5 minute read  written by  . Published on December 22, 2016

This article is just one in our 2016 MOOC Roundup Series. Find the whole series of articles here, and discover everything MOOCs in 2016 — from the most popular classes, to overviews on developments in MOOC platforms, to looking at the MOOC-future.


1. MOOCs No Longer Massive

MOOCs are gradually being transformed from virtual classrooms to a Netflix-like experience. Most are now offered in a self-paced format or, in the case of Coursera courses, switched to a regular schedule, with new sessions starting automatically on a bi-weekly or monthly basis.

This has led to a significant increase in the number of courses students can register for and start almost immediately.

Previously, when courses were offered once or twice a year, the students were all piled into one giant session. But now the same courses are available through the year and can be started immediately. This means that instead of tens of thousands of people learning together, everybody is learning at their own pace and in much smaller cohorts.

Forum activity for many courses is almost non-existent. At one point Coursera boasted about an average forum response time of 22 minutes; that’s no longer the case.

Read our in-depth analysis on this trend.

2. College Credit, Credentials, and Degrees

Providers Credit Grid Map

This isn’t a trend particular to 2016, but some of the newer MOOC providers have caught up and launched their own credentials and degree programs this year. Now we can see a fleshed out approach from all the major MOOC providers, as show above.

Here is a quick overview of what’s happened in 2016. The list is in no particular order.

  1. EdX expanded its MicroMasters credential to fourteen different universities.
  2. FutureLearn announced six postgraduate degrees from Deakin University and launched a new credential called FutureLearn Programs.
  3. Kadenze launched its own credential system, called Kadenze Programs.
  4. Coursera expanded its Specializations to 160 and has also announced another Masters with the University of Illinois.
  5. Almost 4,000 students are currently enrolled in Georgia Tech’s and Udacity’s Masters in Computer Science.

We go a lot deeper into this topic in our dedicated article for this trend, where we share statistics when possible and debate whether learners are interested in credit bearing courses.

Read our in-depth analysis on this trend.

3. A Push Towards Business to Business (B2B)

Udacity for Business

Corporate training is a huge market and MOOC providers want to take a bite out of it.

This year Coursera announced Coursera for Business.

Udacity, which works directly with the industry to create its Nanodegrees, also has a product targeted towards corporate training. Udacity has partnered with a number of companies internationally to grant Nanodegree scholarships. We examine all the different partnerships in our end of the year review for Udacity.

FutureLearn has a workplace learning product too. It also has landing pages for certain verticals like healthcare and schools.

There is little information available on how much progress MOOC providers have made in getting corporations to pay for them.

4. Regional MOOC Providers Pick Up Steam

Around 25% of the new learners that were added to MOOCs in 2016 were attracted by regional MOOC providers, which are focused on certain geographical areas and are generally non-english speaking.

These providers now have registrations in the millions, and one provider from China (XuetangX) is the third biggest MOOC provider behind Coursera and edX.

Here are how some of the international MOOC providers stack up.

XuetangX: Backed by Tsinghua University, this Chinese MOOC provider crossed six million learners in 2016. It currently has 300+ courses and around 30 university partners. Learn more about XuetangX in Class Central’s interview with Fenghua Nie, who is XuetangX’s chairman of the Board of Directors and Deputy Secretary-General of Tsinghua University.

Miríada X: This Spanish language MOOC platform focuses on Latin America, and it has 2.7 million users, 93 university partners, and around 350 courses.

France Université Numérique (FUN): This MOOC platform backed by the French government has 900,000 registered students, 250 MOOCs, and 70+ university partners.

Edraak: Edraak is an Arabic language MOOC platform backed by the Queen Rania Foundation of Jordan. It has 933,000 registered users.

This year we also saw the launch of SWAYAM, the official MOOC platform of India, and of EduOpen, a MOOC platform funded by the Italian government.

Its worth noting XuetangX, FUN, and Edraak are all based on Open edX.

5. Decreasing Number of Standalone Courses

Certificates are the primary method of monetization for MOOC providers, and in 2016 monetization is a priority for all MOOC providers.

MOOC-based credentials represent the evolution of these certificates. These are certificate programs that require students to do a sequence of courses, like Coursera’s Specializations or Udacity’s Nanodegrees.

Many MOOC providers have a credential of their own, albeit with a unique name. Some providers have even trademarked theirs.

For MOOC providers that have launched their own credentials, a majority of the new courses are a part of these credentials.

In some cases, some of the older courses have been split into credentials. Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller’s MOOC Probabilistic Graphical Models has now been split into three courses, and is now a Specialization in its own right.

6. Paid Only Courses

In June this year, Coursera tested a pilot with a new format where all the course materials, including the videos, were behind a paywall. Coursera has added several paid only courses since then.

EdX has been running paid courses under what it calls “Professional Education” courses, since 2014. Microsoft, Wharton, Delft, MIT, ASU, and the New York Institute of Finance are some of the organizations that offer around 52 such courses on edX.

One famous example was MIT’s Big Data course, which ran in March 2014 on edX. It cost $495 and had 3,500 participants from 88 countries. EdX and MIT made more than one million dollars from a single session of a four week course.

FutureLearn also announced their intention to launch paid only courses as part of six postgraduate degrees from Deakin University. The degrees will include free taster courses, but a majority of the courses in the degree sequence will be paid.

We expect this trend to get even stronger in 2017; we will see a lot more paid courses from MOOC providers

  • saltp8

    I will abandon a lot of moocs, i think. Too expensive. They forgot that we are students?