This emerging technology research report is provided to you by the Research Associates of Tech Clarity Research and Consulting. We present you with a focused analysis of a MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course, specifically for the higher education industry. A general technology description, cost/benefit analysis, complementary technology identification, and general recommendation for a course of action is contained herein.

The MOOC is a form of online learning that is increasingly approaching the emerging technology radars of universities on a global scale. The technology, often referred to as "instruction for masses," leverages large-scale participation to deliver pedagogical content over the Internet to individuals who have Web access (0). MOOCs facilitate learning through networks that form around their content and initiate tasks for users to become immersed in the course material. Developed from the idea of OpenCourseWare from Massachusetts of Technology, the MOOC takes on a lecture-based medium and incorporates assessments to validate learning. The three organizations that serve as MOOC technical platforms for universities and instructors, called the "Big Three," include Coursera, edX, and Udacity. Each is different in its offerings, but each provide a way to disseminate MOOCs from a central hub.

MOOC technology has several costs and benefits for universities as well as students. Universities could provide students with an avenue to learn more collaboratively, but at an increased risk of academic dishonesty by integrating MOOCs. If a university were to develop and roll out its own MOOC, it would be at the risk of hardware and time investments. End users would benefit from MOOCs' low barrier to entry but would also compete against a large user base for the professor's attention. MOOCs are not a perfect upgrade from traditional learning/teaching methods, but can provide useful benefits to large groups of willing participants. Generally, however, we have found that the benefits of the technology outweigh its costs.

The development and dissemination of MOOCs are dependent on several other technologies. These technologies include hardware such as recording equipment, computers, and servers, as well as software technologies such as MOOC building software, platforms, and the Internet. In addition to these technologies, MOOCs create significant networks as they foster learning among like minded users and keen professors. Some MOOCs require network effects as a mechanism of assessing coursework, while on other MOOCs networks are simply supplemental to the educational experience.

As professionals at Tech Clarity Research and Consulting, we believe that no university should ignore this emerging technology. Simply put, MOOCs are challenging the traditional classroom educational models and require attention as well as consideration. We recommend that established universities-- ones with a strong brand, large endowment, and notable academic departments and faculty-- create and develop their own MOOCs as aggressive adopters of the technology. Currently, Coursera provides the greatest benefit to these institutions with the largest user base and ability for cross-collaboration across institutions. Lesser-established universities should refrain from doing so because of their limited budgets as well as high monetary and time costs involved. Lastly, we recommend that all universities work towards integrating MOOC technology into their curricula following a fast-follower approach to benefit from the influx of the proliferation of education material.