Why would institutions or countries offer MOOCs?

According to Hollands and Tirthali (2014, p. 7), the primary motivations for designing and delivering a MOOC experience for learners include these factors:

  • Extending the reach of the institution and access to education
  • Building and maintaining institutional brand
  • Improving economics by lowering costs or increasing revenues
  • Improving educational outcomes for both MOOC participants and on-campus students
  • Exploring innovative practices for teaching and learning
  • Conducting research on teaching and learning

Jansen and Schuwer (2015, p. 4) add the following institutional motivations:

  • Improving the quality of on-campus offerings
  • Contributing to the transition to more flexible and online education practices
  • Improving teaching and learning practices through focused instructional practices

The marketing aspects of large-scale course offerings, along with explorations of new and innovative educational practices, tend to be the primary drivers of the MOOC trend. Cost savings and economic benefits have also been stated as motivators; however, these factors have yet to be widely demonstrated in practice. Often the personal profile and career benefits to the individual academics who design and offer a MOOC are motivators. For institutions, there are also benefits in a wider public-engagement agenda. Some are participating because it is a potentially disruptive technology with an unclear future, and they want to both be a part of it and understand it; engagement can thus be a risk-mitigation exercise.


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A Policy Brief on MOOCs by Commonwealth of Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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