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MOOCs Find a New Home

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have taken off … again.

The New York Times coined 2012 as the “Year of the MOOC,” but 2013 surely will be remembered as the “Year of the Anti-MOOC.” Throughout the year, administrators and educators have dragged the courses over the fire, deriding everything from their poor retention rates to their inability to generate revenue for MOOC-creating institutions. Moreover, they claim MOOCs are creating an industry rift between elite institutions who have the money to create the courses, and those that are being pushed to adopt them into their programming.

So MOOC providers have set their sights on greener pastures. If all goes to plan, we may remember 2014 as the “Year of the Corporate MOOC.”

It started in early November when Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Udacity, announced his intention to change his company’s direction towards creating more vocational-focused courses as a result of its failure to positively impact academic learning outcomes.

“I [realized] we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product,” Thrun told Fast Company. “It was a painful moment.”

Coursera is moving in the same direction. Though he has more faith in the academic platform than Thrun, Coursera Co-Founder Andrew Ng recently said the MOOC set up is appealing to employers looking for professional development options.

“We think that many companies view Coursera as a quality, convenient, inexpensive way to continue employee development,” Ng told the Silicon Valley Business Journal. “People change jobs much more often [than they did 20 years ago], and therefore, companies, on average, invest less in employee development.”

The corporate training marketplace is certainly a promising one, estimated to be worth $485 billion in a recent study published by Destiny Solutions. The report, “The Voice of the Employer on the Effects and Opportunities of Professional Development for Higher Education Institutions,” outlined that 95 percent of employers financially support the continuing education of their employees, and that 70 percent of employers say today’s employees need continuous education and training to keep up with their jobs.

“Consumer-grade technologies have infiltrated the professional training environment, providing organizations with easy-to-use and flexible tools to create new offerings focused on the ‘learner experience,” Dennis Yang, president and COO of Udemy, said in a press release.

As employers continue to recognize the importance of corporate training for their employees, they will increasingly seek out low-cost, highly-flexible training options.

The postsecondary sea may be drying up for MOOCs, but their providers are turning towards the corporate training ocean for their next big splash.