Are Blended MOOCs the Best Option for Both Students and Companies?

Massive open online course (MOOCs) providers and educational institutions offering online classes are still searching for a sustainable business model that also delivers a quality education. For both schools and companies, blended MOOCs seem to be the best model to address long-term sustainability and instructional quality, writes David LaMartina of Campus Technology.

Many schools have already piloted the blended MOOC model with overall positive results, despite the model not yet being perfect. San Jose State University in California, in the fall of 2012, partnered with edX to offer MIT’s Circuits and Electronics course in a pilot involving 87 students. The students were assigned MIT’s lectures and practice problems as homework and class time was used for additional problem-solving. The result was impressive; about ninety percent of the students in the pilot passed the class, “an enormous improvement over the 55 percent pass rate achieved in the class’s traditional counterpart.”

“The format enforces that students actually do the homework because of the embedded quiz questions,” notes Catheryn Cheal, SJSU’s associate vice president and senior academic technology officer. “At first, the students weren’t very enthusiastic about the greater workload, but they were much happier once they saw their grades.” Administrators were so impressed with the results of the pilot that the course will now be offered to students at 11 other California State University campuses.

Also, Massachusetts Bay Community College recently offered an adapted version of MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science and Programming with success. Students watched brief lecture segments accompanied by practice problems outside class time, and during class they received additional tutorials and hands-on help from the professor. According to the result, 16 of 17 students completed the course with an A grade.

Like Cheal, Riggs attributes much of the MOOC’s success to its inherently high workload. Between in-person problem-solving sessions and exercises embedded in the lectures, every student receives a great deal of practice. “The class required a lot of work, and even the students outside the computer science field did very well,” says Riggs. “Overall, they liked the hybrid mix; they got the best of both worlds.”

MOOC providers including Coursera, Udacity, and edX are struggling to find a business model to “accompany their noble cause” of democratizing and reducing the cost of higher education. According to Issie Lapowsky of Inc.com, these online course providers are planning to implement a flipped classroom on campuses to generate some revenue and help make their projects sustainable.

MOOCs and blended learning are being helped by the emergence of online video in education, and as the medium matures, teachers utilizing education technology are implementing more video in the classroom with greater effect.

Dr. Michal Tsur, who is co-founder and president of Kaltura, writes in Venture Beat that video is the new common denominator in educational technology. Online video watching is becoming one of the most popular activities on the Web, and it has been penetrating the education market like no other technology.