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The 3M Benefits of MOOCs: Marketing, Master's/MasterTrack Cost Reduction, and Modularization and Certification
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Much to the chagrin of naysayers, critics, and traditionalists, MOOCs are definitely not dead...they're not perfect...they are no longer mostly or totally free...many lack interactivity...there is much controversy and discussion about them in terms of assessment, cost containment, completion rates, quality, and so on...but they are not dead.

In the middle of this interesting article from yesterday (MOOC Platform' New Model Draws Big Bet From Investors) by Doug Lederman in Inside Higher Education, some of the benefits of MOOCs are mentioned. I do not envision any of these benefits subsiding in the near future. As a result, the article by Lederman announces a huge equity investment of $165 million by SEEK (an Australian investment company) in Coursera and FutureLearn. Wow! According to this article, MOOCs now help universities with three things. In this blog post, I label them "The 3M Benefits of MOOCs: Marketing, Master's/MasterTrack Cost Reduction, and Modularization and Certification."

  1. Marketing: Help market master’s degrees to the millions of students in their database (“mining the millions of learners who have enrolled in open online courses on their platforms, they'll be able to drive down the cost of acquiring students for their university partners' credentialed programs…”).
  2. Master's/MasterTrack Cost Reduction: Lower the cost of master’s degrees by having the first few courses via a MOOC ("Coursera's degree programs are priced significantly lower than their on-ground counterparts (and many other online programs), although FutureLearn's, so far, are not"). My place, Indiana University IU), has a Top 10 ranked master's in accounting with edX for just $21,000. See a low cost MOOC master's degree listing from Class Central.
  3. Modularization and Certification: Offer “MasterTrack certificates” and nanodegrees…in effect, MOOCs help to “slowly disaggregate their degrees into smaller, less expensive units, a trend that could prepare their university partners for the "unbundled" world that some analysts believe is coming.” e.g., my former student, Dr. Eunjung (Grace) Oh (her bio on Coursera), is teaching in the Instructional Design MasterTrack at the University of Illinois.
MOOCs are here to stay it seems. In writing for Forbes back in October 2018, Josh Moody writes of the transformative nature of such low cost certificate and master's degree options. It is exciting to see the sudden growth of possibilities and options.

As my long-time colleague Tom Reynolds at National University noted to me a couple of weeks ago, there has been  much change related to MOOCs since our "MOOCs and Open Education Around the World" book with Routledge came out in 2015. Back in 2015, people were projecting what to do and hoping that new initiatives by their governments and institutions would make a difference, whereas today they are actually doing it and much impact is happening. Along with Tom Reynolds and I, Mimi Lee and Tom Reeves were co-editors of that initial MOOCs and Open Ed book. 

Bonk, C. J., Lee, M. M., Reeves, T. C., & Reynolds, T. H. (Eds.). (2015). MOOCs and open education around the world. NY: Routledge. Book homepage (Routledge book homepage). Amazon

The follow-up with Routledge, "MOOCs and Open Education in the Global South: Challenges, Successes, Opportunities" will come out around November 2019 and  likely be dated 2020. We have 68 contributors writing about 47 or so countries in this book, mostly in the developing world. It was wonderful to meet and work with people from so many places including Nepal, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Brazil, the UAE (includes info on Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc.), The Philippines, the Bahamas, Turkey, India, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Kenya, Thailand, South Africa, and even North Korea is covered. As that book details, there are much more MOOC changes to come.

              Zhang, K., Bonk, C. J., Reeves, T. C., & Reynolds, T. H. (Eds.). (in process for 2020). MOOCs and Open Education in Emerging Economies: Challenges, Successes, Opportunities. NY: Routledge. Same homepage

Ke Zhang from Wayne State University led the charge this time. I can't wait for it to come out. It was a ton of work. The front matter of the book will be free to read (i.e., the Foreword from Mimi Lee as well as the Preface and Chapter 1 from the editing team--Ke, me, Tom Reeves, and Tom Reynolds. I will post that are the homepage shortly along with the table of contents and book chapter abstracts. Please send me an email if you want to read the front matter sooner.

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ETR&D Special Issue Announced: “Systematic Reviews of Research on Learning Environments and Technologies"
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Announcing a Very Special Special Issue.
As noted below, there is going to be a special issue of ETR&D that sprung out of a presidential session I helped coordinate at AECT in KC in October. Below is information on that presidential session.

AECT 2018 Presidential Session

Systematic Reviews of the Research on Emerging Online Technologies:

What’s Been Done; What’s To Come

Short Description (75 word)
This session brings together researchers from four important strands of online learning environments. Each team has conducted monumental overviews of the research literature in one the following areas: social media, open textbooks, MOOCs, or synchronous learning. These researchers will detail some of the key findings from their research studies and some of the common research methods undertaken to date. They will also point to untapped areas of research in these areas that await further exploration.

