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Running head: MOOCS AT NAU 1

Official Report on MOOCs at Northern Arizona University (NAU)

Mark Molinaro, CEC

Northern Arizona University


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) became very popular and were viewed as an

affordable alternative to the rising cost of higher education after the start of the 2008 recession

(Glass, 2016). The purposes of MOOCs according to Hollands, are to extend reach and access,

build and maintain a schools brand, improve cash flow by reducing costs or increasing revenue,

improve educational outcomes, innovative teaching and learning, and conduct research

(Hollands, 2014). Today MOOCs are used as interactive books for flipped classrooms, corporate

training, collaborative learning between institutions, professional and personal development,

delivering free online courses, and as an opportunity to market (Fomin, 2013). I assert that NAU

can use MOOCs in appropriate ways to expand the pedagogical foundations of teaching, increase

engagement and access with the Northern Arizona community, and provide an alternative,

disruptive approach to delivering higher education profitably.

Several benefits of MOOC development and the scramble for superiority in this arena are

improving the delivery and research of how online learning works (Glance, 2013). According to

Glance, MOOCs improve the following pedagogical areas legitimacy of online learning,

improvements in retrieval type learning, enhanced learning through peer and self-assessments,

and peer support through online forums, (Glance, 2013). From the early beginnings of

cMOOCs, originally pioneered by Alexander and David Cormier to the modern platform that my

seven year old son uses in first grade called Kahn Academy, this disruptive approach to

supplying potential course material to the nearly 150.6 million tertiary students in the world

(Freitas, 2015). Quality of instruction in a self-directed learning environment that is markedly

different than a traditional classroom rests more on the shoulders of the student and their ability

to navigate the digital course elements than on the faculty member that leads a brick and mortar

and even more traditional online classroom, (Yuan, 2013). Conole reports that quality of

MOOCs can be evaluated through contrasting quality assurance with quality enhancements,

(Conole, 2016). An example of these types of contrasts are emphasis on documentation vs.

emphasis on discussion, focus on teaching vs. focus on learning, and teaching as individual

performance vs teaching as a social practice (Conole, 2016).

Coconino County has close to 140,000 residence. One of the points in Northern Arizona

University’s vision statement declares that NAU empowers students to succeed by ensuring

accessibility and inclusiveness. By offering MOOCs, NAU can provide access to the

University’s course content for free to eligible students. One business model that seems to work

for both students participating in MOOCs and the institute providing them is the certificate

model. This model allows students to complete course work and upon completion pay for

receiving a certificate of completion, (Burd, 2015). According to Pappano, the lines between

internet and campus education is blurring and goes on to predict that institutes of higher

education will soon give credit for students achieving edX certificates through MOOCs in a

similar way that colleges give credit for advanced placement and professional experience

(Pappano, 2012). Ensuring access and inclusion can be achieved through using MOOCs

responsibly to assist Northern Arizona residence in gaining information for nominal costs.

Education in the U.S. economy brings in over $1T and has not been seriously impacted by

information technology (Vardi, 2012). Hew reports that MOOCs give students freedom of

choice in what they want to learn about rather than taking a prescribed program of study (Hew,

2014). These are just a few of the reasons why NAU should consider using MOOCs to advance

the University’s vision.

Fiscal accountability for higher education is extremely important in the current climate of

school accountability. Northern Arizona University’s recent budget cuts forced entrepreneurial

strategies and creative critical thinking. Enrollment is a major revenue source for colleges and

the addition of MOOCs can bring value, raise brand awareness, and increase student populations

(Leeds, 2015). With the average MOOC enrolling on average 43,000 students and only 6.5% of

those students completing the outlined requirements which usually include a fee based

certificate, this mode of delivering course content is a great way to expose a large body of

potential students at minimal cost (Jordan, 2014). With Harvard and MIT investing $60M to

start edX, their goal was to improve classroom education, not replace it (Kolowich, 2013).

