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.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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sohaibmasood   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/19/2013 10:41:00 AM
Re: more alternatives the better
tinym, I hope so too. These platforms provide reasonable knowledge to people and must come up with ways of sustenance. 
sohaibmasood   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/19/2013 10:36:52 AM
Re: Hard to have traditional universities to accept this credit
singlemud, how would one cheat on a biometric authentication? Get someone else to authenticate for themselves? Or just send the biometric ID of someone else and let him appear in the test? Not sure how this will turn out. 
singlemud   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/18/2013 5:57:54 PM
Hard to have traditional universities to accept this credit
I think it is pretty easy to cheat on the so called biometric authentication and online exams. The exams centers exist for a reason
Hospice_Houngbo   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/17/2013 10:15:21 PM
Re: more alternatives the better

I think that MOOCs will be around for a long while as educational institutions will be competing to reach as many people as possible. And this is just the start.
tinym   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/17/2013 5:01:58 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
I agree, Broadway. I like the current range of courses available at Udacity and Coursera. I do hope these platforms find ways to make them profitable so they stick around. Even without accreditation, they're good resources.
Broadway   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/17/2013 2:59:56 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
MOOCs are great as alternatives to community colleges and lower-tier four-year colleges. The more of these certfied and accredited MOOCs, the better for all of society, because working-age Americans are in desperate need for educational opportunities beyond the current model. However, elite universities will never go away, not will they be buying into accedited MOOCs any time soon.
Hammad Masood   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/17/2013 12:26:52 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
Its even good for students to cover up an extra course if they lack behind their normal batch and graduate on time.
Henrisha   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/17/2013 10:30:44 AM
Re: more alternatives the better
It's unfortunate that some universities are not giving credits to those who have completed online courses. I think you're right that one reason might be varying standards in their system, but there is a way to get around that, right? By setting the standards in the first place. 
Salik   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/17/2013 2:07:12 AM
Re: more alternatives the better
One thing I want to know from the article is whether a student can register only in one course during the tenure of the degree, or multiple courses could be selected as per the liking of the student? 

However, in either case, I think that having approved Credit for MOOCs, a great alternative serves the students. It helps them choose whatever course they want to as per requirements. I would definitely go for it now, knowing it will count at the end of my total credits at my university. 
Hospice_Houngbo   MOOCs Approved for Credit, But Who Cares?   2/16/2013 11:51:30 PM
Re: more alternatives the better
It is an alternative option for those who want to continue their study while working. It is also a way for students from unprivileged countries to get almost the same education as students from Western countries.
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