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Articles: A MOOC with a Working Business Model (

A MOOC with a Working Business Model (

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This piece is a response to Melissa Korn and Jennifer Levitz’s article “Online Courses seek a Business Model” in the Wall Street Journal.

If you were told of a MOOC that had 1.5 million learners and 250,000 graduates worldwide, the names Coursera and Udacity would probably come to mind. What if I told you this MOOC was founded in 2007, has over 20,000 favorable testimonials on its website, is based out of Ireland, and is profitably educating millions for free? Would you know who I am talking about?

In contrast with celebrity MOOCs who are struggling for business models — and yet have raised millions of dollars in funding — ALISON has become successful with less than $2 million in capital. It is growing faster than ever.

Unlike newer MOOCs, ALISON doesn’t seek to educate the elite. Instead, it focuses on the working class, students who may never have gotten the chance to attend college and who need to develop certain skills. It caters to people marginalized from basic education and training, especially those in developing world countries.

With learners in every country worldwide, ALISON’s business model might suggest where others might go to in time; it is supported by advertisements. After all, if advertising can support the development of radio and television, why not education?

A wonderfully equitable aspect of advertising-supported education, as founder Mike Feerick explains, is that when someone clicks on an ad on ALISON while studying basic accounting in Yemen, Indonesia or India, the income is next to zero. When an American in California clicks on an ad, however, he or she pays for the next hundred students in those countries. The challenge, says Feerick, is that his content must be of high-interest to the learner in USA. It’s a challenge he and his team are very willing to accept.

As I travel around the world, I come across innovators in education from all different countries. Many of them have international impact: ALISON, for example, has 200,000 learners in the USA. Although not high-profile, they are making an impact all the same, and with a free certification system that really should get more attention. Celebrity MOOCs are great, but there are some less-tinseled MOOCs out there that we can learn a lot from – in more ways than one!

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ALISON in Media

Sunday Business Post Building on education's location indifference - Nov 2013
Irish Times He'd Like to Teach the World - for Free - Nov 2013
BBC The Next Big Education Player? - October 2013
EURONEWS EURONEWS visits ALISON HQ - Talks to Learners – Oct 2013
Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference Refining Education for the Next Generation – Sept 2013
The Economist Army of Free Online Resources Threaten Higher Education - The Economist - July 2013 ALISON named one of Europe's most innovative E-Learning Companies - June 2013
Harvard University Bulletin Training the Global Workforce, Gratis - June 2013 Early MOOC takes a different path - Information Week - Jan 2013
New York Times Open Education for a Global Economy - New York Times - July 2012

More Information

For further information, please contact Fiona McGarry

The Marketing Department,
Level One Building,
Galway Technology Park,

Tel: +353-91-744587


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