Monday, 28 October 2013

Trends in online and open education (& MOOCs)

I recently had a little brainwave that pushed me to want to investigate the popularity of MOOCs, so I headed over to Google Trends to do a little bit of digging. Of course I realise what this tool returns isn't necessarily an indicator of how good/valuable/etc something is, but it can indicate the online buzz around keywords.

Interest Over Time

In wanting to dig a bit, I began with comparing keywords around open education, such as OER, OpenCourseWare (and OCW separately), MOOC(s), etc. The likes of 'OER', 'open education' and 'OCW' didn't return a great deal. The interest in OER peaked a few times but actually returned football pages in Italian and Dutch so we can probably ignore that and refer to its reasonably steady state over the past 8 years.
Interestingly, 'Creative Commons' returned way higher than those others, and consistently so across the time period, only to be eclipsed recently with 'MOOC', which showed murmurs and only from 2012 really surged upwards.

So I thought I'd keep hold of the MOOC keyword so we can use it as a yardstick (colours have changed this time), and compare it with 'Coursera' (who appear to be leading the MOOC race thus far) as well as 'elearning' and 'e-learning' more generally. As you can see in the chart below, 'MOOC' looks set to overtake the hyphenated 'e-learning' any time soon, but 'elearning' is still going strong. (Unfortunately 'TEL' (ephone, Aviv, etc) returns too many erroneous results for its inclusion to be relevant).

What's perhaps more interesting, is how 'Coursera' have quickly risen above them all.

Regional Interest

I moved on to looking at some of these terms based on regional interest. 'MOOC' was most popular in Vietnam (?), with the US in 2nd place and the UK in 10th. I was a bit surprised by that, but impressed at the impact (if we can class this as impact) of 'open education' on what we might call, developing countries. India, Sri lanka, Pakistan and Nigeria topped the table (respectively). The UK were 9th and the US aren't in the top 10 at all (suspect this is a terminology thing?).

The top 10 list for 'Coursera' (India, the Far East and Africa) is competitive with the likes of 'elearning' and 'online learning'.

So What?

Ok so what does this tell us? That MOOCs are popular at the moment? Well yes, that's not surprising but I wonder if there is something more to this...
  • For me it's frustrating that 'MOOC' is way more popular than the other/real open initiatives such as OER and OCW. So what challenges/opportunities do MOOCs bring to the open education movement? Does 'open' piggy back on 'MOOC' and if not, will it have a future? 
  • Will MOOCs continue to rise to the point where they are seen as equal to or greater than elearning more generally? I've seen many people who wrongly think elearning == completely online learning, but what message will MOOCs send in this regard?
  • Does the rise of 'Coursera' give us any indication as to the potential privatisation of education, let alone their domination of the online/open educational landscape? Could Coursera prove a challenge for those institutions that are venturing into online education specifically for these developing markets, and could they become a venture similar to the likes of Laureate Education who partner with other institutions? 
  • Conversely, to what degree can exposure in such developing countries be beneficial to HEIs?
As I said at the beginning, this 'data' might not be the most rigorous or valid, but what does it tell us and what do you make of it?

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The Reed Diaries by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License


  1. I think OER has lost to MOOCs as VCs understand MOOCs, or at least their momentum and traction, whereas OER never got there as it is more a bottom up culture.

    MOOC content is going to be much more "marketing" than it is "teaching" so it will alter the way the content is using in elearning. If people have seen MOOCs will they find a barren moodle worthwhile? Or a sham?

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