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How Can Startups Respond to Underwhelming Edtech Results? Move Away from MOOCs

By now, experts have determined that 2013 will not be remembered as the year that online higher education took off. Despite considerable advances, studies found “a mixed bag of academic leaders across higher ed institutions with regard to online learning.”

The Babson Research Group released its 11th annual report concerning online education tracking in the United States, according to EdSurge. Reportedly, compared to 2012 fewer administrators agreed that online learning is critical to their institution’s long-term strategy and fewer disagree. EdSurge notes that may indicate an increase in neutrality “as the online learning craze subsides.”

Certain startups do reflect these sentiments. Notably, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported that academics got to say, “I told you so,” to Udacity Founder Sebastian Thrun after he called his company’s massive open online courses a “‘lousy product’ to use for educating underprepared college students.” Reportedly, the company received “discouraging results” in implementing the company’s online platform for instructors at San Jose State University.

Not all results were entirely discouraging for technological hopefuls: The survey reported that two-thirds of higher education leaders believe it is “very likely” that a majority of college students will be taking at least one online course in five years’ time. The same proportion, however, believed that MOOC-credentialing complicates degree offerings.  The bottom line is that right now, “MOOC-building institutions are a rare find,” and at least one-third of higher ed institutions do not have future plans to start building MOOCs.

Startups can respond to these results by focusing efforts on areas of higher education where growth is more inevitable—and where it likely will come sooner. For example, properly addressing retention issues surrounding online enrollments would solve a true pain point for higher ed institutions, thus freeing them up to work on more advanced MOOC-building and online innovation. For now, it could be time to pivot; startups with a laser-like focus on MOOCs may be getting ahead of themselves.

Liz Elfman is a writer, editor, and content strategist who tweets @lizelfman.  

Liz Elfman

Liz Elfman is a writer, editor, and content strategist.

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