When MOOCs first came onto the scene in 2008, they were greeted with excitement and sometimes heady optimism by higher education reformers and Silicon Valley futurists alike. But then the technology began to face challenges—in particular, low completion rates and licensing problems—and MOOC fever started to break as it became clear that online delivery wouldn’t transform higher education overnight. As we’ve noted, however, technology of this sort is a moving target and is likely to improve over time—and recently MOOCs have indeed made some progress. Last month, Georgia Tech’s online degree program graduated its first class of computer science master’s students, each of whom paid less than 20 percent the cost of the traditional, brick-and-mortar program. And now it looks like major universities from around the world are throwing their weight behind MOOCs in a big way. Inside Higher Education reports:
Six universities from Australia, Europe, Canada and the U.S. are seeking to establish a new alliance in which each organization’s massive open online courses (MOOCs) are formally accredited by partner institutions […]The proposed system — involving Delft University of Technology, ETH Zurich — Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, the Australian National University, the University of Queensland, the University of British Columbia and Boston University — is believed to be the first international initiative relating to online courses.
As one official from Delft University told IHE, this type of MOOC consortium, if it comes off, “would massively expand the range of MOOCs on offer and their value to students.” It would also ultimately reduce the amount of time and money students need to put in to earning a degree.Only one American university is participating in this initial effort, but more are likely to join if it turns out to work—so it’s important that the initial participants get it right, as, judging by this story, they seem determined to do. As we reported yesterday, the evidence continues to accumulate that the current higher education delivery method is unsustainable. Tuition is rising and rising, but returns on the investment are not. Something needs to change to start restraining costs, and soon, or the whole edifice will come tumbling down. And online education is once again looking like it could help deliver the shock that the higher education industry desperately needs.