MOOCs Approved for Credit, but Who Cares?

Sara Peters, Editor in Chief | 2/16/2013 | 22 comments

Sara Peters
The American Council on Education (ACE) has recommended that students be able to earn college credit for four of the massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered by Coursera. (ACE also recommended that a fifth Coursera class be eligible for vocational school credit.)

Yet some of the universities that have created those approved courses are ignoring ACE's advice and won't even give students credit for taking their own Coursera classes.

One of the ACE-approved classes is Calculus: Single Variable, created by the University of Pennsylvania's professor Robert Ghrist -- a class that the university is particularly proud of. Last month, I spoke to Ed Rock, director of open-course initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, for my E2 post, "Massive Open Online Courses Improve Higher Ed." Rock gave the calculus course the highest praise, also stating: "Once [Ghrist has] prepared a Coursera course, he doesn't go back to teaching calculus the same way."

Nevertheless, Rock told The New York Times that Penn will not be offering college credit for completion of the online course. He continues to view MOOCs less as college classes, and more like Advanced Placement tests.

Students at other universities, however, may have better luck. More than 2,000 higher-ed institutions (including Penn) are part of the ACE network, using ACE's College Credit Recommendation Service when deciding whether or not to issue credit for classes and exams "taken outside of traditional degree programs."

That's good news for students who are looking for some more affordable ways to earn a degree. However, although a person can take any of Coursera's MOOCs for free, they will need to spend some money if they want a university to accept it for credit.

First, they must enroll for the course's "signature track" -- the regular price of the Penn calculus is currently listed as $99, with a discounted introductory price of $49. The reason for paying for the signature track is so that you can earn a certificate of completion -- Coursera verifies a student's progress through the use of biometric authentication.

Once a student has completed the signature track Coursera class, they can then earn the ACE-approved credits by taking an online proctored exam -- which costs an additional $79.

Nevertheless, the ACE seal of approval might encourage more MOOC students to pay for the signature track, and that's great news for Coursera, which has been surviving on the generosity of patient investors while struggling to figure out how to bring in revenue.

What do you think? Last month, some of you said that you wouldn't bother taking any MOOCs unless they were for-credit. Will you now take a second look at those classes?

Education CIOs, if your provost comes asking for your opinion, what will you say? Are you convinced that Coursera's biometric authentication system and proctored online exam sufficiently prevents cheating? Let us know in the comments below.

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batye   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   3/3/2013 9:58:16 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
yes interesting and great point. Sara...

but if we look at the program CLEP -

before it was a great resistance, but now it get accepted in Unv. and Colleges for a credit...

giving credit for what student already know - would potentially attract more students to this institution willing to give credit...
impactnow   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/21/2013 7:09:26 PM
Putting your credit where your courses are
If universities truly believe in the value of online education they should offer credit for the courses even if the fee needs to be applied for additional costs. I would still take a class for no credit but I have an MBA and would be interested in furthering my learning in some new areas.
Salik   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/21/2013 2:10:30 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
That shall be great Sara. :)

One more thing I am unsure of, how does universities benefit from providing credits for each online course the students take?
Sara Peters   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/21/2013 1:24:42 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
@Salik  That limit, if there is one, would be set by each school individually. It's possible that state schools might be influenced by state governments' departments of education and Ivy League schools might be influenced by the Ivy League. I'm afraid I don't know anything more specific than that right now, but I'll look into it for you. More info to come, hopefully!
Sara Peters   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/21/2013 1:21:08 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
@Syerita  Yeah, at the very least I think the schools that offer the classes should accept credits for them. I'm very interested to see what happens next. Will universities start giving credit for those classes, and if so, will the schools that created them be persuaded to do so?
Syerita Turner   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/21/2013 8:44:47 AM
Re: more alternatives the better
In my opinion, I think that they should give credit for the courses. If they are so highly regarded then why not. Students work so hard for these grades and then to tell them that they are not getting any credit for it is really disheartening. I think that colleges need to look at taking credits from other sources because just as they have a class so do other places. Be a little bit more open-minded.
Salik   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/20/2013 10:56:34 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
@Sara, that is exactly what I was asking. How many online courses/MOOCs at max does a university allow students to take? Is there any restriction on the limitations? 
Sara Peters   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/20/2013 2:45:02 PM
Re: Hard to have traditional universities to accept this credit
@sohaibmassood @singlemud  Yes, I think that a MOOC student would have to decide from the very beginning that they're going to cheat on the final exam, and ask the person who's going to take the final for them to provide their own biometric data when the student first signs up for the class. 
Sara Peters   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/20/2013 2:24:10 PM
Johnny Football Taking All Online
On a related note, Heisman Trophy-winner Johnny Manziel (AKA Johnny Football) is taking ALL of his courses at Texas A&M online this semester. Apparently there were too many fellow students asking for his autograph...

Check it out:
Sara Peters   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/20/2013 2:20:42 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
@Salik  I'm not sure I understand your question here. There isn't a limit to how many Coursera courses a person can take at once. But did you mean you wonder if universities put a limit on how many online courses / MOOCs a student can take?
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