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Jun 04, 2014 02:37 PM EDT

MOOCs Do Not Pose A Threat To Business Schools

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Massive open online courses (MOOC) do not pose a threat to business schools because they target different student demographics, according to a recent study Inside Higher Ed reported.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania concluded that the low-cost digital alternatives to MBA programs do not appear to threaten existing business programs, but "seem to attract students for whom traditional business school offerings are out of reach," the Harvard Business Review reported.

Over the past few years, business school administrators have been worrying that MOOCs, which are run by elite business schools, will cannibalize their business model. With elite schools offering their own courses through platforms like Coursera, "commentators have pointed out that it's now possible to cobble together an elite MBA for free," the Harvard Business Review reported.

At the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, nearly 20 percent of the annual income comes from executive education programs, while at Harvard Business School 26 percent does. At IESE Business School, nearly half of the revenue comes from executive programs.

For the study, researchers analyzed student data collected from nine MOOCs offered by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. This includes a demographic survey with more than 65,000 responses.

The nine MOOCs consisted of four that introduce the MBA core - Accounting, Finance, Marketing, and Operations Management - as well as Gamification and the Global Business of Sports.

The researchers found that 78 percent of more than 875,000 students enrolled resided outside of the United States.

In comparison to data from the Graduate Management Admission Council, MBA programs generally enroll a majority of students who reside in the United States. The MOOCs also attracted more underrepresented students of color.

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