It is possible to make Massive Open Online Courses pay, but it involves new partnerships and ways of working, writes Neil Morris.
When massive open online courses arrived some years ago, they were hyped as a paradigm shift for higher education. Offering free courses for anyone with an interest in a subject and access to the internet, they were seen not only as an interesting experiment in their own right but also as potentially influencing the future of education delivery. Although some have dismissed them as a passing fad, others have recognised the ripple effect that these courses have had within universities and their benefits, which include enhanced use of digital learning for students both on campus and at schools and colleges. But the business savvy demand more. Will Moocs be able to sustain themselves in the future and could they actually make money for universities and their partners?
A portfolio of free open online courses requires universities to invest strategic funds and accept that returns will be indirect and hard to measure. Increased global reach, the raising of awareness and profiles, and potential conversion to paid courses are all tricky to prove. However institutions can raise money through offering these free courses with paid extra features, such as online tuition, certificates and book sales.