Study: MOOCs Reach New and Underserved Students

MOOCs2Do free, massive open online courses cannibalize enrollment at traditional schools? A new study suggests that MOOCS — massive open online courses — aren’t quite a threat to traditional business programs, but are instead an opportunity to expand to underserved markets.

Data from a University of Pennsylvania study of massive open online courses offered by Penn’s Wharton School was published this week in the Harvard Business Review. The study is the first of its kind to focus on MOOC participants taking business classes.

The researchers were Ezekiel Emanuel, Penn’s vice provost for global initiatives; Gayle Christensen, executive director of Penn Global; and Brandon Alcorn, Penn Global project manager. They surveyed more than 875,000 students enrolled in nine MOOCs offered by Wharton.

“Business MOOCs do not appear to be cannibalizing existing programs but are reaching at least three new student populations: those from outside the United States, especially those in developing countries; foreign-born Americans; and under-represented American minorities.”

In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, Professor Emanuel says that “it doesn’t seem that MOOCs are undermining traditional business schools, but may be complementing them, enriching them and providing a great opportunity to [engage] other diverse student bodies.”

View the full interview transcript on Knowledge@Wharton. For more information about the study, visit Wharton News.