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University of London expands brand promotion through MOOCs

With each MOOC amounting to about £20,000 in up-front production and preparation costs, Director of Academic Development Mike Kerrison said he is “delighted” with the number of students signed up for full-time degree courses.

“We thought six to 10 per MOOC would give us the kind of contribution that would make it worthwhile,” he said. “That £20,000 isn’t going to be the same if we run it four or five times next year. It should now help to pay its way with lighter input from the instructors.”

“It’s a powerful tool in terms of getting reach for our educational products”

The MOOCs were also effective in expanding the university’s brand recognition globally. “It’s a powerful tool in terms of getting reach for our educational products,” he said. “We want to get that message out because we’re in the business of not making a lot of money but getting more students enrolled because that’s our mission.”

The four courses launched on the Coursera platform in June of this year included Creative Programming for Digital Media & Mobile Apps, English Common Law: Structure and Principles, Malicious Software and its Underground Economy: Two Sides to Every Story, and The Camera Never Lies.

Of the 45 students who have applied for fee-paying programmes, over 90% are interested in undergraduate degrees, mostly Bachelors of Law after having done the English Common Law MOOC.

About 1.5% of students paid US$49 for Coursera’s Signature Track verification and certification scheme resulting in US$70,000 net revenue of which the university is set to receive about 15%. “It’s a relatively small sum on a small number of MOOCs, but it helps maintain them,” said Kerrison.

Since introducing Signature Track at the beginning of this year, Coursera has generated about US$1m. According to  Kerrison, there is growing demand for the certification as a form of continuing professional development (CPD) presenting a viable option to offset institutions’ investment in MOOCs.

Other data released by the university reveals similarly massive figures compared to other universities’ reports. Initially, 212,110 students registered for the courses, with Creative Programming attracting the largest amount of students.

Ninety thousand of those students went on to become “active students” participating in forums, watching videos or taking an exam. Of those, 8,843 were issued a Statement of Accomplishment resulting in an overall 9% completion rate of the four courses.

Despite the low completion rate, Kerrison points out the figure doesn’t reflect how effectively MOOCs reach potential full-time students. “There is undoubtedly a demographic who is going to dip in and out in to see whether or not it’s for them,” he said. “Developing nations aren’t necessarily 20 year olds, they’re older and seeing an opportunity perhaps to get educated.”

About 1.5% of students paid US$49 for Coursera’s Signature Track resulting in US$70,000 net revenue of which the university is set to receive about 15%

The university’s average MOOC student was 34 years old (lower than Coursera’s average 37 years old) and almost 70% had already completed some form of higher education qualification. Most reported being employed in IT or legal fields.

Demographics of the MOOCs were also inline with previously collected Coursera data with the greatest cohort of students (22%) reportedly living in the US followed by India (6%), the UK (5%), Brazil (4%) and Spain (4%).

In a post-course survey, 91% of respondents rated their MOOC experience as Good, Very Good or Excellent. On the back of such positive feedback, the university is in the process of finalising five new MOOC courses it plans to offer in 2014 via Coursera in addition to relaunching the initial four.

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