MOOC Madness

StudentsWe’re just weeks into 2013 and Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs continue to be the hot topic in higher education. A recent New York Times cover story follows the progress of Coursera, Udacity, Udemy and other institutions such as MIT and Harvard that are all spending money to offer free courses. While MOOCs continue to evolve with new ideas ranging from how to provide proctored exams and grant certificates of completions, we’re more focused on the online courses that students are really taking.

According to Changing Course:  Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, more students are taking online courses each year. Not a MOOC, but a credit-bearing course provided by one of the many schools that offer online classes. The survey found that the number of online enrollments have been steadily increasing as a proportion of total enrollments from 11.7% back in 2003 to 32% in 2011.

This is the trend worth watching. Students choose online courses for a variety of reasons, but perhaps top of the list is convenience. As more non-traditional students go back to school they must juggle work, family and school. The good news is that 77% of chief academic officers report that the learning outcomes from online classes to be the same, somewhat superior or superior to face-to-face classes.

We don’t see an end to this trend of online classes, but it is not without challenges. How do schools support students they may never see? And how can they support professors who may be spending more time and energy creating these classes? Many are choosing online tutoring as a key tool. Online tutoring supports students and professors because it is:

  • Available 24/7 while on-campus tutoring centers and professors must have more limited hours to provide help
  • Accessible from any mobile device from tablets to smart phones
  • High quality with a community of vetted tutors ready to provide instruction in anything from essay writing to advanced statistics
  • Personalized to the student’s needs
  • A data-rich tool that provides an in-depth look at students’ challenges

While many schools may bring in online tutoring to support their online students, they quickly realize that online tutoring can benefit all students.

While many questions surround the future of MOOCs as you can see in Revolution in Higher Education by George Cigale founder of, online courses at accredited universities are here to stay. Continuing to support students to successfully complete their online coursework may not be the hot topic, but it’s the one that matters right now.

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