Accessibility navigation

Massive Open Online Courses and sustainability

Liyanagunawardena, T. R., Lundqvist, K. O. and Williams, S. A. (2015) Massive Open Online Courses and sustainability. In: OER15: Mainstreaming Open Education, April 14-15 2015, Cardiff.

Full text not archived in this repository.

It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

Official URL:


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have become very popular among learners millions of users from around the world registered with leading platforms. There are hundreds of universities (and other organizations) offering MOOCs. However, sustainability of MOOCs is a pressing concern as MOOCs incur up front creation costs, maintenance costs to keep content relevant and on-going support costs to provide facilitation while a course is being run. At present, charging a fee for certification (for example Coursera Signature Track and FutureLearn Statement of Completion) seems a popular business model. In this paper, the authors discuss other possible business models and their pros and cons. Some business models discussed here are: Freemium model – providing content freely but charging for premium services such as course support, tutoring and proctored exams. Sponsorships – courses can be created in collaboration with industry where industry sponsorships are used to cover the costs of course production and offering. For example Teaching Computing course was offered by the University of East Anglia on the FutureLearn platform with the sponsorship from British Telecom while the UK Government sponsored the course Introduction to Cyber Security offered by the Open University on FutureLearn. Initiatives and Grants – The government, EU commission or corporations could commission the creation of courses through grants and initiatives according to the skills gap identified for the economy. For example, the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Programme has supported a course on Cyber Security. Similar initiatives could also provide funding to support relevant course development and offering. Donations – Free software, Wikipedia and early OER initiatives such as the MIT OpenCourseware accept donations from the public and this could well be used as a business model where learners could contribute (if they wish) to the maintenance and facilitation of a course. Merchandise – selling merchandise could also bring revenue to MOOCs. As many participants do not seek formal recognition (European Commission, 2014) for their completion of a MOOC, merchandise that presents their achievement in a playful way could well be attractive for them. Sale of supplementary material –supplementary course material in the form of an online or physical book or similar could be sold with the revenue being reinvested in the course delivery. Selective advertising – courses could have advertisements relevant to learners Data sharing – though a controversial topic, sharing learner data with relevant employers or similar could be another revenue model for MOOCs. Follow on events – the courses could lead to follow on summer schools, courses or other real-life or online events that are paid-for in which case a percentage of the revenue could be passed on to the MOOC for its upkeep. Though these models are all possible ways of generating revenue for MOOCs, some are more controversial and sensitive than others. Nevertheless unless appropriate business models are identified the sustainability of MOOCs would be problematic.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
ID Code:40069

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation