The bloom is off the rose. Massively open online courses (MOOCs), heralded by Silicon Valley visionaries and higher education critics alike as the great disruptor of the university, are coming under increased criticism for their failure to provide the powerful learning outcomes that their proponents predicted. Foremost of concern to the naysayers is the low completion rates of most MOOCs, as low as 4% as reported in some surveys (see this study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania). There are many reasons for this, but it is becoming clear that flashy videos and engaging problem sets are in of themselves not sufficient to generate commitment among many participants.
On the path to disruption such setbacks are to be expected. The evolving market for online education is a great case study for potential disruptors and disruptees in other markets.
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