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Economic analysis of MOOCs

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Paul Belleflamme
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We start by using various economic and pedagogical concepts to understand the specificities of MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) platforms. We then discuss how the private provision of MOOCs, seen as pure public goods, can be sustained. Based on the theory of multisided platforms, we analyse five ways to monetize the MOOC business. Our conclusion is that the most sustainable approach is what we call the ‘subcontractor model’, flavored by touches of the other four models. We then claim that MOOC platforms can play a key transformative role in the higher education sector by making teaching practices evolve, rather than by replacing incumbent institutions. Finally, we derive a number of directions for public policy: governments should act to foster the cooperation between MOOC platforms and other higher education institutions, so as to improve the benefits that can arise from these technological innovations; a particular focus should also be given to professors in order to encourage them to innovate in their teaching practices.