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MOOCs Make Headway in Europe


As the home of the three largest MOOC companies (Coursera, Udacity, and EdX), America remains the undisputed leader of the fledging industry. But the rest of the world will surely try to catch up. Several Asian universities have flirted with creating their own programs, and it wouldn’t surprise us to find that schools in the developing world, where cheap, high-quality education can be difficult to come by, are looking to jump on the bandwagon too.

But what about Europe? Some complain that it is months behind America, despite having no shortage of prestigious institutions of higher learning. There may be signs that it, too, is catching up. The New York Times reports that in the past year alone new MOOC platforms have sprung up in Germany, Britain, Spain, Finland and France. Although none of these platforms are taking particularly novel approaches, many of them have at least partial financial backing from their respective governments.

There are some worries, however, that Europe might not be fertile ground for the growth of cheap online courses:

Michael Gaebel, head of the higher education policy unit at the European University Association, said he had some doubts about whether MOOCs would ever achieve the same popularity in Europe as in the United States—partly because college education tends to be cheaper in Europe than in North America.

“There are fewer sparks in a place where most education is essentially free,” he said. “We just don’t have the same market here in Europe that they have in the U.S.”

This certainly has some logic to it, but it misses one of the key benefits of MOOCs: They allow you to access courses taught by the best teachers in the world regardless of where you happen to live, as long as you’re on the internet. If there’s a large enough global market for the services European professors and schools offer, we can’t imagine that they would hold themselves back from trying to carve out a slice of that pie.

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  • Kevin

    This “free” comment is pretty silly. Free means the government system for it and most European governments have serious budget problems but also a desire to increase post secondary education for both economic development and because its politically popular to provide it to the voters’ kids. Look at the riots in the UK over the coalition government’s attempt to economize on education expenses. I suspect MOOCS. In Europe it will be driven by top down producer (i.e. government) initiatives rather than bottom up consumer demand. A program that could expand university education while cutting costs without sending students to the barricades will be welcomed by cash strapped European governments. (Faculty opposition won’t affect this, there aren’t a lot of votes among the Dons.)

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