with the fact that MOOCs will curb college costs.”
Similarly, the study found that MOOCs (aka “self-directed learning”) ranked dead last at 9% when the sample was asked to list the two most important factors on the future of higher education. It trailed behind stalwarts like student debt, workforce debt, assessment, competency-based education, and student retention.
Finally, another gap emerged over the importance of MOOCs in understanding online pedagogy. Three years ago, 50% of respondents believed MOOCs would help schools in that area. Now, just 28% believe that to be true – and 37% disagree with that premise entirely.
So are academics living in denial – or do they have a better understanding of the scope and limitations of MOOCs? That’s up for debate. But don’t expect MOOCs to go the way of VCRs and eight track players. “The conventional wisdom now,” Kolowich writes, “is that free online courses offer a promising recruiting tool and an interesting (but not essential) research tool for colleges that can afford the upkeep, while also nudging more-conservative institutions to finally start integrating online coursework into the curriculum.”