Are MOOCs Helping Online Universities Find Great Students?

learning online

Universities that offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) provide educational content that anyone can sample for free. In doing so, these universities allow students to get a feel for their educational programs and determine which schools and courses might best serve them. These free, no-risk courses help connect universities with the students most likely to excel in their programs.

Sampling the Educational Process

MOOCs allow you to sample the educational process at the colleges to which you are considering applying. You can thus evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various online programs, and decide which one is best for you. Additionally, MOOCs can provide insight into the teaching style of a particular professor.

No-Risk Exploration

You may feel reluctant to enroll in a new course or educational program if you're unsure of how you will perform in it. One poor grade can adversely affect not only your grade point average (GPA) but also your ability to complete the program. MOOCs allow you to try courses with no risk to your GPA and no impact to your transcript. You aren't even required to complete the course if you determine that it's not for you.

There is some worry that the intended target audience -- those without a post-secondary education -- is not benefiting enough from the programs. Researchers suggest that courses need to be redesigned with that audience in mind if the reason for offering a MOOC in the first place is to be maintained.


Educational exploration can prove costly in terms of not only tuition but also textbooks, learning materials, and fees. MOOCs provide an opportunity to explore an educational program or course for free. While taking a MOOC, you may discover that an educational program or field of study is exactly what you need and then go on to enroll at the college or university that provided the MOOC. However, MOOCs can also help you eliminate possible courses or fields of study from your list. This free exploration is invaluable for narrowing your list and ensuring that the classes or programs you do choose provide the best chances of success.


MOOCs make education accessible, regardless of your location and work or family commitments. You can log on and view course materials from any location and on the days and times that best suit your lifestyle. Typically, MOOCs allow you to work at your own pace, completing coursework as quickly or as slowly as necessary and focusing on mastery of the course content instead of a specific date of completion. Ultimately, MOOCs do more than help universities find great students. They help students find the right universities for their unique goals.


Written by Ashford University staff

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