An additional area where MOOCs can provide a supporting role is to provide tutoring and

professional development opportunities for both students and faculty. Used in this way, Sandeen

suggests that reciprocity of academic partnerships sharpens both institutions and allows

acceptance of degree credit for both institutions (Sandeen, 2013). According to a study by

Seaton that samples 108,000 students, the vast amount of data collected through MOOCs gives

unique insight into how students interact with online education (Seaton, 2014). The key insights

there study produced were that students spent most of their time watching lecture videos and

then discussion forums and online labs (Seaton, 2014). Daniel states that institutes of higher

learning like Oxford, Yale, and Stanford originally thought MOOCs could be an additional

source of income but more recent studies indicate that they either lost money or at best, broke

even due to the high cost to create the course and little revenue return, (Daniel, 2012). With a

low return on investment and 60% to 89% of schools using MOOCs reporting a decline in

retention rates, the purpose of MOOCs at NAU is an important one (Allen, 2013). The one area

where MOOCs are showing effectiveness is in raising interest, (Liyanagunawardena, 2013). By

using existing online courses that are easily adaptable to MOOCs NAU can broadcast content for

little investment that could benefit Northern Arizona residents. Taking courses online for free

and then deciding whether to pay for a certificate or potentially credits, positions NAU to attract

residents in ways they previously could not. As a form of marketing for NAU and what the

University offers this can be yet another way to reach our community and help broadcast

information. Credentialing is the next step to advance MOOC quality once the outreach has been

established, (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2012).


Works Cited

Yuan, L., Powell, S., & CETIS, J. (2013). MOOCs and open education: Implications for higher


Sandeen, C. (2013). Integrating MOOCs into traditional higher education: The emerging

“MOOC 3.0” era. Change: The magazine of higher learning, 45(6), 34-39.

Vardi, M. Y. (2012). Will MOOCs destroy academia?. Communications of the ACM, 55(11), 5-5.

Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2013). Changing course: Ten years of tracking online education in the

United States. Sloan Consortium. PO Box 1238, Newburyport, MA 01950.

Liyanagunawardena, T. R., Adams, A. A., & Williams, S. A. (2013). MOOCs: A systematic study

of the published literature 2008-2012. The International Review of Research in Open and

Distributed Learning, 14(3), 202-227.

Daniel, J. (2012). Making sense of MOOCs: Musings in a maze of myth, paradox and

possibility. Journal of interactive Media in education, 2012(3).

Kolowich, S. (2013). The professors who make the MOOCs. The Chronicle of Higher

Education, 18.

Jordan, K. (2014). Initial trends in enrolment and completion of massive open online

courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(1).

Pappano, L. (2012). The Year of the MOOC. The New York Times, 2(12), 2012.

Seaton, D. T., Bergner, Y., Chuang, I., Mitros, P., & Pritchard, D. E. (2014). Who does what in a

massive open online course?. Communications of the ACM, 57(4), 58-65.

Burd, E. L., Smith, S. P., & Reisman, S. (2015). Exploring business models for MOOCs in

higher education. Innovative Higher Education, 40(1), 37-49.


Freitas, S. I., Morgan, J., & Gibson, D. (2015). Will MOOCs transform learning and teaching in

higher education? Engagement and course retention in online learning provision. British

Journal of Educational Technology, 46(3), 455-471.

Conole, G. (2016). MOOCs as disruptive technologies: strategies for enhancing the learner

experience and quality of MOOCs. RED. Revista de Educación a Distancia, (50).

The Chronicle of Higher Education (Ed.). (2012). Online learning: MOOC madness, an inside

Leeds, E. M., & Cope, J. (2015). MOOCs: Branding, Enrollment, and Multiple Measures of


Glance, D. G., Forsey, M., & Riley, M. (2013). The pedagogical foundations of massive open

online courses. First Monday, 18(5).

Fomin, E. (2013). MOOCs: Tips for Enrollment Professionals. Journal of college

admission, 220, 19-20.

Hollands, F. M., & Tirthali, D. (2014). Why Do Institutions Offer MOOCs?. Online

Learning, 18(3), n3.

Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2014). Students’ and instructors’ use of massive open online

courses (MOOCs): Motivations and challenges. Educational research review, 12, 45-58.

Glass, C. R., Shiokawa‐Baklan, M. S., & Saltarelli, A. J. (2016). Who takes MOOCs?. New

Directions for Institutional Research, 2015(167), 41-55.