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What if the Facebook business model was adapted to MOOCs?

Partner with community colleges to offer fully accredited high quality online courses free of charge, and obtain revenue from advertisements

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According to a May 2016 article by CommunityCollegeReview, only 30% of California community college students graduate or transfer to a 4 year university. Other states, such as Arizona, have an even more dismal situation, where the 3 year community college completion rate is only 18.2%. There have been various things proposed to help solve this problem, such as Obama possibly making community colleges nationwide tuition free. 

While that is a very well intentioned proposal, I believe the problem has less to do with community college cost, and more with the college's ability to keep students engaged, and ensure that the time at their college is well spent. An article published in March of 2016 by AffordableCollege goes into more detail about the issue of credit transferability. 

According to the AffordableCollege article, around 42% of community college students aren't able to transfer at least 10% of their credits to a 4 year university. Of that 42%, 14% lose more than 90% of their credits (!!!!!!!). The remaining 28% lose between 10% to 89% of their credits. If this is true, those numbers are staggering, and it is certainly very clear to me why fewer and fewer high school graduates are choosing to attend community colleges. 

Why spend the time attending a college where the classes are not only mundane, but the validity of their credit is in jeopardy?  

My proposal is to create an MOOC platform similar to Coursera, Edx, Udacity, and Udemy, and partner with community colleges, and public and private universities to offer engaging, fully accredited courses free of charge to students (which would differentiate me from the other platforms). Other platforms either have free, but unaccredited courses (Khan Academy), or have accredited courses for a fee that is still somewhat steep (Edx). My proposal would not only address cost, but also student engagement and credit transferability. 

My proposed revenue model is:

  • Advertisements -- Would allow tailored advertisements appropriate to an educational platform which would include coupons for high-achieving students, and  hopefully provide an incentive for students to be engaged and complete the courses. This would be very similar to the way Bing rewards its search engine users with points and prizes. 
  • Paid premium-level courses --Would provide a more specialized and higher tech course experience for students (possibly even toy with VR and AR learning!!). Students would be able to adjust the pace, style, order of content, and which content they see based on their needs. They would also have the option of turning off ads. 
  • Tutoring help -- Would have a platform that offers live, 24 hour tutoring to assist students when they need it. 
  • Recreational courses (ex: yoga, chess, basket weaving) -- Teacher would be able to set price and there would be a 10% platform fee.
  • Job postings - A section of the platform would be dedicated to job postings. Companies could post open positions for a fee. 

In addition to the features mentioned above, my platform would act as a mediator between colleges to resolve issues of credit transferability, and hopefully offer the best possible experience to transitioning students. 



Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

-Students who are unable to enroll in college due to financial, time, or geographical limitations or are just taking courses for fun -Highly motivated and committed teachers who are looking to appeal to a wider audience and acquire a second stream of income -College Administrators who desire higher attendance for their school -Companies/Startups/Corporations hoping to gather attention and added revenue

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

-Experience using, teaching, or facilitating an online course -Building an educational platform

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I would like to start by creating a beta version of the platform and reach out to teachers, undergraduate students attending community colleges, advertisers, and college administrators. They would be offered a paid opportunity to test out the courses, and gauge their experience using the website. How simple is it to navigate? What features do you think should be added or deleted? How would you rate the course setup? Course quality? Observe the results and adjust features if necessary.

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm a part-time student actively enrolled in an MOOC who works on this idea on the side.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Paul!

Happy New Year!

I found these articles that may help drive the idea forward:


I am struggling to find the submitted financials for the MOOC providers for free to find out how much they currently generate in advertising revenues. I know how to get this in the UK but not the US.

Photo of Paul

Hi Kate,

Thank you for those articles!! Will definitely take them into consideration.

If you have the financials for UK MOOC platforms and their advertising revenues, you may send them. Any data on advertising revenues and statistics would be helpful at this point.

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