How to make a European MOOC platform sustainable?

Carmen_m Lydia_mby Carmen Padron-Napoles & Lydia Montandon, ATOS, Spain

We are reaching the end of our European Project EMMA and, although the sustainability of the platform has been a concern throughout the project, we are now faced with “what will happen next?”

We have been able to demonstrate that most of EMMA’s key values are beneficial to our users, both students and education professionals. EMMA’s features, such as the multilingual translation and transcription facility and the learning analytics services for monitoring and evaluating MOOCs, are highly appreciated. We have committed organisations that are having a great success with their MOOCs on EMMA and have learned how to make the best of EMMA. EMMA supports teachers in designing, developing and deploying successful MOOCs and actually offers a series of MOOCs targeting continuous professional development, in particular for education and training professionals.

However, is this enough to keep the EMMA infrastructure running in the long term? We know that developing good quality MOOCs is expensive, and running them successfully is not only costly but depends on extended networking capacities. Additionally, the platform and related services need to be maintained and upgraded. Finally, competition is worth taking into account, as EMMA is not the only MOOC platform on the European landscape, although not many initiatives can claim to be of European dimension/coverage.

Several business models are being adopted by existing MOOC platforms and financing options are variable. Usually diversification of revenue streams is the most viable solution, with a tradeoff between membership or certification fees, public or private grants. However, in EMMA, we believe that education can be seen as a common good and not a profitable business. Although we expect that part of the revenue may come from membership fees (i.e. organisations interested in hosting MOOCs on EMMA and thus benefiting from all services, while expected to bring in a critical mass of potential learners), we are looking at alternative ways to make EMMA sustainable in the future.


Figure 1: EMMA shared economy & revenue streams hybrid model

Jeremy Rifkin suggests that “the collaborative economy is coming on strong”1 and in our eyes, EMMA could become a nice case of shareconomy, where MOOC and technology providers join forces to offer added value for themselves and to be shared with peers. In the picture below, we can see how the left hand side of our model is based on the more you contribute, the more you get back, such as a reduced member fee. Complementarily additional options are considered, as depicted on the far right side, such as an outside organisation pay per use approach and other means of financing.

Finally, if, based on the most successful and long-lasting MOOCs experiences, EMMA could reinforce its value proposition with a stronger focus on a specific target group, it would then be able to really position itself as unique in the European market. It would be the moment to seek alliances with European national MOOC platforms as a channel to engage more users and thus ensure a more stable future.

1Jeremy Rifkin, The zero marginal cost society: the internet of things, the collaborative commons, and the eclipse of capitalism (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2014), 259.

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