Session Coordinators/Co-Chairs: Curtis J. Bonk, Indiana University and Lin Lin, University of North Texas

Presenters and Topics:
1.      A Systematic Review of the Research on Social Media in China and North America, Ke Zhang, Wayne State University, Fei Gao, Bowling Green State University, and Vanessa Dennen, Florida State University
2.      A Systematic Review of Open Textbook and OER Research, John Hilton, BYU and David Wiley, BYU and Lumen Learning
3.      A Systematic Review of Research Undertaken on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Curtis J. Bonk, Meina Zhu, and Annisa Sari, Indiana University
  1. A Systematic Review of Synchronous Online Learning Research, Florence Martin and Kiran Budhrani, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Session Moderator: Lin Lin, University of North Texas

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See links below. The special issue will come out near the end of 2020 or start of 2021. The title is: “Systematic Reviews of Research on Learning Environments and Technologies.” 

See link:

See also:
AECT Publications:
Special Issues info:

Please let Lin Lin Lipsmeyer, Florence Martin, Vanessa Dennen, or I know if you have any questions or if you plan to submit.. See our contact info below. Note: 750 word proposals are due August 1, 2019.
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Call for Papers for a Special Issue in Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D)
(Note: to be published in late 2020 or early 2021)

Systematic Reviews of Research on Learning Environments and Technology

Special Issue Editors
Dr. Florence Martin
Professor, Learning, Design and Technology, University of North Carolina Charlotte,

Dr. Vanessa P. Dennen
Professor, Instructional Systems & Learning Technologies, Florida State University,

Dr. Curtis J. Bonk
Professor, Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University,


There has been an increase in the use of learning technologies such as MOOCs, social media, open educational resources, synchronous online technologies, adaptive technologies, mobile technologies etc. These technologies are referred to as emerging technologies, a term that indicates that their status and use in educational contexts is still fairly fluid (Veletsianos, 2010). Early research in an area typically focuses on what Borko (2004) refers to as “existence proofs,” or one-off studies of individual implementations. It takes time for a more systematic, mature body of research to emerge, and for research gaps to fill in. This special issue brings together a collection of systematic review articles, each focusing on a different aspect of emerging learning technologies. This has led to a need for a strategic approach to review research on the use of these emerging learning environments and technologies. Systematic Reviews is a methodology used to systematically examine secondary data from published studies and synthesize and report findings based on the research questions. Meta-analysis studies are also considered as systematic reviews.

Focus and Scope

The intent of the special issue is to provide an overview of the current state of research on various emerging technologies, to characterize the major findings or implications of this research, as well as to identify gaps and opportunities for future researchers.

Timeline for Special Issue

June 1st, 2019
Call for Proposals for the Special Issue on Systematic Reviews of Research on Learning Environments and Technology is open
August 1st, 2019
Outline of 750 word proposal of the proposed manuscript due to the Guest Editors. Submit through the dropbox file request link. Please name your file by lastname_shortenedproposaltitle
August 15th, 2019
Invitation to submit Full Manuscript sent to authors
November 1st, 2019
First draft of paper due. Submit manuscript via Editorial  Manager (
March 1st, 2020
Review completed and author notified of decision
May 1st, 2020
Revised manuscript due.  Submit via  Editorial Manager
July 1st, 2020
Feedback due to author on revised manuscript
September 1st, 2020
Final manuscript due by author to Editorial Manager
October 1st, 2020
Final manuscript accepted and sent to publisher
Early 2021
Publication of Paper in Online First

Submission Information

Please prepare your manuscript following the Instructions for Authors on the journal homepage (

Submit your manuscript via Log into Editorial Manager. Select New Manuscript. Select Article Type  “S.I.: Systematic Reviews of Research on Learning Environments and Technology.”
We seek a broad range of potential papers for this special issue, including authors who  have published in ETRD previously and those who have not. Please share this call for papers widely within your networks.

Example Contributions

The following are examples of previous systematic reviews published on systematic reviews on emerging learning environments.

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., ... & Huang, B. (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of educational research, 74(3), 379-439.

Veletsianos, G., & Shepherdson, P. (2016). A systematic analysis and synthesis of the empirical MOOC literature published in 2013–2015. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(2).

Wu, W. H., Wu, Y. C. J., Chen, C. Y., Kao, H. Y., Lin, C. H., & Huang, S. H. (2012). Review of trends from mobile learning studies: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 59(2), 817-827.

Pimmer, C., Mateescu, M., & Gröhbiel, U. (2016). Mobile and ubiquitous learning in higher education settings. A systematic review of empirical studies. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 490-501.

Tamim, R. M., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Abrami, P. C., & Schmid, R. F. (2011). What forty years of research says about the impact of technology on learning: A second-order meta-analysis and validation study. Review of Educational research, 81(1), 4-28.


Borko, H. (2004). Professional development and teacher learning: Mapping the terrain. Educational researcher, 33(8), 3-15.

Veletsianos, G. (2010). A definition of emerging technologies for education. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging technologies in distance education (pp. 3-22). Athabasca, Canada: Athabasca University Press.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

See my complete profile

Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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