Online Courses Face Profitability Hurdles

Massively open online courses, or MOOCs, are typically dependent on outside investors to cover expenses. While MOOCs expand the education opportunities for hundreds of thousands world-wide, building a sustainable funding model has yet to be perfected.

Leading open online courses are run through highly esteemed universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, which can provide high quality information; but ultimately these services will need to be sustainably funded in order to operate long term.

Existing funding models depend almost exclusively on venture capital funding, but are quickly incorporating new sources of revenue to stay viable in the long-term. Pay-walls for proof of certification and access to additional resources keep barriers to access low while providing demand-based revenue to online education providers.

MOOCs have received backlash from several college administrators and professors. The philosophy department at San Jose State University made their opposition heard by issuing a formal letter about the integration of a Harvard MOOC.

California was also in the process of integrating MOOCs for introductory courses in their two university systems (UC and CSU) through Senate Bill 520. The bill was put on hold by its author, Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. The legislature anticipates to look into the bill again for the 2014 session.

This bill or similar versions of it could help with overcrowding of popular required college courses, but the sustainability and quality of MOOCs will remain the top question in the discourse.