Publishers & MOOCs

in Noteworthy
May 8th, 2013

Heather Ruland Staines of SIPX explained why publishers should care about MOOCs (massive open online courses).

Heather Ruland Staines is Vice President Publisher Development at SIPX.

Staines defined MOOCs in a very broad sense to include what she termed “free-range” MOOCs that don’t necessarily provide any actual course structure, but just focus on a desire to learn. She explained that there are a lot of players in the MOOC space including Coursera, edX and Udacity. Khan Academy provides practical learning. Futurelearn is a UK universities’ initiative and Open2Study is an Australian effort. There are also online course enablers that help you to create courses.

Business models for MOOCs are still in a state of flux, according to Staines. In most cases the MOOCs are still venture-funded, but they will need to become sustainable soon. Some of the models now being explored include payment for academic credit, certificates, proctored exams, leads for job recruiters, leads for admissions officers and competency-based awards through federal funding.

MOOCs are growing rapidly because they represent a new form of brand extension, especially for prestigious universities. They are also useful for remedial education, oversubscribed courses, introductory courses, satellite campus connections, test preparation, recruiting and admissions, CME, executive programs and corporate training. Celebrity MOOCs have also become popular.

Although the completion rates for MOOCs is atrocious, according to Staines, academic publishers can benefit from providing content to MOOCs. “Why should publishers care?” Staines queried. “Because courses will need content and it is an opportunity to reach new markets.”

Since most MOOCs are library-based and students are university-based, students could be taking course at a different university. SIPX clears content for MOOCs. MOOCs often charge for content even if the course is free. Staines recommended that publishers experiment with pricing for MOOC usage. She pointed out that lots of user analytics will be available from this source.


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