The first really large enrollment Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) was run by Stanford University in 2011. During the subsequent four years, the success of these courses as measured by completion rate has been very low. However, the courses have continued to be improved and enrollment in these courses has grown remarkably. Quoting from an article written by Dhawal Shah (12/28/2015):

Student enrollments in MOOCs doubled this year. In fact, more people signed up for MOOCs in 2015 than they did in the first three years of the “modern” MOOC movement (which started in late 2011—when the first Stanford MOOCs took off). According to data collected by Class Central, the total number of students who signed up for at least one course has crossed 35 million—up from an estimated 17 million last year.

In 2015, 1,800 new courses were announced, taking the total number of courses to 4,200 from over 550 universities.

I find these numbers to be amazing. For example, think about the widespread creation of courses—at 550 different universities throughout the world. It seems to me like an impressive number of universities have each made a decision to develop one or more courses and make them available to the world.

Think about the number of courses—4,200 courses. Of course, there are many duplicates, and that is certainly to be expected. (Just consider the level of duplication of on-campus courses in the various colleges and universities throughout the world.) My first question is, how many previously existing on-campus courses have been replaced by MOOCs? My second question is, how many on-campus courses have become a combination of a MOOC and regularly scheduled on-campus class meetings? I don’t have data providing answers to these questions, but the numbers are now large enough to suggest the beginnings of a significant restructuring of higher education.

Here is another piece of information quoted from Shah’s article:

The share of English language courses has reduced slightly from 80% in 2014 to 75% in 2015, which can be attributed to a couple reasons. Overseas institutions, sometimes with the backing of local companies and/or governments, are offering more MOOCs in local languages. (France Université Numérique [French] and MiriadaX [Spanish and Portuguese] are a couple examples.) After English, Spanish and French are the biggest languages in which courses are offered. Courses are currently being offered in 16 different languages, including Basque and Estonian.

While only 25% are in languages other than English, this means that over a thousand courses are now available in other languages. This is a huge increase from the 480 courses in 2014!

Educational Implications

In the U.S., students are expected to learn to read well enough by the end of the third grade so that reading can be a significant aid to their further learning. The stress on learning by reading continues throughout their schooling. Learning to learn via reading is very important.

Nowadays, a “natural” extension of this is learning to make effective use of the electronic interactive audio and video aids to learning. I like to think of this as a book on steroids. Typical MOOCS have not yet reached the quality of the better Highly Interactive Intelligent Computer-Assisted Learning Systems (HIICAL) (see Moursund, 5/16/2015 and 10/28/2014). Besides being designed to provide good interactive instruction, such HIICAL systems can also be designed to help students learn the capabilities and limitations of computers as an aid to solving the types of problems and accomplishing the types of tasks that are being studied.

I believe that a good modern educational system makes effective use of human teachers to do what they can do best and of HIICAL to do what it can do best. Such an educational system helps students learn to identify their own capabilities and limitations in learning in both of these modes, and helps them to steadily gain in their capabilities to be independent, self-sufficient learners and users of what they are learning. Of course, cost effectiveness is a major and continuing issue.

What You Can Do

We live during an age of rapid technological and other types of change. It is clear to most educational leaders that education needs to be a lifelong endeavor. A child’s upbringing and early years of informal education and formal school need to provide the child with the knowledge, skills, and intrinsic motivation to be a lifelong learner.

As an adult, you can examine the education you have received and how well you are doing in your lifelong learning endeavors. If you are not satisfied with how things have turned out so far, take advantage of the learning resources available to you and change your learning behaviors.

If you are a teachers and/or a parent of students in school, help to create learning environments in which students are intrinsically motivated to seek out knowledge and skills they would like to obtain, and help to facilitate their achievment of their learning goals.

References and Resources

Moursund, D. (10/26/2015). Nearly 4,000 MOOCs. IAE Blog. Retrieved 12/29/2015 from

Moursund, D. (5/16/2015). Technology-based mini-singularities. IAE Blog. Retrieved 12/30/2015 from

Moursund, D. (10/28/2014). Forecasts about the future of higher education. IAE Blog. Retrieved 12/29/2015 from

Moursund, D. (9/8/2013). Thinking and acting globally. IAE Blog. Retrieved 12/29/2015 from .

Moursund, D. (8/2/2011). Stanford University is offering a free Artificial Intelligence course. IAE Blog. Retrieved 12/29/2015 from

Russell, T.L. (2010). No significant difference. WCET. Retrieved 12/29/2015 from

Shah, D. (12/28/2015). MOOCs in 2015: Breaking down the numbers. edSurge. Retrieved 12/29/2015 from