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The relationship between MOOCs and business schools


I’ve written a few times recently about both the importance of providing learning and development opportunities for employees, and the possible role MOOCs can play in this process.  Suffice to say, whatever the shift that does occur, it is likely to impact the business schools that have traditionally provided this training.

The extent of this impact is of course very difficult to determine.  A study published recently from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that it’s very unlikely that MOOCs will lead to the obsolescence of business schools.  Indeed, the study went as far as to suggest that MOOCs may actually help business schools by opening up previously untapped markets to them.

With over 900,000 MOOC students analyzed, the study highlighted three groups that were particularly well served by MOOCs that were not being well served by Wharton School of Business itself.

Minority students

The study revealed that nearly 20% of MOOC students were from minority groups that were traditionally under represented in the business school.

Overseas students

It should perhaps be obvious, but the study showed that around 80% of MOOC students were from outside of the US.  Whilst perhaps not that surprising, this is nonetheless an awful lot higher than is enrolled on the Wharton MBA.

Foreign born domestic students

Interestingly, the MOOCs were also popular with foreign born students currently living in the US.  Over 33% of the US based students enrolled on the MOOCs were actually born overseas.  What’s more, the majority of those already had at least a degree.

None of this is perhaps that surprising, but it’s good to have some firm data to back this up.  It’s also perhaps not surprising that the research showed the lack of real desire for any kind of certification.  Taking a MOOC is much more learning in its purest sense, with mastery of the subject more important than certification.

Whilst that is great from a learning perspective, it does however cast doubt on the ability of schools to monetize their MOOCs.  You can see the studies author Ezekiel Emanuel talking about his paper below.

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