MIT spends around $10,000 to add a new course to its popular OpenCourseWare site, a site which already contains 2,000 courses. Likewise, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Texas, and Berkeley have all invested a significant amount of money and resources into offering MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) offered by top schools have the potential to revolutionize the way people learn and make a world-class education available to everyone. However, these universities aren't necessarily just offering their courses to the world out of the sheer kindness of their hearts. There are quite a few ways getting involved in MOOCs benefits universities.
First and foremost, providing courses to the public for free is an excellent way for universities to market themselves. The more people who take courses from MIT online, the better it is for MIT's reputation. If people in Manila and Moscow are taking engineering or IT courses from MIT, and those courses are truly benefiting them, MIT will easily establish itself as an international leader in online education. Universities that are already considered prestigious can become even more prestigious if they offer exceptional courses to online users.
Another important benefit of getting involved in the MOOC movement is that it allows universities to be at the forefront of an educational revolution that will inevitably come. The internet and technology are making the classroom seem a lot less important, as educational leaders continue to create online resources that bring us closer to a world in which an affordable, high quality online college education exists.
There's no telling whether or not college classrooms will become obsolete, but it's doubtful that technology won't continue to alter the way higher education functions. Universities that are getting involved in MOOCs and other online educational endeavors now are going to stay ahead of the curve when the revolution comes.
Offering MOOCs also provides another advantage to universities. Recently, there have been a few articles highlighting how high schools are using the MOOCs offered by top universities to give advanced students an edge before they head off to college. If high school students are able to use MOOCs to learn the basics of computer programming or engineering before they leave for college, higher education institutions will end up with more skilled, knowledgeable students on their campuses whose potential for innovation is limitless.
MOOCs are definitely a good thing–both for online users and higher education. It'll definitely be interesting to see what top universities do over the next few years to increase access to MOOCs and improve their overall quality. The future of MOOCs is uncertain, but it seems pretty bright. It just makes sense for universities to get on board.
(*) Kate Willson is a professional writer and blogger. Well-versed in all topics pertaining to e-learning, Kate frequently contributes to top online education sites. Please leave your comments and questions for Kate below!