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The University of Michigan Bets Big on MOOCs, Crosses Five Million Enrollments

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Earlier this year, the University of Michigan (U of M) announced an ambitious goal of transforming 200 of its on-campus courses by the end of 2017. I recently spoke with James DeVaney, who’s at the head of the university’s online efforts, to see what U of M has accomplished in the field of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and to hear about the plans for 2017.

University of Michigan MOOCs Enrollment stats

The University of Michigan has produced 82 MOOCs as of December 2016. This number includes 49 MOOCs on the Coursera platform and 33 on the edX platform. An additional fourteen U of M MOOCs have been approved, but they have yet to be released/opened on a platform. As of December 2016, enrollments in the University of Michigan’s MOOCs stand at 5.3 million learners. Over 250 of the university’s employees (faculty, designers, administrators, etc.) have been involved in producing its MOOCs.

James DeVaney, the Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation, told me that the University of Michigan has incorporated a number of MOOCs on campus. For example, its public health MOOC  is being used by its medical and dental students. James explained that the university’s MOOCs are designed from the start to enhance and personalize both global and on-campus educational offerings, and cross-departmental teams of instructors create the MOOCs.

So who else takes U of M’s MOOCs? Some of its MOOCs are being used to prepare high school students for college. Furthermore, the University of Michigan’s introductory finance MOOC is taken by its MBA students before they start the on-campus courses, allowing them to take more advanced finance courses once they arrive.


James also said that another purpose of the university’s MOOCs is to share faculty research with the world.

He also explained that the University of Michigan has MOOCs on Coursera and edX because of their innovative platforms. On post-course surveys, 95.7% of respondents have indicated that the university’s MOOCs and its instructors were excellent; 75% of respondents planned to mention their participation in the U of M’s MOOCs to current or future employers. The university is also developing and testing custom tools and learning methods, like gamification and notifications, to further improve online learners’ performance.

Along with the University of Michigan, a number of other large public universities are betting big on MOOCs. For example, the University of Illinois has launched two MOOC-based master’s degrees. These institutions are part of a new educational elite with online enrollments in the millions.

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