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.