Colleges Consider Awarding Credit For Free MOOC Courses
By Wired Academic on November 15, 2012
Domestic, MOOCs, Open Source Education, Personalized Learning, Required, Startups, Universities & Colleges
It’s the next step in the evolution of Massive Open Online Courses – MOOCs: People who pass the courses from players such as Coursera, edX or Udacity should be able to receive college credit… not just certificates or badges.
The big story this week is that Coursera is in talks with the American Council on Education to grant degrees for online classes offered through the network of MOOC courses that are currently free and not-for-credit. For that to happen, the parties would have to ensure they could prevent cheating and meet other academic standards. Colleges would also have to decide whether they accept Coursera credits. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the review and several other MOOC-related developments.
If ACE and Coursera begin offering courses for credit, colleges will face an interesting dilemma. Accepting Coursera credit and offering MOOC courses could mean lost revenue and disruption to the model of online, for-profit colleges as well as traditional colleges. Strategically, however, using such courses raises the profile and flexibility of these colleges. Undoubtedly, the move would be appreciated by students who are facing increases in tuition and staggering loads of debt.
This is a proper shift in the balance of power to students. It has the potential to increase graduation rates both domestically and abroad. It also has the potential to bring down those soaring tuition costs.
We survey how several media outlets reported this next step in the MOOC story:
Jeffrey R. Young writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
The American Council on Education has agreed to review a handful of free online courses offered by elite universities and may recommend that other colleges grant credit for them.
The move could lead to a world in which many students graduate from traditional colleges faster by taking self-guided courses on the side, taught free by professors from Stanford University, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and other well-known colleges.
In what leaders describe as a pilot project, the group will consider five to 10 massive open online courses, or MOOC’s, offered through Coursera for possible inclusion in the council’s College Credit Recommendation Service. That service has been around since the 1970s and focuses on certifying training courses, offered outside of traditional colleges, for which students might want college credit. McDonald’s Hamburger University, for example, is among the hundreds of institutions with courses certified through ACE Credit, as the service is known. Last year, a provider of low-cost online courses called StraighterLine became one of the first online institutions to win inclusion in the recommendation service.
ACE also announced on Tuesday that it will set up a Presidential Innovation Lab that will bring together college leaders to discuss the potential of MOOC’s and new business models for higher education. The lab is supported by an $895,453 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of about $3-million in new MOOC-related grants announced Tuesday.
A stamp of approval from the organization could enhance the value of MOOCs to universities and lead to lower tuition costs for students, who could earn credit toward a college degree for passing a particular course. At issue is whether the quality of the courses offered through MOOCs are equivalent to similar courses offered in traditional classrooms.
The popularity of MOOCs, which have been around for barely a year, has intensified quickly. Top faculty at dozens of the world’s most elite colleges and universities are teaching hundreds of online courses in a variety of disciplines to millions of students around the world. The courses are free, but they don’t count toward traditional degree programs.
“MOOCs are an intriguing, innovative new approach that holds much promise for engaging students across the country and around the world, as well as for helping colleges and universities broaden their reach,” says Molly Corbett Broad, president of the council. “But as with any new approach, there are many questions about long-term potential, and ACE is eager to help answer them.”
Part of the council’s plan, announced Tuesday and beginning next year, involves teams of faculty that will examine the content and rigor of particular courses to evaluate whether they should be recommended for college credit. Central to that activity is a division of the council, called ACE CREDIT, that was created in 1974 to help adults gain credit for courses and exams taken outside traditional degree programs. The team makes recommendations and provides transcripts for documentation, but it would be up to individual schools whether to accept the course for credit.
Steve Kolowich at InsideHigherEd writes in October:
Coursera, the largest provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs), has entered into a contract to license several of the courses it has built with its university partners to Antioch University, which would offer versions of the MOOCs for credit as part of a bachelor’s degree program.
The deal represents one of the first instances of a third-party institution buying permission to incorporate a MOOC into its curriculum — and awarding credit for the MOOC — in an effort to lower the full cost of a degree for students. It is also a first step for Coursera and its partners toward developing a revenue stream from licensing its courses. “It’s a very different kind of arrangement than our university partnerships,” says Daphne Koller, a Coursera co-founder, who along with her co-founder Andrew Ng has signed deals to host MOOCs from 33 universities on Coursera’s platform.
Antioch will pay Coursera an undisclosed amount for permission to use several courses, including ones from Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania. The company will share that revenue with the universities, which own intellectual property rights for their courses as part of their contracts with Coursera. According to a copy of a contract with one of its university partners, obtained by Inside Higher Ed via an open records request, the company plans to pay its university partners between 6 and 15 percent of gross revenue for courses offered through the platform.
If Coursera does manage to make money through content licensing, it could create monetary incentives for professors at the company’s partner universities who might be considering whether adapting their courses as MOOCs would be worth their while. “The faculty member would see a portion of the revenue,” says Lynne O’Brien, director of the center for innovative teaching at Duke. “When Coursera makes money, we’ll make money, and when we make money, the faculty member will make money.”
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