The Babson Survey Research Group just released a report Entitled “Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States.” The report is available http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/grade-change-2013 and the Chronicle reports on it here.
There is still concern about MOOC quality, accepting MOOC credits from other institutions, etc. But, I think the key conclusion to draw from all of the ongoing research on MOOCs is that it is still too early to tell how and whether they are or will be sustainable.
I fear, however, that the debate about MOOCs has distorted the more important discussion about online education in general. A lot of good consortium-based work is being and can be undertaken through blended or hybrid courses. Around the world, where many have never had access to traditional, residential, four-year educational opportunities, online options present affordable means of access to university education.
In this respect, it is important to distinguish MOOCs from the online opportunities that truly embody a democratizing force in educational access and attainment. If online mechanisms can expand access to the best teachers and the best universities, how can we not celebrate that and work to improve the mechanisms by which that access is provided?