Where are MOOCs heading?

Customized service and the focus on the corporate world set the pace in the sector of online education

Hacia donde se encaminan los MOOCs
17/10/2017 · Xavier Orri Badia

With 6850 courses up and running, 700 universities from the five continents involved and 58 million students, MOOC’s are no longer a trend, as they have become the main option for online training, and are a growing alternative to the traditional in-person education system. Their leading role is also more than relevant in the corporate world. According to “Future Workplace” Report, 44% of HR managers are interested in the use of MOOC’s in their organizations. We went over some of the tendencies marking the future of MOOC’s in older entries. This time, we would like to take a minute to analyze the current moment of the sector. 

Less massive, more customized

Massive is the first concept in the acronym MOOC. The initial idea of the online education format was to offer courses in which thousands of students could participate simultaneously. For this purpose, programs were being published once or twice a year, making all participants signup at the same time.

But the sector has evolved. As EdSurge points out in its article “Monetization over massiveness”, current platforms are modifying their models from the classic method of publishing their courses one or two times per year, to a format inspired in services like Netflix, or Spotify, in which the course catalogue offer is always available, allowing users to choose the contents and the timings of their training.  

The result of this transformation is a shift from massive courses to programs with a constant trickle of students. Communities are smaller, but the participation and completion rates are higher. Also, not being forced to take their MOOC’s at a given time, has led users to higher ratings of satisfaction. 

Business friendly

Among the wide variety of the MOOC’s, programs related to business and working skills are a heavy weight. In fact, in 2016, 40% of launched courses were related to these topics, with a spotlight on the technological sector.

However, the focus of MOOC’s on the productive sector is not only observable through their typology, but also in the strategic turn some platforms have taken. In the past year, Coursera, Udacity and Future Learn announced the creation of exclusive spaces for companies, in a clear differentiation of their offer.

The objective of such movements is to respond to the growing demand of MOOC’s in the productive sector, as well as to make room for the course monetization through genuine certifications that companies seem eager to acquire.

Besides these business-friendly spaces, companies keep on signing ad hoc collaboration deals of relevance with MOOC platforms. Coursera and Google, for instance, collaborate in non-academic trainings for future ID programmers, in a program linked to the “Grow with Google” project in which Bank of America, L’Oréal and PNC Bank are involved.

The brand of cosmetics has also betted on the MOOC format for the training of 1000 of its managers involved in the digital strategy of the company, and has implemented a continuous training program for professional development alongside General Assembly, which has already involved 14000 employees.

In Spain, the situation is quite similar. Many companies see MOOC’s as an opportunity for professional updates and recycling, also stimulated by the option of accessing the programs of granted training, an option that is favored by workers: our students give an average rating of 8,17/10 to programs launched by Homuork

Regional products

The classic operators still command the MOOC sector: Coursera leads the sector by size, with a total of 1700 active courses, and is followed by EdX with a 1300, and FutureLearn with 480.

Despite the dominion of these actors, the industry is being fragmented thanks to regional MOOC producers, capable of questioning the hegemony of English as the lingua franca of trainings, and to better respond to the local needs of their region. There are many examples of this, such as XuetangX, in China, or Miríada X in Latin America, which count on millions of users. Spaces like SWAYAM or Edraak have followed the trend in India and in Africa respectively, and in Europe, some initiatives have even counted on institutional support, such as the EduOpen, launched by the Italian government.

More and more universities


The involvement of universities in the development of MOOC’s has been undeniable from the very beginning. In fact, the Stanford University issued the first program of this kind.

As years go by, more and more universities are betting on this format. According to the “State of the MOOC 2017” report, the number of higher education institutions with at least one MOOC in their offer went from 507 to 709, which represents an increase of 24%, way higher than the 5% increase of external and/or non-academic providers. 


Xavier Orri

Xavier Orri Badia

Co-founder & COO