MOOCs have caused higher education stakeholders to rethink a lot of things, from the best way to deliver both online and traditional courses to how best to measure success in a course. (Hint: It isn’t completion rate.) They are also leading to a shift in views regarding return on investment (ROI). Some courses offer paid verified certificates, but only a small portion of students actually pay for them. So, what do universities and MOOC providers actually get from the courses?
In a new article for The Hechinger Report, Pennsylvania State University’s online provost Craig Weidermann outlines some ways to think about the ROI for MOOCs, which he acknowledges “may be difficult to quantify—and it may not be monetary. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”
Here are four ROIs he identifies:
• Attracting applicants and engaging alumni. Penn State’s GIS Mapping MOOC led to a 400% increase in traffic to the GIS program website.
• Creating communities of learners. In Penn State’s epidemiology MOOC, learners from high school students to doctors and public health professionals connected to discuss vaccinations and public health.
• Using MOOC components in traditional courses. Penn State professors have been using MOOC lectures and other resources in their traditional face-to-face and online courses.
• Using MOOCs to advance research. Penn State professors are also using what they learn from MOOC students for their own research projects.
Some other MOOC ROIs that have come out of this blog over the past few weeks include improving educational technologies, like with MIT’s new video platform LectureSpace; helping education respond to rapid changes; and bridging the gap between school and work. Like Weidermann says, these ROIs may not be monetary, but they are still important.
What are some other ways we might look at returns on investment in MOOCs?