Human Learning #42 – Augmentation rather than change for the MOOC platforms

Human Learning #42 – Augmentation rather than change for the MOOC platforms

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November 19, 2018

4 minute read


This fortnight’s edition focuses on the main MOOC providers. All have augmented their strategy rather than exacted any pivots. That’s a tad less interesting but as I allude in this week’s essay, these are the foundations for deeper structural disruption of Education.

Is Clayton Christensen right about Higher Education’s impending disruption? (spoiler – no) 🙂 


  • edX join the degree party – The biggest news during my hiatus was the 9 Masters announced by edX with more to follow. Big players such as Georgia Institute of Tech (who ran the previous Masters on edX as a pilot) University of Queensland, Indiana University, Curtin University. Austin and San Diego all fronted up in the usual in-demand categories – Business, Finance, Data Science, Computer Science etc. For edX and Futurelearn – both of whom have a partnership-oriented model – online degrees have always been the direction of travel and for edX, in particular, it’s a logical extension of (1) their elite university strategy (overplayed but not insignificant) and (2) their Micromaster approach which moves towards their vision of the stackable degree – here
  • edX are experimenting with paywalls – fine, they need their B2C MOOC model to aid recruitment to their degrees and retain interest from Universities who don’t want to go down that path – here
  • Transferable record of learning – edX platform has touted this feature on the roadmap for a while – it’s meaningless if Universities don’t recognise what is being transferred but edX partners are probably ahead of the curve in doing so and this catalyses that. edX will hope it allows their MOOCs to be integrated into campus curricula  – here


  • Coursera sign up Macquarie University Business School for an online MBA – They have 12 degrees now and 4 in Business (including MBAs from UIUC) . Isn’t cannibalisation a risk? Not really, the cohorts are still relatively small and like 2U, Coursera will want to develop operational economies of scale in lucrative verticals (Business, Computer Science, Data Science, Health etc) to optimise marketing and by extension student acquisition – a key USP vs their OPM competitors – here
  • Coursera for business launches skill diagnostic tool – the MOOC world can often seem a small race between a handful of providers but Coursera have long looked to Pluralsight as a competitor and this is straight out of their playbook. The tool assesses employees signed up to Coursera for Business across subject areas e.g. Programming, Data Science, Machine Learning and then benchmarks them against peers. Apart from a value add for companies (of whom Coursera now have 1400+) for whom L&D remains a permanent challenge it’s designed to drive demand for Coursera’s product, it’s a smart move – here
  • Coursera launch ‘La Tríada’ – course sharing among Tec de Monterrey, Universidad de Los Andes and Universidad Católica de Chile – Apparently Maggioncalda was told ‘collaboration is the future’, such a move mirrors edX’s star alliance of universities. I can’t see Coursera putting their backs into this. It aids with Latin America expansion (maybe) but isn’t route 1 to paying customers


  • Student support 2.0– Udacity have launched their Student Hub. It’s more of an upgrade and centralisation on existing features – providing easier access to mentors (including per assignment) other students and other resources all of which they’ve found improves completion. Udacity – undoubtedly enable by a narrower curriculum and higher price point per student are doing the most to pioneer student support in a scalable way, others should take note – here

FutureLearn look to raise £40m to keep up with the competition – FutureLearn, wholly owned by the Open University are now looking to raise further investment with 8m learners and £8.2m in revenue for the last financial year. FutureLearn have outperformed relative to their far more modest investment compared with their peers (although they’ve likely benefited from more patient, less short-term profit focused partners) but they are behind the competition on key metrics such as users, courses and revenue – this it to catch up. FutureLearn aim to focus on paid courses and credit bearing graduate courses – here

Liberats Arts meets Bootcamp, cui bono? – Make School, a San Francisco based coding bootcamp has teamed up with Dominican university, the former provides the coding, the latter provides general education to make for a combined curriculum. For Dominican it was designed to arrest the slide in Liberal Arts enrolment in US education – as graduates fear they’ll be unemployable in the digital economy. It’s a variation of providers such as Trilogy who work with  Universities on campus to provide bootcamps (but external to the degree itself). Among the Silicon Valley cognoscenti, parts of the Humanities and Social Sciences are being looked at with renewed interest, many of the skills are increasingly being seen of high business value – ethnographers for understanding customer behaviour, literature for the importance of storytelling, Philosophers for strategy. That sounds promising, but will be the small colleges providing these courses – or will a Humanities major at Stanford – distil the valuable parts into a new humanities bootcamp for a digital economy? – here

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Human Learning is a newsletter written by Chris Fellingham. You can signup for it here and find other Edtech articles by Chris Fellingham on his medium page