MOOCs Enter 2016 With More Users, Courses and Credentials

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Massive open online course (MOOCs) numbers continue to increase, with more people signing up for the courses in 2015 than they did in the first three years the courses were offered combined.

The number of students enrolled in the courses doubled this year according to data collected from Class Central, with the number of students signing up for at least one course topping 35 million, up from the estimated 17 million who participated in a MOOC last year.

While Coursera claimed more students had signed up for their courses last year than Udacity, edX, and all other MOOC providers combined, they took in slightly less than half of all students this year.  However, UK-based FutureLearn, owned by the Open University, is currently increasing in size from a user base of 800,000 in 2014 to almost 3 million students this year.

In all, 1,800 new courses were created in 2015, bringing the total number of courses offered through over 550 universities to 4,200.

Much of the recent growth was seen in delivering skills that are currently in-demand in technology and business as the focus on monetization increases, with Computer Science and Programming courses growing more than 10% this year.  At the same time, a decrease in humanities and social science courses has been observed.

In terms of providers, Coursera, edX and the Canvas are still at the top of the list.  Coursera came in first with 35.6% of course distribution, edX in second place with 18.1%, and with 6.92%, Canvas rounded out the top 3.  Kadenze, a MOOC platform for arts education, was the only newly launched provider for 2015, writes Dhawal Shah for Class Central.

Meanwhile, the share of English language courses has  dropped from 80% in 2014 to 75% in 2015.  This could be due to a few reasons, including the expansion of overseas institutions, such as France Université Numérique and MiriadaX, offering MOOCs in their local languages.  Spanish and French are the next two most popular languages for course offerings, although across the world courses are offered in 16 different languages including Basque and Estonian.

MOOC providers have also begun to create their own credentials, such as Udacity’sNanodegrees, Coursera’s Specializations, and edX’s Xseries.  In some cases, such as with Coursera and Udacity, the credentials have become a main source of revenue.  There are currently over 100 credentials available from MOOC providers.

At the same time, edX has chosen to place its focus on ways to offer students the opportunity to earn credit through courses.  A partnership with Arizona State University created the Global Freshman Academy earlier in the year.  The company has also partnered institutions to give credit, allowing students to earn credit at such schools as American Council on Education, Charter Oak State College, and MIT.

As a result of a need for sustainable revenue, certificates now come at a cost, with the average cost of a Coursera certificate coming in at $56 and $53 for edX.

In general, MOOCs are moving away from being merely a catalog of free courses and more toward offering intentional direction and practical outcomes, with the “Big Three” providers focusing more on making credentials matter.