A year ago, google Chairman Eric Schmidt compared the state of massive open online courses (or MOOCs, a sector that Coursera, EdX and Udacity dominate) to the first generation of iPhone. An iPhone 1.0 was revolutionary, but nowhere close to its potential. It improved by leaps and bounds leading to iPhone 5. The same is happening with MOOCs. Five signs that show it has evolved compared to a year ago:
1. Scale: From a platform for a bunch of American universities, MOOCs have turned global—signing up a range of universities from across the world. IIT Bombay also offers a course on MOOC.
2. Acceptance: A year ago, MOOCs largely offered courses that had little recognition either in universities or in job markets. That has changed. It is now possible to take proctored exams that enhance the credibility of the certificates.
3. Technology: The first generation MOOC courses centred around lectures that could have been delivered in a classroom, except that they were given in chunks of 8 to 15 minutes, without interaction possibilities. Khan Academy, which is not counted among MOOCs but has several of their elements, recently launched a new website that guides students on the courses based on test performances.
4. Business models: The contours of business models for online courses are getting clearer, even as there are questions on the sustainability of traditional universities.
5. Ecosystems: A range of ancillary businesses have evolved around MOOCs. Software Secure conducts proctored exams online. Prudentia, a startup, is in the process of building a platform that will help students find the right courses for them.