David Wiley nicely wraps up MOOCs, and why they're important even if much of the hype is just marketing drivel spouted by elite institutions:
For a complex tangle of political reasons, "the people in power" are currently paying a tremendous amount of attention to issues relating to access to education, and the role of the cost of education in regulating that access. MOOCs have popularized and significantly advanced the conversation regarding both universal and free. The general public is beginning to believe that technology may have the near-term potential to provide a genuine solution to the problem of making education both universal and free. We can take advantage of the space MOOCs have created in the public conversation to introduce and advance the idea of truly open educational resources to people who are unfamiliar with it.
MOOCs have carried the ball a significant way down the field toward universal access to free, high quality education. We should be grateful for the work they've done on behalf of that goal. The primary risk we have to guard against now is someone hanging out the "Mission Accomplished" banner. MOOCs are not openly licensed, and consequently will struggle with issues of quality and will never become part of the educational infrastructure that enables truly breakthrough advances. MOOCs get us one step closer to the goal, but we need to continue advocating for true openness in order to create the space in which those advances can happen.
Exactly. MOOCs themselves aren't the answer. I'm not even sure what the question is. But, despite mis-steps and corporate branding red herrings, we are now more open than we were before. That's the important part. MOOCs are just a MacGuffin, a device to keep the plot moving.
As David has been saying for years: iterating toward openness.