Are MOOCs Still Going Strong?

Yep, it’s 2014. And yes, MOOCs are still a thing. With thousands of students still enrolling, and sites like EdX, Coursera, Udacity, and more continuing to add new course offerings, it would seem as though MOOCs are just getting bigger and better. Right? Well, maybe. Or maybe not. Are the pros outweighing the cons, or is traditional, in-person education keeping its stronghold? The handy infographic below takes a look at some of the pros and cons of MOOCS, and some statistics about their successes and popularity. 

MOOCS – Still Going Strong?

MOOCS offer lots of advantages:

  • They’re usually free
  • Teachers can really make the most of classroom time
  • Offers a solution to facility overcrowding
  • Creates a dynamic archive of class material
  • Force professors to improve lectures
  • Break down distance barriers

There are also disadvantages:

  • There is a lot of motivation based on profits
  • “Wal-martification” of higher education
  • Cost cutting to privatize public higher education
  • Creates a two-tier higher education system: “real” education for those who can afford it, and “bargain” education for those who can’t.

A few statistics:

  • MOOCs have a 93% failure rate (meaning 93% of enrolled participants don’t finish – for a variety of reasons. Not necessarily because they tried and couldn’t do it).
  • The student teacher ratio is 150,000 to 1 – that’s a lot!
  • Traditional grading systems are impossible with that ratio – lots of logistics still need to be figured out!




  1. Bassem Fayek

    January 25, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Great infographic, but I think the number of courses is outdated for some of the providers – e.g. Coursera now has more than 500 courses


    January 27, 2014 at 7:13 am

    In answer to your question, Are MOOCs still going strong? – the answer is an obvious ‘NO’ as many of in the industry predicted a long time ago.

    And it’s plain to see why! explains it all.

  3. Sharon Watkins

    January 27, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Interesting and useful comparison. However, we already have a 2 – maybe 3 – tiered system – those who will never have access, those who have access because of government assistance and those have access because their families are well-resourced. In the meantime, we have a growing underclass. Adults anywhere from 25-60 are losing meaningful employment because of the culture change as well. They need more education now. They are not traditional college students.
    We need to figure out how to harness this opportunity to benefit our entire population and especially the disenfranchised. We cannot afford to put them all through school. MOOCs hold some promise here.

    We are trying what we call a FOOC – Facilitated, Open Online…. We use a staff person to facilitate a group of MOOC students that meets once a week, gets some coaching/encouragement from the facilitator and classmates and we remove barriers by offering facilities, computer lab access, training on how to do thing online – whatever it takes. We target adults who want to learn but were never successful at earning a college degree. It’s wonderful to see their interest awaken – they can’t believe this education is available to them. I want to see what will happen when this portion of our population takes control of their learning. It can only help us if more and more folks get excited about learning. MOOCs really help with that!

  4. Bernard Bull

    February 5, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I appreciate a thought-provoking infographic, but I am concerned because these data risk perpetuating the same conversation about MOOCs that most media outlets (including bloggers) have focused upon for almost a year. I don’t disagree with any statement in the infographic and yet I can challenge almost every item in it. It just comes down to a definition of terms and coming to an shared understanding of the purposes of MOOCs. Note that I said purposes, because there are many MOOC makers and MOOC providers with different goals in mind. For the sake of time and space, I’d like to offer a different perspective on 5 of the data points in the infographic. I will repost and add a response to 5 more points on my blog at

    1. “MOOCs create a two-tier system” – This seems to assume that the purpose of MOOCs is to replace traditional online or face-to-face higher education. While some claim that, many (even most) of us in the open online learning world are not invested in MOOCs to replace traditional online and face-to-face higher education. It is simply to increase access and opportunity to learning (not schooling, just learning).
    2. There are 3 MOOC Delivery System – There are hundreds, if not thousands of MOOCs running outside of Coursera, EdX and Uadacity. I know these are the three most popular and often have some of the largest courses, but I’m not sure if it is helpful for the conversation to talk about MOOCs as if these are the only important players. That is like saying that Harvard, MIT and Yale or the only real players in higher education. or that Google, Bing and Yahoo are the only important search engages on the web. Clearly there are many others out there as well, and in the MOOC world, I contend that the others are doing much of the most promising, innovative and interesting work in the world of open learning.
    3. “Motivation is corporate profit” – I’m not comfortable telling all of the MOOC-providers that that profit is their motivation. I know from direct experience that it is not. This is not the case with traditional online courses either. Yes, there are certainly some online Universities that likely have profit as paramount, but many of us do not. The same would go from brick-and-mortar higher education programs.
    4. “MOOCs have a 93% failure rate.” – This is comparing MOOCs to traditional tuition-based, credit-offering programs. We are using a vocabulary to take about engagement and persistence in MOOCs as if they are just another version of a college course, and yet that is not the intent or vision behind many MOOCs. I, for example, have made the case that we could just as easily argue that MOOCs have close to a 100% success rate. My problem with a statement like the 93% one is that I don’t think we are carefully defining our terms. It seem a bit like critiquing the value of a conference based upon how many people register but do not attend every session and planned event. I think we would be better off if we evaluated MOOCs with a new set of criteria that is more specific to the purpose and nature of open learning.
    5. “Traditional grading systems are impossible.” – This is accurate, but it also seems to be comparing MOOCs to traditional courses. Why would we want or need traditional grading systems in most MOOCs? Given the goal and purpose of most MOOCs, what is the need for a traditional grading system? Feedback is important (as it is with all learning), but there and hundreds of ways to give feedback that do not even require a traditional instructor. Again, MOOCs do not have the same purpose of credit-based college courses. We often don’t critique professional conferences because you can’t used traditional grading systems but they can be wonderfully useful and rewarding learning experiences. The same is true for open courses.

    I appreciate the time put into the infographic and it is a good discussion starter. I am just looking for a broader conversation about MOOCs, one that includes the many important voices and experiments beyond Coursera, EdX and Udacity.

  5. Ulises Escarcega-Prieto

    February 5, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I would basically tend to agree with Sharon Watkins’s general position, but I still think that MOOC’s need to find a slot within our formally structured systems of education, and I don’t think that such place should fall within or be the result of the College Vs. MOOC debate; let me explain.
    I adscribe to the assertion that College (and University, as in Mexico, my country of origin and residence, we do not have College-like cycles) is by definition a very limited upper-education level, into which only very few people may be admitted. And the reason is simple: Not everyone is capable of keeping up with that kind of training, thus being in a position to contribute later. I think the underlying assumption that everybody should somehow be geared into a college-university degree is absurd and unreasonable.
    But colleges and universities do have something that many people crave; people who may not be willing to attend college-university in order to acquire it: Expert experience. In this case, I find the launching of various Chinese megauniversities very enlightening. For instance, apart from the obviously shared objective of helping in training the future professionals China so desperately needs, the Shanghai Radio and Television University (last I read, catering to roughly 2’000,000 students) was designed to provide the sort of hands-on training people living in very far away villages needed: for example, elementary sanitation, health care-oriented training, crop efficiency, veterinarian first aid assistance, etc. It is into this area that I feel MOOC’s may eventually move, catering to individuals and communities who may not only be restrained from attending college (online or face-to-face) but whose needs are quite practical, and for whom higher education institutions may well have what they are looking for.