Emergent models of Massive Open Online Courses: an exploration of sustainable practices for MOOC institutions in the context of the launch of MOOCs at the University of Edinburgh.
Over the past decade there has been a significant change in societal adaptation to Internet technologies, advances in accessibility to the Internet and cheaper computer platforms. The combination of these factors and the emerging need for a new type of agile, entrepreneurial learners, led to a serious consideration of the new online educational trend – Massive Open Online Courses -‐ free, open-‐access online courses with no constraints on the class size. MOOCs represent a possible shift in the way in which higher education is delivered. Just as online retailing has forced traditional high-‐street retailers to respond, traditional higher education institutions should respond to the ‘threat’ posed by MOOCs. A unique research opportunity has arisen to benefit from gathering invaluable intelligence about the prototype MOOCs and early implementations of such in Universities to evaluate the emergent model and sustainable practices within institutions. The University of Edinburgh pilot MOOC project evaluated in this dissertation entailed offering 6 high-‐quality MOOCs in various subjects lasting several weeks each for the first time in the UK in 2013. This dissertation focuses on learning about the groups of people interested in providing and teaching a MOOC. This research uncovers the needs and behavioural dynamics of the providers of the first MOOCs, and determines the implications for institutions providing MOOCs. While it is evident that business models are under-‐developed for MOOCs, and mechanisms for economic and financial sustainability are unclear, particular recommendations for institutions facilitating or considering MOOCs can be drawn. Within the constraints of traditional Universities caused by organisational characteristics and the nature of academic activities, the heavy commitment of a MOOC requires institutional adaptation, alongside the perceived substantial benefits of engaging in mass education. For that reason it is critical to recognise the cost-‐benefit process within the MOOC value network and for departments to consider organisational, cultural and structural challenges, instructor service expectations and effort recognition