The quest for a sustainable business model for xMOOCs (those open courses offered by major universities) continues with a variety of possible solutions such as offering examination (and a chance to earn credits) or extra tuition for a fee as well as selling student contacts to headhunting companies. However the latest model to emerge would seem to be highly attractive to mainstream universities.
MOOC2degree is a new initiative that offers the first course of a degree program as a MOOC in the hope of recruiting students on to the full program. A consortium of seven US universities under the coordination of Academic Partnerships are already on board and intend to use MOOCs as a shop window for their regular programs. The MOOCs will be free, open to all and will actually give you credits if you sign up for the full degree program. Whether students who do not register to continue will be able to keep their credits is not clear to me but the business case here is perfectly clear and justified if it can help the university recruit more students.
"With MOOC2Degree, Academic Partnerships has collaborated with public universities to offer credit-bearing MOOCs as a first step and a free start toward earning a degree. Through this new initiative, the initial course in select online degree programs will be converted into a MOOC. Each MOOC will be the same course with the same academic content, taught by the same instructors, as currently offered degree programs at participating universities. Students who successfully complete a MOOC2Degree course earn academic credits toward a degree, based upon criteria established by participating universities."
Have a look at the introduction video from MOOC2degree.
This is very mainstream and is simply a way of recruiting to regular university degree programs and that's exactly why I think it will appeal to many universities. It's not really new either because universities like the UK's Open University have offered their courses openly through OpenLearn for several years and many students have been inspired by those free courses to sign up for the fee-paying versions. Many students on MOOC2degree will also decide to sign up for the full degree but at the same time those who simply wanted to learn without needing the credits can also benefit from the experience. It's not very disruptive (oops that word again!) and but it doesn't pretend to be. However by embracing the principle of massive online courses the participating universities will be forced to thoroughly revise their online strategy and look carefully at the pedagogy of online courses to make sure that the MOOC experience is dynamic and stimulating enough to make students willing to pay for more.
Read more in an article in eCampus News (March 2013), A new business model for MOOCs