When massive open online courses (MOOCs) first captured global attention in 2012, advocates imagined a disruptive transformation in postsecondary education. Video lectures from the world's best professors could be broadcast to the farthest reaches of the networked world, and students could demonstrate proficiency using innovative computer-graded assessments, even in places with limited access to traditional education.
But after promising a reordering of higher education, the field is instead coalescing around a different, much older business model: helping universities outsource their online master's degrees for professionals. Shedding light on the reasons for this shift, three patterns emerge from data on MOOCs provided by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology via the edX platform:
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