Top Universities Profit From MOOCs

Do you still think that MOOCs are an unprofitable investment for your college?

In addition to the benefits coming from innovations and improvements in course design, you can build a sustainable revenue model. Top schools are doing so.

There are at least four revenue models, coming from:


  • Offering for-credit online courses that students pay for.
  • Receiving grants to support research on new online pedagogy and course delivery.
  • Using MOOCs as a recruiting tool for pre-matriculated students.
  • Generating donations from the alumni community.

Our colleagues from Extension Engine –an Open edX dedicated company based in Boston– have analyzed data from 136 colleges and universities and detected sustainable revenue models. A white paper available for free download (after you leave your email) highlights how schools pursue income through MOOCs.

In other words, joining the MOOC-wagon is worth it.

Online Courses Challenge College Admissions

college ed
How do you determine whether prospective students are prepared for the best colleges?

Today grading standards vary among teachers and high schools. Personal essays could have been written by someone else or engineered because of the work of essay-writing coaches. SAT and ACT scores can be maximized through prep courses and different techniques that have little to do with achievement. Letters of recommendations and extracurricular activities are also imprecise measurement tools. Add to this the monetary contributions from wealthy families and Ivy League slots in high schools.

This imperfect information system is reflected by the fact that more than one in four students who start college drop out or transfer within three years.

MOOCs offered by dozens of elite colleges give high school students a chance to prove that they are ready for a university. In turn, the institution gets an accurate measure of whether a student is prepared for academics. edX and Coursera offer real courses –sometimes eves the same classes that are taught to freshmen– from the world’s greatest universities.

  • “MOOC success is much more likely to predict success in college classes than SAT scores, because MOOC success is, in fact, success in college classes”, explains Kevin Carey, director of policy program at New America.
  • “Online college courses also can be a better measure of student aptitude than Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, which are considered in admissions by many colleges.”
  • “The availability of real, free college courses means universities won’t have to rely on such flawed proxies in the future. Instead they’ll be able to pick and choose from among students who have already demonstrated that they can excel at demanding college work.” 

Colleges are now figuring out how to incorporate MOOCs into admissions and make them recruiting tools. On the other side, students are listing MOOCs among extracurricular activities.

“It will become much harder for privileged parents to help their less-talented children game the system. Unless, of course, elite schools really wanted the children of the rich and powerful all along.”

[The Washington Post: Goodbye, SAT: How online courses will change college admissions]

"The Future of MOOCs is yet to be Written", Says a HarvardX and MITx Report

HarvardX and MITx have released a paper that explores how audiences used MOOCs from the fall of 2012 to the summer of 2014.  In that period, the growth of MOOC participants was linear –but not exponential, at a rate of about 1,300 per day.

The report concludes that the future of MOOCs is yet to be written.

[Paper: HarvardX and MITx: Two Years of Open Online Courses Fall 2012-Summer 2014]


$70K is the Average Cost of Producing An Online Course

What is the cost of creating and running a MOOC? And how much money is your College or University willing to invest in it to develop distance learners’ skills?

post on Linkedin has gotten our attention.

  • University of Texas says their cost is $100k to $300k per course.
  • Teachers College at Columbia University estimates them to range from $39k to $204k each.
  • Harvard’s costs range from $75k to $150k.
  • Cornell says that the cost of supporting a MOOC instructor, materials, and teaching assistant is about $50k.
  • Udacity reports costs of $200k to produce a course, plus $50K to run it subsequently. And costs are only expected to rise, they say.
  • edX gives grants of $50k for creating a course within its “High School Program”.

The two main cost components are course creation (faculty, admins, instructional designers, technical support) and the type of delivery. It is generally estimated that the cost of a high quality video production is approximately $4,300 per hour of finished video.

On average, $70k is the cost to produce a course; the delivery costs range from $10-20 per learner to access the course on Amazon or internal servers.

We have developed a 100% mobile, remote, or studio video production solution to help you through this challenging timeLearn More
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