Online Degrees Slowdown: A Review of MOOC Stats and Trends in 2019

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Online Degrees Slowdown: A Review of MOOC Stats and Trends in 2019

By Dhawal Shah (Columnist)     Dec 18, 2019

Online Degrees Slowdown: A Review of MOOC Stats and Trends in 2019

Last year, MOOC providers announced about 30 new online degrees. This wave of activity and spending by MOOC providers and universities gave me a feeling of deja vu: it reminded me of the 2012 MOOC hype.

That is why I called the rise of online degrees the second wave of MOOC-hype and 2018, the year of MOOC-based degrees.

But in 2019, the hype seems to have subsided: only 11 online degrees were announced this year. The total number of MOOC-based degrees has now grown to 50.

Here's what that growth looked like:

2017 2018 2019
Coursera 4 11 16
edX 1 9 10
FutureLearn 4 18 23
Udacity 1 1 1
Total 10 39 (+29) 50 (+11)

Perhaps these MOOC providers did not see the enrollments in these programs that they had hoped for. Or maybe MOOC providers got into an arms race of sorts and rushed to announce these degrees in 2018. After all, many of those programs won’t even start accepting applications for a long time.

Coursera and FutureLearn both raised significant capital this year, coincidentally from the same investor. Their break into the lucrative online degree market likely helped them obtain that new funding. Coursera achieved the coveted unicorn status after a Series E funding round of $103M. And with a $65M investment, SEEK Group became a joint owner of FutureLearn with The Open University.

Other than these funding rounds, MOOCs had a mostly uneventful year. EdX got a new co-CEO while Udacity got a new CEO. As in previous years, Udacity chopped and changed a lot. Another late-trend that we noticed is annual catalog subscriptions. Early this year, FutureLearn announced FutureLearn Unlimited ($249/year), and Coursera is also currently testing out Coursera Plus ($399-$499/year). For a single price, learners can now get access to the majority of the providers’ catalogs, instead of paying for courses and microcredentials individually.

Here’s how the top-5 MOOC providers currently look in terms of users and offerings:

Learners Courses Credentials Degrees
Coursera 45 million 3,800 420 16
edX 24 million 2,640 292 10
Udacity 11.5 million 200 40 1
FutureLearn 10 million 880 49 23
Swayam (India) 10 million 1,000 0 0

Now in its eighth year, the modern MOOC movement has reached 110 million learners, excluding China.

We saw more than 450 universities announce 2,500+ courses in 2019. This takes the total number of MOOCs launched by the end of 2019 to 13,500. The total number of MOOC-based microcredentials has now passed 800.

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