Magazine article University Business

Massive, Open, Online, for Credit: Three Models for Allowing Students to Earn Credit for Completed MOOCs

Magazine article University Business

Massive, Open, Online, for Credit: Three Models for Allowing Students to Earn Credit for Completed MOOCs

Article excerpt

Despite growing interest in the higher ed community about the potential of credit being offered for MOOCs, the number of institutions that have rolled out such programs is small. And though more than 8 million people have taken a MOOC in the past three years, the number of students to take advantage of MOOC-for-credit programs is even smaller.

A handful of colleges and universities now allow students to convert MOOC coursework into credit--but generally the move has failed to attract a groundswell of interest among students. Two state institutions that agreed to award credit for passing a MOOC--Colorado State University-Global Campus and University of Maryland University College--have not, to date, had a single student take advantage of the offer.

An initiative called MOOC2Degree from the company Academic Partnerships, however, has been gaining traction. Launched in 2013, it allows students to earn credit for a MOOC and then apply it toward a degree program at partner institutions. Last fall, the first MOOC offered in this initiative at The University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing attracted 29 students who completed the course for credit. Fourteen of them later enrolled in the nursing degree program.

Despite the uncertain start to the idea of MOOCs for credit, the idea has generated widespread interest and has even led to legislative proposals in Florida and California. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill into law last June that orders state education officials to set rules that allow students hoping to enroll in college to earn transfer credits by taking MOOCs. A bill to require California's colleges and universities to grant credit for MOOCs was placed on hold.

"There's a hype cycle for anything new, and MOOCs were the big new thing that everyone was talking about," says Marie Cini, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at University of Maryland University College. "I think we're going to find out in the next year or two how MOOCs are going to be applied to the educational horizon. It's just like online learning--many institutions will do some piece of it, but it's not going to replace all of higher education."

Recommended by ACE

It was a move that changed the relationship between MOOCs and accredited institutions last year: The American Council on Education recommended that students completing 12 specific MOOCs--five offered by Coursera and seven by Udacity--be granted college credits. The decision whether to award credit for the ACE-endorsed MOOCs was left to individual institutions.

Colorado State University-Global Campus became the first in the U.S. to offer credit to students completing Udacity's "Introduction to Computer Science." The course complemented other offerings in the information technology program, officials had determined. To earn the credit, students also had to pass a proctored exam administered by Udacity at a cost of $89.

The process was simple, but more than a year after the offer was made, no students have sought the credit. "A lot of people start [MOOCs], but the number of students who actually complete them is very small," says Jon Bellum, the university's provost and senior vice president, adding that he believes the self-pacing required for these courses is a big reason for the lack of completion.

One study found an average 4 percent completion rate among the million users of 16 Coursera courses offered from June 2012 to June 2013. The research, conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, found that the completion rate was somewhat higher (about 6 percent) for courses that had a lower workload.

At UMUC, a predominantly online college, students who took one of the ACE-endorsed MOOCs had to demonstrate that they had learned the material in the course by taking an exam or completing a final project. This rigorous process may be one reason no student at UMUC has requested credit for a MOOC, as of yet. …

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