Broad online learning EdTech and USA universities: symbiotic relationships in a post-MOOC world

Duncan A. Thomas, Maria Nedeva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


From 2012 USA universities entered new partnerships with private sector companies including Silicon Valley start-up Coursera. Coursera spearheads a new broad online learning segment of the fast growing global ‘educational technology’ (EdTech) sector. They offered free ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCs) for global, universal learner audiences. Since 2015 several USA universities and Coursera expanded into ‘post-MOOC’, paid, accredited online modules and full degrees. We frame these post-MOOC developments as shaped by dynamic EdTech/university relationships and argue universities have been actively, and willingly, re-shaping higher education with EdTech; they are not passive victims of a potentially disruptive global ‘MOOC phenomenon’. Our argument builds on interviews at six highly committed USA universities and at Coursera. These reveal rationales for post-MOOC developments related to: actions and attitudes of university actors; university resources; differing teaching subject areas; and exclusivity and longevity in relationships. We suggest that post-MOOC EdTech/university relationships are symbiotic, with three possible variants: commensal (neutral); mutualistic (positive); and parasitic (negative). We finally question whether current relationships may yet change from largely mutualistic to parasitic, given the apparent ambitions of Coursera and the wider global EdTech sector.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1730-1749
Number of pages20
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number10
Early online date4 Nov 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Nov 2018

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research


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