Are MOOCs the new evening class?

I see that FutureLearn have published some preliminary data on participation on the first eight of their MOOCs.  They’ve attracted a fair bit of interest with high enrollment rates. I was struck by some of the demographic data they’ve published, which I’ve embedded below.  80% of participants hold a degree or Masters and 70% are over 35 years old.

Are MOOCs really just like the traditional evening classes or adult courses that Universities have been offering their local communities for decades but now thanks to technology accessible to a global community?  Is this the disruption – delivering evening classes online to a global audience rather than an end to higher education as we know it?  I’ve not researched extensively but this preliminary data from FutureLearn seems to be similar to the demographic data emerging from Coursera MOOCs but happy to be be corrected if I’m wrong.


  1. Hi there! I just discovered this blog and as far I see, it is a fantastic tool! After reading some articles, as I work for an anatomy online learning platform, several ideas came to my mind that we can apply on our company ( Thanks and continue working!

  2. I gave a paper last year and I began by making the same claim although in a more positive way. I discussed how my dad tried to educate himself over the years with a variety of free and inexpensive resources – evening classes, tv courses, study groups – and how MOOCs would have allowed to take a much wider variety of courses and at the times that suited him.

    1. Thanks for the comment Joel. I do think MOOCs are a great way for people to engage with eduction and they open up new learning opportunities for many, which previously weren’t possible. I’m just a bit cautious about the claims that they will disrupt higher education based on the current data about who signs up for them and completes them.

      1. I agree. There are still a few attempts by university to create a MOOC but the main focus has been on small programs that can be credentialed. I also have noticed that there have been a lot of “pop-up” MOOCs that are created to address a single topic like climate change denying. The majority of MOOCs, however, are for continuing education. I just don’t know how long this model can last. BTW, I curate a site on MOOCs at

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