College Credit Eyed for Online Courses

While massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are still in their early days, the race has begun to integrate them into traditional colleges — by making them eligible for transfer credits, and by putting them to use in introductory and remedial courses.

On Tuesday, the American Council on Education, the leading umbrella group for higher education, and Coursera, a Silicon Valley MOOC provider, announced a pilot project to determine whether some free online courses are similar enough to traditional college courses that they should be eligible for credit.

The council’s credit evaluation process will begin early next year, using faculty teams to begin to assess how much students who successfully complete Coursera MOOCs have learned. Students who want to take the free classes for credit would have to pay a fee to take an identity-verified, proctored exam. If the faculty team deems the course worthy of academic credit, students who do well could pay for a transcript to submit to the college of their choice. Colleges are not required to accept those credits, but similar transcripts are already accepted by 2,000 United States colleges and universities for training courses offered by the military or by employers.

Coursera, founded last year by two Stanford computer professors, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, has 33 university partners and nearly two million students, who currently can earn certificates of completion, but not academic credit, for their work.

“I feel strongly that degrees are really valuable to people, and having MOOCs allow for credit down the line will increase the number of students with the confidence and wherewithal to complete degrees,” Professor Koller said. “If you’re a random student from another country, what are your chances of being admitted to a university here? But if you can show you’re a motivated student who’s completing five courses and done well on the proctored exam, I think a university would pay attention.”

The project is being watched closely by higher-education experts who expect MOOCs to broaden access to higher education and bring down the costs. <Read more.>

Via Tamar Lewin, The New York Times.

You may also be interested in: American Council on Education May Recommend Some Coursera Offerings for College Credit on the Chronicle of Higher Ed website.

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