The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Ten Things We Need to Know about MOOC’s


  1. Who is leading the charge to produce MOOC’s?
    • As far as we can tell, there are four primary platforms garnering press at this time. Coursera, EdX, Google and Udemy.
      • Stanford helped kick this movement off, and is partnered with several universities in the Coursera platform.
      • MIT and Harvard are the founding partners in EdX. The Texas University system and UC Berkley also partner with EdX.
      • Udemy appears to be a private company engaged in a for profit enterprise.
    • Currently courses have been piloted on Udemy and Google through internal funding or Google course grants.
    • The U of A is currently in negotiations with Coursera to create a contract for future MOOCs offered through the U of A.


  1. What does it really cost to launch a MOOC course?
    • Neither Coursera, nor EdX make available a price for partner institutions or instructors. They advertise as not for profit entities, but with the express intent of being financially sustainable. This raises the question of How?
    • Udemy allows instructors to build free courses for free, but requires a subscription to a premium service if the instructor wishes to charge for their course/s. The actual cost is not published without signing up for it after designing your course.
    • Google has offered small grants for course design.
    • In the end the primary investment is the instructor’s time, and the costs that come with posting the course on a particular MOOC site. Instructors need to do their research before just jumping in the pool.


  1. How is revenue generated?
    • As mentioned above revenue generation is at this time unclear on EdX and Coursera.
      • It is of note that Coursera offers some courses as “signature track” courses for a fee of $39.00. For this cost students get the same course, but also a digital badge for their resume and a certificate of completion.
    • UDemy offers the option of school partnering or allowing individual instructors to engage in the paid service. At the paid level instructors keep 70-80% of revenue from student enrollments. Courses I surveyed ranged in cost from free to $150.00 dollars. The implication is that cost is set by the instructor.
    • If a course is offered for credit at the U of A, students will still have to sign up for a paid version through the U of A distance/outreach college and pay tuition.
      • For credit courses will have to offer some different materials and require assessment of learning (including possibly proctoring exams) that students in the free version will not be required to engage in.


  1. What contracts might be needed? How does the faculty/University get paid?
    • Instructors of MOOCs that are not offered in conjunction with the University, must consider the return on time investment. So far, the only platform that guarantees money for the MOOC platform is UDemy, and this is only if the instructor purchases the paid status.
    • At the individual level Udemy is engaged in business solely at the instructor level, so payments go directly to them. This raises questions of intellectual property between instructor and university.
    • See point 9 to answer the questions of property and copyright.
    • Keep in mind that a tenure track contract could allow only a limited amount of your time to be used for non-university activities that further your field or career.
      • In a parallel view, one of the only activities that instructors can engage in that generates revenue directly back to them is writing textbooks.


  1. What quality control is there in the pedagogy and delivery?
    • All sites guarantee students sound well researched pedagogy. It appears that each offering organization maintains in house review boards to evaluate courses before the course is made public.
      • This raises the question of what rubric are they using to make these evaluations and are their evaluators qualified to make these assessments? Again this information is not public on the program sites.
    • U of A courses offered for credit through outreach and distance learning will have to pass through Quality Matters review in addition to any review from the platform through which they are offered.



  1. How are the courses run, is there a set length?
    • Coursera and EdX both list time frames for courses ranging from 6 weeks to 16 weeks with defined start and end dates. This allows the faculty and the university to plan teaching load.
    • Google allows this to vary.
    • I was unable to find a course on Udemy that listed a set period of time for courses. Does this mean one can enroll at any time and work self-paced? If so, this puts the instructor at a disadvantage in having to be “on” 24/7.
      • Udemy does allow instructors to set courses for a particular length, but since instructors are responsible for recruitment, you could not start the course until you have enough enrollment, this may leave early registrants waiting for a course to begin.


  1. How do the platforms differ and what are the relative benefits?
    • Without taking a course on each site we cannot answer this question. All three seem to include written assignments, quizzes/exams and video/text lectures.
    • Coursera in particular, and EdX to an extent, focus on collaborative learning between students as much, or more, than working with the faculty. Google, seems to mirror these goals.


  1. What implication do free or minimal cost courses hold for our existing structure? How are units earned?
    • At this time only Udemy explicitly states that many of their courses may transfer for credit with universities.
      • Further research indicates this is only true if the course has an existing agreement with the hosting faculty’s academic institution. In this case, for the U of A, this would require the student to take the course via outreach/distance learning.
    • How would teaching a MOOC be incorporated into the course load for instructors? In particular how would this impact promotion and tenure considerations for state line faculty vs. professors of practice?
      • Faculty need to consult with their individual departments for answers to this question.
    • If students take a MOOC that does not offer transfer credit, will it still be eligible to be put on their transcript?
      • No, unless it is taken in paid version through the U of A.


  1. What is to keep faculty from moon lighting with the paid sites?


  1. University image?
    • Partnering with a MOOC platform raises questions of teaching quality the quality of the platform in general. Poor decisions here could come at a cost to the image of the University of Arizona, in particular our burgeoning efforts as a global educational presence.
    • To deal with this issue the U of A in finalizing a contract with Coursera.