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MOOC users reach 58 million globally

The number of users who registered for at least one massive open online course last year reached 58 million, up from approximately 35 million in 2015, according to new figures from MOOC aggregator site, Class Central.

Chinese MOOC platform XuetangX now boasts over 300 courses from 30 universities, reaching over six million users. Photo: xuetangx.com

There were over 2,600 new courses announced last year

The number of first-time users meanwhile reached 23 million – a quarter registering with regional MOOC platforms which have proliferated in the past year.

The new figures are part of a series of articles from Class Central on the MOOC landscape, which curate information and reviews from 41 different MOOC providers around the world.

Regional MOOC providers outside of English speaking regions have seen an increase in users alongside the global giants.

“Taking the course simultaneously with thousands of learners is no longer a selling point of MOOCs”

Latin America’s Miriada X has over 2.7 million users and features around 350 courses, while the Arabic-language platform, Edraak, backed by the Queen Rania Foundation of Jordan, is closing in on one million users.

India also launched an official MOOC platform, SWAYAM last year, and EduOpen, a platform financially backed by the government of Italy, was also launched.

Coursera remains the largest MOOC provider globally, boasting 23 million users. edX, with 10 million users, is the second largest, followed by China’s XuetangX with six million users, making it the only non-English MOOC platform in the top five.

The UK’s FutureLearn and US-based Udacity complete the top five with 5.3 million and four million users respectively.

There were over 2,600 new courses announced last year, bringing the total number of courses across all MOOC providers to 6,850 from over 700 universities.

This growth is significantly higher than the 1,800 new courses announced the year before.

The analysis from Class Central also shows a shift in the landscape of how MOOCs are offered over the last year, particularly in the growing trend of monetisation.

“The range of features and experiences that were once free have dramatically shrunk over the last couple years, raising the question of how ‘open’ MOOCs truly are,” said Dharwal Shah, founder of Class Central.

“Taking the course simultaneously with thousands of learners is no longer a selling point of MOOCs (from a course providers perspective).”

Moving into a business model which requires a fee for either participation in exams or verification of the course in the form of certificates, is a “move that is slowly redefining MOOCs’ role in the global marketplace of online education”, according to another article from Online Course Report.

This became apparent last year, when, for example, materials for some of Coursera’s courses were put behind a paywall, while FutureLearn announced it will be offering paid-for courses for a postgraduate degree from Australia’s Deakin University.

“The paid certificates offered by many MOOC providers focus on business and technology fields”

Business and technology subjects remain the most popular, Class Central found, accounting for over a third (36.7%) of new MOOC courses introduced last year.

The field of Business and Management alone grew by 3% from last year in the number of new courses, making up 19.3% of all new courses.

Meanwhile, computer science and programming subjects accounted for 17.4% of all new courses.

According to Shah, this is unsurprising, as “the paid certificates offered by many MOOC providers focus on business and technology fields”.

While the number of MOOC users is on the rise, providers have been focusing more on the learners who take these courses for “career-related outcomes”, said Shah, as opposed to those who take the course out of their own curiosity.

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