The MOOC Merger

Everyone knows traditional education models are going to change sooner rather than later. In recent news, Sweet Briar College, a small liberal arts college announced it is shutting its doors at the end of the 2015 spring semester. That isn’t news in itself, education institutions are closing all the time. What makes this different is that Sweet Briar is closing despite an $85 million dollar endowment, and doing it NOW.

Last year, Bloomberg Business posted about the rate of closing among small U.S. colleges across the country. They wrote this a full year ago

The number of private four-year colleges that have closed or were acquired doubled from about five a year before 2008 to about 10 in the four years through 2011, according to a study last year by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, citing federal data. Plus, among all colleges, 37 merged in the three years through 2013, more than triple the number from 2006 to 2009, according to Higher Education Publications Inc., a Reston, Virginia-based directory publisher.

With establishments like Coursera, the Shaw Academy, and Lynda.com taking over, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) could be a huge disrupter to the education system. As Coursera passed over 500,000 learners in it’s first year alone, one has to wonder if this is sustainable and what it may do to the small liberal arts education.

The key may be in combining them. Wellesley became the first liberal arts college to join edX (the MIT and Harvard version) and positioned themselves to hold onto the values of the small liberal arts community while embracing modern technology. When we look at everything in our world – social media included – that is really what we are striving for, isn’t it? Taking our established connections and using our advances to enhance our product, not replace it.

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One Response to The MOOC Merger

  1. sydhavely says:

    Seems like MOOC’s are getting it together. As Suzy Welch said in her interview with Charlie Rose along with former GE chairman and CEO and now management guru Jack Welch, “the stink is off MOOCs.” Not quite sure what that means, other than cocktail party chat, but it appears that serious universities, such as Penn, Harvard and MIT, as you cite, MOOCs may be finding their educational niche and it may be quite large, maybe not as large as the early adopters were saying, but an educational disrupter nevertheless. Excellent post, Seth.

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