MOOCs continue to evolve with global 'learning hubs'

Free online courses aren't just online anymore.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor on

Online education has been around for a number of years, but the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has been very fast in a short period of time. The main players in this growing field -- like Coursera, edX, and Udacity -- are providing an impressive range of courses, from some of the most reputable universities in the world, to millions of people at no cost.

Coursera alone has five million people enrolled in its classes and now its going global.

Technically, it already is global. The California-based company already has classes in twelve languages and numerous non-U.S. partner institutions. But now the company is partnering with the United States government and seven other organizations to set up 30 on-site "learning hubs" in 24 countries on five continents where students can get access to the online classes along with weekly in-person discussions of the materials. And just like the courses, access to the learning hubs is free.

One of the goals is the broader goal of MOOCs -- to provide higher-education services to everyone for free -- by providing these hubs for people without reliable Internet access. The other is to improve the retention rate of students in MOOCs, which it was able to to do in a pilot program in Bolivia, Korea and Indonesia, the New York Times reports. During that program 40 percent of the students completed classes, compared to 10 percent of online-only students.

Of course, it's also a way for colleges and universities offering the courses to spark interest in students to continue their education at their university.

But these new global hubs don't come without questions:

  • How will they deal with space limitations that the "massive" aspect of MOOCs doesn't have to worry about?
  • How will they make money? They can't survive on government support forever, can they?
  • Can this ever turn into a sustainable business model where the local teachers are getting paid (they aren't currently)? And students can still learn for free?
  • Will other local MOOCs -- in places like Brazil's Veduca or Germany's Iversity -- make these learning hubs irrelevant?

Read more: New York Times

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