MOOCs. Then. Now. Next.

Tracking the evolution of the MOOC, which started the last decade as a proof of concept and finished with 380 million students globally.

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MOOCs are morphing from a B2C higher education replacement to B2B partner and builder of digital ecosystems. The borderless digital market for ‘just-in-time’ skills and knowledge is highly competitive and represents a rapidly evolving part of the post-secondary education landscape.


The fourth webinar in our Higher Education Digital Transformation series took a fresh look at what’s been happening with MOOCs since they first hit the headlines a decade ago. The session examined the material changes to global education in recent years, and how MOOCs have been evolving and diversifying.

MOOCs and the Learner Lifecycle

From the perspective of a Higher Education institution, digital capabilities of a MOOC partner feature across all Dimensions of the learner lifecycle in the Higher Education Digital Capability Framework. Digital capabilities in ‘Demand and Discovery’, such as product strategy, digital marketing and student recruitment are an important factor, as is the ‘Learning Design’ dimension focusing on Curriculum Design and Digital Content/Courseware.

Tracking the Evolution of MOOCs

MOOCs first hit the mainstream media around 2012, and by October, the New York Times had proclaimed 2012 ‘The Year of the MOOC’. By 2013, MOOCs had become a worldwide phenomenon, however just a few years later, MOOCs were deemed ‘a failed experiment’. 

Meanwhile, MOOCs were quietly building institutional and corporate partnerships, and by 2019 boasted more than 30,000 courses, 50 degrees and partnerships with 1,000+ universities. With 2020 came COVID-fuelled growth in all channels – consumer, enterprise and degrees.

The Ubiquitous MOOC

The MOOC model is active across most of the ‘micro credential’ segments, finding a role as a B2B partner in online non-degree certificates and microcredentials, operating direct-to-consumer (D2C) for online courses and badges, and delivering test-prep in the professional certifications market.

MOOCs, Makers and Marketplaces: where Content meets Distribution

Together, content and distribution define the four dominant Online Course Platform models. One of the key differentiators here is who creates and builds curriculum, ranging from individual makers and professionals delivering peer to peer learning to global education and technology giants scaling unprecedented upskilling. The distribution strategy then defines how Online Course Platforms enable and distribute digital learning, again with a mass of choice, from the single brand ‘shopfront’ to multi-brand ‘catalog’.

You can dig into the detail of these four models and read more about the anatomy of Online Course Platforms, or listen in to the webinar recording for further insights and expert commentary.

International Education

What’s Next?

The Higher Education Digital Transformation Webinar Series looks to the International Higher Education sector to explore emerging digital models and how technology is being used to re-envision the student experience.

Join us for this and future webinars by registering below.

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