5. Strengths and Weaknesses of MOOCs

5.9. Summary of Strengths and Weaknesses

The main points of this analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of MOOCs can be summarised as follows:


  • MOOCs, particularly xMOOCs, deliver high-quality content from some of the world’s best universities for free or at little cost to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection.
  • MOOCs can be useful for opening access to high-quality content, particularly in developing countries, but to do so successfully will require a good deal of adaptation, and substantial investment in local support and partnerships.
  • MOOCs are valuable for developing basic conceptual learning, and for creating large online communities of interest or practice.
  • MOOCs are an extremely valuable form of lifelong learning and continuing education;
  • MOOCs have forced conventional and especially elite institutions to reappraise their strategies towards online and open learning.
  • Institutions have been able to extend their brand and status by making public their expertise and excellence in certain academic areas.
  • MOOCs main value proposition is to eliminate through computer automation and/or peer-to-peer communication the very large variable costs in higher education associated with providing learner support and quality assessment.


  • The high registration numbers for MOOCs are misleading; less than half of registrants actively participate, and of these, only a small proportion successfully complete the course; nevertheless, absolute numbers completing are still higher than for conventional courses.
  • MOOCs are expensive to develop, and although commercial organizations offering MOOC platforms have opportunities for sustainable business models, it is difficult to see how publicly funded higher education institutions can develop sustainable business models for MOOCs.
  • MOOCs tend to attract those with already a high level of education, rather than widen access.
  • MOOCs so far have been limited in the ability to develop high-level academic learning, or the high-level intellectual skills needed in a digital society.
  • Assessment of the higher levels of learning remains a challenge for MOOCs, to the extent that most MOOC providers will not recognize their own MOOCs for credit.
  • MOOC materials may be limited by copyright or time restrictions for re-use as open educational resources.