Why do professors partake in teaching a MOOC?

Because they find it meaningful.

Coursera has a good reputation. To be part of it is to be part of a larger well-established community of free knowledge providers.  It isn’t easy to create a course: On average, professors spend 100 hours to prepare and make a on online course (source). To teach on Coursera is to bring value, hence, to have a good reputation as an instructor.

Teaching online allows to have a farther outreach than in a university environment. A professor can have 150 students a semester, but it incomparable with tens of thousands of learners who take the course on an online platform. Even if only a small fraction of online learners complete the course on time, the number is in thousands.

Some professors can actually play with certain ideas for their future classes. An online course may become a test ground. I don’t think a Russian teacher of the course “Understanding Russians” on Coursera taught this class in Russia: It is at least eyebrow-raising to teach Russians students about who they are, where they come from and where they’re going. From Russia, she can well teach anything she wants in that course and modify for future purposes.

Teaching a MOOC is a long-term investment into a professor’s university. After all, all professors represent big institutions. I don’t know about you, but it clicks in my head when there’s a course on Ancient Greece from a PennState University and a similar course from a mid-west University. It’s a false logic, but the brand is the brand–and I fall a victim of making my first preference to PennState. For those who are considering going into a university, MOOCs may provide an example of what professors are like in that school.

Finally, I also think that teaching a MOOC has an unintended outcome: Advertise professor’s products (books, journal articles, video lectures on youtube, departments within universities). It’s like building trust: “Oh, I heard this teacher and liked him, and I want to know more of the subject, I should check what s/he’s written or said elsewhere.” Totally cool.

To conclude, I think professors want to engage into posting their courses on MOOCs because in doing so they boost the reputation of their school and their own, because they are enthusiastic in disseminating knowledge, and because they may play with their courses contents and unintentionally promote their academic products.


Kolowich, Steve. (2013, March 18). The professors behind the MOOC hype. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com


6 thoughts on “Why do professors partake in teaching a MOOC?

  1. First thing is that I never knew it took that much time from a professor in order to create an online class; 100 hours is a great amount of time. I must agree with what you said as well about online classes reaching a wider range of people. Using an online class you can reach people from different states and even countries. MOOC’s seem like great way to experience new information in such an easy way for a student, but for a professor it can be a very time consuming task.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know Maggie–this is an average, so some professors spend much more time than 100 hours. If 40 hours a week is a regular workload, it is like 2.5 weeks of work non-stop. But professors usually do a whole lot of other things. Incredible.


  2. I had no idea professors spend about 100 hours developing an online course. I knew it had to be hard to develop a course, but had no idea it took that many hours. I think it is very interesting that although a professor may only have a certain number of students enrolled in the class, the instructor can impact thousands of students. I think that is an awesome aspect of MOOCs. Also, I like the idea that MOOCs are taught by college professors. I agree with you in the sense that I would choose a course based off of the school that a person teaches at. Also, it seems like MOOCs are a a great way for professors to gain publicity. Yuri, I found this post very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Yuri, Maybe picking a MOOC based on reputation isn’t so bad after all? Yes there is a big problem with the branding of institutions of higher education, but there is also the problem of universities relying increasingly on TAs and graduate students to teach students (because they are paid much less than full-time professors). These MOOCs could begin to represent the university, perhaps making a school invest more in their course development (yay for IDD&E’ers) and teachers (yay for professors). It may be idealistic to imagine, I would like to see schools branded on their ability to present a course, rather than their ability to throw a ball through a hoop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kit, I love what you propose! I agree 100%. Did I say it was bad? If I made this impression, I should rectify myself: I am totally 100% pro-MOOC, reputation is everything. I advocate for anything that has to do with bringing value to others : )


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