June 5th, 2015 E-Learning

Ever since massive open online courses (MOOCs) came about, people have been speculating their impact to traditional degree programs.

At first it was hard to see what kind of lasting influence MOOCs would have on such an established industry, but today we are now starting to get a sense of the changes MOOCs are ushering into this field, especially now that popular services like Coursera and edX have had time to mature.

I’ll admit that it has been awhile since I visited the Coursera website, but I have always kept tabs on its development. Upon visiting the site today, I can tell that the entire service has “grown-up” a bit.

The most noticeable change is that now hundreds of universities have jumped on board. This makes sense given that universities are clearly seeing a benefit to using Coursera as a way to reach more potential students.

Using platforms like Coursera, universities are able to leverage their brand (and grow it) by reaching a segment of the population that they wouldn’t have had access to in years past.

But how do they make money if the course is free?

Simple, the courses aren’t entirely free.

We need only look at the University of Illinois and their new iMBA program to see the upcoming shift in Coursera’s value to higher education.

It basically works like this: start taking the course to earn your iMBA, but to actually get the degree you need to pay ~$20,000.

Reading a bit more into the details on the course description and you will find the following:

Participation in the enhanced courses requires you to register with the University of Illinois (information at https://business.illinois.edu/online/). To enroll in the iMBA degree program, you must go through the admission process, meet the admissions requirements and be admitted as a degree-seeking student. Application details will be available soon.

Funny. I don’t quite see how this is in line with how Coursera defines itself:

Take free online classes from 115+ top universities and educational organizations.

It was a slow process, but sure enough it happened. Higher education has inserted their traditional model into MOOCs.

In light of this iMBA program, perhaps Coursera needs to update their description to the following so as to be a bit more accurate:

Take free* online classes from 115+ top universities and educational organizations.

* = subject to meeting the institution’s admission process and ability to pay tuition.

Coursera has been hijacked. If more schools follow the lead of the University of Illinois, then Coursera will regress to nothing more than a massive directory of school degree programs.

Here’s to hoping that doesn’t happen.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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Justin, It is possible that by my weak knowledge to read and write English I reach not understand what you say about the MOOC.

In early 2014 the trend curve Gartner showed the MOOC reaching the crest of the wave from which fall quickly to recover (it seems) by the middle of next 2017 or later.

We in the industry are seeing the eLearning MOOC actually have more to do with advertising and marketing activities of major “university brands” with its vocation for extending access to the excellent knowledge available.

We need to establish the huge difference between the benefits of brand positioning for universities that produce MOOC and poor learning benefits those who see their content and do not have a rigorous evaluation method.

I conclude: for now have a very uneven MOOC for its suppliers and purchasers use.


We all knew this will occur…? But this is not a take one for free…. after you buy 100 regular price items. Coursera can absolutely declare itself a milestone in Education, we get what it offers, Knowledge!; but if you wish to obtein a Document to certify that, you might have to pay… Coursera’s courses are of such quality, hard to find even in traditional classrooms. Its dynamic has certainly shakes traditional education, either of it is face to face or not. Coursera’s revolution is far beyond online, its an attitude…


We get from Courseta what it offers, knowledge; if you want a document, it has a cost… Not the knowledge, as in regular universities, or when did you hear “Our doors are open, come and learn” Coursera’s quality is far beyond most traditional programs available for the average world citizen; Coursers is a milestone in Education, from where we all can see the sinking traditional model; not saying face to face, but traditional…


Agreed, Justin and sad it is too :(.

Avatar Sylvia

the coursera portion is only 25% of the iMBA Illinois program. You don’t just do the coursera work and give illinois $20k for an MBA. Haha, if only it was that easy. Getting accepted in the iMBA is very, very difficult for one. Doing the rest of the coursework and keeping a 3.0 is also required.

Avatar matt case

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