Ashwin Assomull, a partner at the Parthenon Group, told a conference yesterday that the firm was going to “sit on the fence” over whether they could be beneficial to the sector or not.
A Mooc can be a cheaper way to provide education but “on the flip side it does reduce the revenues that are associated with introductory courses” he told the Gulf Education Conference and Exhibition in London.
The courses are “very accessible” for part-time or overseas students “but when you talk to employers across Asia, [and] a number of the emerging markets, employers don’t really rate any kind of online education as a signal of quality.”
“They still believe in bricks and mortar,” he said.
Moocs could allow students to get access to a prestigious degree “sitting in Iran” but when Parthenon had surveyed potential international students, it had found they wanted to go abroad for the experience of another country, not just the content of the course.
The prospect of a job in the country where they had studied was also a big lure for students too, he added.
Dozens of highly ranked universities from across the world have signed up to Mooc platforms in the US, such as edX and Coursera, while a group of predominantly British universities are gearing up to launch a rival service, FutureLearn, in the autumn.
Earlier in his talk, Mr Assomull cast doubt on the idea that the internet would fundamentally transform the university experience. He pointed out that 30 years ago, the rise of computers had fuelled speculation that in the future all education would be done through a laptop – predictions that had not come true.
“There will be changes…but the [Parthenon] view is that it isn’t as much of a game changer as a lot of experts predict,” he said.