Academics Criticize MOOCs, But Business Schools Like Them

moocs-learning-rfLeaders of universities are becoming more skeptical of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses), but many business schools are warming up to these online classes with thousands enrolled in some cases. This could be because of a recent report on online education released this month.

Babson Survey Research Group surveyed 2800 colleges and universities for its study on online education. It found that 40% disagreed with the idea that MOOCs are a sustainable way to provide education. That is an increase from 26% the year before.

However, Harvard Business School is using MOOCs, and Wharton has made its entire first year of classes available at no charge on Five other universities in Bloomberg Businessweek’s top 10 full time MBA programs also are using MOOCs. These include the University of Chicago and MIT.

In fact, enough MBA programs are using MOOCs that the popular Website Poets and Quants came out with a new guide called the MOOC MBA. This is a pretty interesting idea. The site followed up with an MBA student that wants to put together an MBA education from top universities. The price? Less than $1000. When you think about the fact that some top schools charge $100,000 or more, this is quite appealing.

According to the authors of the new report, the top academic officers at universities with the longest history with regular online classes are the ones who do not believe in the MOOC model.

This explains why many good business schools are coming out with MOOCs, even though some people are not confident in the use of the classes. Many of the better MBA programs did not favor online classes in the 90s, and schools were not interested in making more money potentially, if it meant risking their reputations. After all, top MBA schools did not think they should be competing with Devry University.

Some leaders of business schools, who are active in online programs, state that they doubt that MOOCs are going to ever be able to replace regular MBA programs.

The director of the online MBA program at Indiana University, Phil Powell, noted that MOOCs are essentially like reading 10 books and saying you have earned a degree. A MOOC can convey a lot of knowledge, but you are not going to learn communication skills and teamwork, as you do in regular on site and online MBA classes.

However, MOOCs can be useful in pushing regular online and onsite MBA programs to boost the quality of their programs. For example, Indiana is redoing its career services organization to provide more help to online MBA students. They tend to have different needs than regular students. Also, Arizona State University is thinking about how to use technology more effectively in its online MBA program. This is mostly because of the competition of MOOCs.

But until there is a large acceptance from employers about the massive online classes being similar to earning a regular degree, many people in academia are not going to see them as comparable to earning a degree.