Monday, October 28, 2013

Free University Credits Given Away in MOOCville

Well, hello there. Good to see you again!

I've been away from MOOCville for a month, and you all know the old saying, "When the CAT is away the MOOCs will play." (Not sure what CAT stands for - maybe 'cagey ancient teacher' or 'covert anti-technocrat'??') So let's catch up. Today I'll focus on MOOCs for Credit.

More colleges are offering actual bankable credits for MOOCs.  The Baltimore Sun reports that the University of Maryland's University College will accept some MOOCs for college credit. This move is part of a broader study, funded by the Gates Foundation, to discover how students using MOOCs instead of conventional courses will do in further education.The courses will include those already approved by the American Council on Education (ACE) as equivalent to college courses. The students will earn their credits in two ways: (i) by earning verified certificates by taking proctored exams (trhe Coursera Signature Level concept), or (ii) by undergoing 'rigorous prior learning assessment' - essentially testing out - at the UMUC campus.  ACE is, not surprisingly, a partner in the study. UMUC has been offering college credits for life experience for forty years and this is a very natural - one might say inevitable - extension of that effort.

UMUC has been a leader in offering programs for adult and 'non-traditional students. If they can offer credit for diverse work experiences of undocumented relevance for academic growth, why not for actual courses certified by the appropriate body as equivalent to college courses. And if UMUC makes this move, what is to stop other colleges and universities from following? In fact, the acceptance of MOOCs for credit is certain to become a marketing move that other providers will find it difficult to resist. Students will demand to know why schools they are considering refuse to accept these courses, and instead force them to pay ever-increasing tuition fees for the same courses. And they won't belly up if they find good alternatives.

The take-away: the "MOOCs for Credit" trend is unstoppable.

MOOC-based credits as a marketing ploy. The University of Cincinnati has announced that it is offering 2 free credits for students participating in its MOOC, "Innovation and Design Thinking," - for students who gain the certificate of learning and then apply and are admitted to the University's Lindner College of Business. This goes one step further than a development announced by Temple University in Philadelphia (truth in advertising - Temple is my home base) last month to permit students taking its introductory level business MOOCs to test out of the parallel courses and qualify for more advanced standing. In the Temple move, the students do not save anything on their tuition payments but get to graduate with more advanced level courses for the same price. On the Cincinnati gambit the students instead get bankable credits and can thus graduate earlier and at less cost. It will be interesting to see which of these models (or both, or neither) catches on.

Takeaway: Universities will continue to invent and experiment with various alternatives in using MOOCs to make their programs appealing to cost-conscious students.