Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Are MOOC Credits the "Real Deal?"

This post is also being published on my Internet Age Education blog.  As reported by Times Higher Education, the co-founder of one of the largest MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course), thinks that certifications offered by these open courses will never be as valuable as a degree from one of their partner universities.   Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera and an Associate Professor in Stanford University's computer science department said "I don't think this will ever be as valuable as a degree from one of our partner universities." Coursera is one of several large US companies offering free online access to university courses, and the first to start charging participants who wish to obtain accreditation. Ng added, "I really don't want to put us in competition with other ways of education because I think universities provide a great service."
On this question, I would respectfully disagree with the co-founder of Coursera, for several reasons.   First, in many fields, especially the STEM disciplines, employers care much more about a potential employee's capability and competence than the degree they may or may not possess.  This is especially true in such areas as computer programming and coding.  
Second, some universities are already offering credit for MOOC courses, or looking at new arrangements that amount to the same thing.  As reported by Inside Higher Ed Coursera, the largest provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs), has entered into a contract to license several of the courses it has built with its university partners to Antioch University, which would offer versions of the MOOCs for credit as part of a bachelor’s degree program. The deal represents one of the first instances of a third-party institution buying permission to incorporate a MOOC into its curriculum -- and awarding credit for the MOOC -- in an effort to lower the full cost of a degree for students. It is also a first step for Coursera and its partners toward developing a revenue stream from licensing its courses.
Third, the incorporation of social media capabilities has already dramatically transformed the nature of online coursework and promises to change it even further in the future.  Online courses taken at some off-campus location around the globe are becoming more like on-campus courses, even as in-residence or on-campus courses today incorporate much more online content.
In short, I would argue that there is already considerable real value to a MOOC course certification, and that value is only going to increase.  The genie is out of the bottle in relation to the impact of expanding digital networks on higher education.

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