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MOOCs: the true costs of free online education

Faculty Author: Michael Cusumano, MIT Sloan School of Management

Free isn’t necessarily good, especially when it comes to Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs—a recent development in distance education. While traditional online courses charge tuition, carry credit, and limit enrollment to a few dozen to ensure interaction with instructors, the MOOC is usually free, credit-less, and caters to thousands of students at a time. The New York Times dubbed 2012 “The Year of the MOOC,” and it has since become one of the hottest topics in education.

But how free are MOOCs? Given that there are real costs and quality issues associated with any type of higher education, what are some possible downsides of a free or low-fee college education?

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