The search for lucrative “revenue train” is ultimately behind xMOOC development and none of the big platforms – Coursera, Udacity, or EdX – have made any attempt to conceal this from anyone. Just because their products are free doesn’t mean they aren’t intended to make money. And, just being “for profit” doesn’t mean that a venture is suspect either. In fact, an organization that is fully supported by tuition is more likely to be independent of crazy intervention political and venture capitalist stakeholders than an organization that is dependent on external funding simply to make ends meet.
From very early on, two very distinct conceptualizations of MOOCs began to emerge and these were based on different interpretations of the word “massive”. For the original connectivist inspired cMOOCs, massiveness referred to openness and individual learning opportunity, while for the commercial, xMOOCs, massiveness referred to class size and potential revenue.
Naturally, the xMOOCs were more successful in organizing training type learning opportunities with narrow and well targeted objectives following traditional, sit-down-and-listen-to-me teaching strategies. The only MOOCiness was provided by an equally massive “discussion forum” with 30,000 people providing something akin to the cacophony of noise at a football match. These are the MOOCs that the press consistently notices. The cMOOCs remained small and marginal, noticed only by a fringe of people who interested in learning for its own sake or learning science specialists.
Both varieties are making significant contributions to emerging our emerging understanding of online and distance education – cMOOCs are challenging traditional pedagogical practice in HE, while cMOOCs are providing viable alternatives to people looking for training and education outside of traditional, institutional channels.