How Will MOOCs Change Business Schools?

WHAT ARE THE implications of MOOCs on tenured business faculty?
How Will MOOCs Change Business Schools?

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia explores this and other questions in its recently released “Will Video Kill the Classroom Star? The Threat and Opportunity of MOOCs for Full-Time MBA Programs.” The report is authored by Christian Terwiesch, a professor of operations and information management and co-director of the university’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management, and Kurt Ulrich, the school’s vice dean of innovation.

The document first compares the current cost of delivering a traditional course to the cost of delivering a MOOC. Wharton estimates that schools spend approximately US$1,475 per student to deliver a traditional course in a full-time MBA program, assuming that course is taught by a tenured or tenure-track professor making $200,000 per year plus benefits. Wharton estimates that a MOOC costs about $70,000 to develop, of which $50,000 pays for faculty time and $20,000 for video production. Over four offerings of Wharton’s Introduction to Operations Management MOOC, 12,500 of 250,000 enrolled students completed the course. The cost of course delivery per student who completed it was $11.20.

But the report’s authors also find that the real issue regarding MOOCs isn’t completion rates or production costs. Rather it’s the technologies MOOCs employ—such as short videos, customized delivery, asynchronous interactions, adaptive assessment, and self-paced learning—a suite of methods that the authors call SuperText. “It is SuperText that poses the threat and the opportunity” to traditional business education, the authors write. “The MOOC, we argue, is a Trojan horse: While public attention is focused on the massive and open characteristics of the courses, the SuperText technology [has] proved highly effective as a learning technology.”

The authors outline three paths that business schools might follow to use SuperText technologies effectively to leverage lower costs, while maintaining educational quality. First, schools could use SuperText to target nondegree students or support executive education. Second, they could employ more expensive faculty to author SuperText content and less expensive course administrators to oversee students’ live interactions—a version of “flipping the classroom.” This model could drive down costs to only $825 per student—or by as much as 40 percent. That’s far more expensive than MOOCs, but significantly less than traditional delivery. Moreover, with this approach, schools can maintain the benefits of face-to-face education, such as small class sizes.

Third, schools could use Super- Text to bundle their courses to support just-in-time education. “With SuperText, business education has the potential to move to mini-courses that are delivered to the learner…on demand,” the authors write. “Would such iTunes-like business education models wipe out the full-time MBA program? Not necessarily, but it would at least dramatically change the way in which business education is delivered.”

To read the 27-page report, which also covers topics such as intellectual copyright and the role of research, visit mackinstitute.wharton.upenn.edu/2014/ will-video-kill-classroom-star.