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Moody's Bullish on MOOC Early Adopters


Moody’s, the credit rating agency, is setting itself up as an unlikely arbiter of massively open online courseware. A report from Moody’s Investors Service makes bullish predictions for schools that are early adopters of MOOCs, noting that successful programs will allow schools to spread their brand globally, potentially opening them up to a much wider range of new markets. Moody’s was particularly strong in its praise of Georgia Tech’s pioneering all-MOOC degree program, as the Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

In May, Moody’s announced that the Georgia Institute of Technology’s MOOC-like master’s degree in computer science is credit positive for the university. That report cited increased brand recognition and the potential to increase and diversify enrollment and revenue as major factors in the decision.

Moody’s also predicted that while Georgia Tech’s low-cost computer-science degree might in some ways detract from in-class offerings, its greater enrollment would make up for any financial losses.

The report does come with a word of warning. While large schools that have embraced MOOCs are now “credit positive,” Moody’s is concerned that MOOC competition could actually hurt smaller, lesser known colleges:

“Many colleges will likely be left out as industry stratification intensifies,” the report predicts. “Many smaller colleges will not have the brand name or star faculty to join a network or attract students.”

It’s still too early to say with any certainty who will come out ahead and who will be left in the dust, but Moody’s guesses don’t seem far off where we expect the mark to be. It’s already clear that popular “superstar” professors have the most to gain from the wide distribution of their brands by means of popular open courseware offerings. It’s also not unreasonable to think that large, well-known institutions could suddenly find themselves catapulted from merely regional or national markets into a global market.

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