Are MOOCs Hitting Market Critical Mass?
The talk today in or around higher education is all about the MOOCs. And in recent months I have been privy to an increasing number of inquiries about this MOOC phenomenon from those outside of higher education, golf tends to open that door. What I am saying is that with recent announcements and publicity surrounding the MOOCs we may have reached critical mass where change occurs in the market space. So I have tried to put this in proper historical context with respect to how short history has become. Amazon and Facebook jump out as endeavors that hit critical mass and dramatically changed the market place. The key here is how do you reach critical mass.
I will define critical mass as the point where most everyone involved with a market segment becomes aware and makes a choice. And guess what, increasing access to information to form this opinion is why we are seeing such rapid change. How long do you think it took Sears & Roebuck to hit critical mass? Facebook probably hit critical mass in half the time it took Amazon. I’m not saying MOOCs have hit critical mass but the time to critical mass is only getting shorter.
Reaching critical mass does not mean anything other then enough people will have an opinion that will create a turning point, typically of rapid success or dismissal. Remember Amazon, as that new idea evolved pessimism was aboundant. It can’t succeed based on the current definition of success. I said there was no way they could continue to lose so much money and ever come out in the black. But the reality was that we all appreciated the opportunity and eventually voted with our positive opinion at critical mass which allowed the final thrust of resources to insure success. Yes, behind these opportunities tends to be venture capital.
Critical mass is just a decision point milestone identifying success or failure for a service or product that requires a representative customer base. Consumers have incredible power and influence and this is where higher education finally needs to acknowledge that students are consumers. Putting everything else aside about what MOOCs represent, consider what might happen as they reach critical mass. When I talk to these consumers outside of higher education they have the opinion that higher education is broken and they see options like MOOCs as a possible answer.
If you are higher education then consider your customer base. Consumers create change with their dollars and political influence. Are you dependent upon money or politics?