Will ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCS) begin to offer credit?

14 Nov

Moi discussed online college courses in Do online badges give a more realistic appraisal than grades?

The New York Times reported about the online education trend in the article, Online Enterprises Gain Foothold as Path to a College Degree http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/education/25future.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

Often these online ventures will offer a certificate or badge to show completion of a course of study. Education Portal defines the difference between a certificate and diploma:

Certificate Overview

A certificate is earned by a student after taking a series of courses relating to a subject. Students often earn certificates to get a step ahead in the professional field of their interest and certificates may be offered in similar programs as degrees. For instance, there are certificates in business, literature and technical programs. In some technical programs, a certificate may be required.

There are also graduate certificates, often taken either alone or alongside a graduate degree program. In some programs, the student may use his or her electives to fulfill a certificate in order to make him or herself more desirable to a potential employer.

Certificate programs taken alone are similar to associate’s degree programs. However, they take less time because core academic programs are not required.

Diploma Overview

Diplomas are similar to certificates but often earned at clinical schools. For instance, a diploma of nursing is offered as an option besides an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. This diploma program is only offered at hospitals with specialty programs that provide training. A diploma often takes two years and involves as much clinical work as classroom.

Degree Overview

An academic degree can be earned at many levels, including associate’s, which takes two years, bachelor’s, which takes four years, master’s, which is two years beyond a bachelor’s degree, and doctoral, which is several years beyond a master’s degree.

A degree program differs from certificates and diploma programs in that it often requires the student to take core courses to support a more rounded education. For instance, at many universities, those earning their bachelor’s degree are required to take English, math, science, philosophy and history. Earning a degree also opens up many more potential doors to the student than would a certificate or diploma. Many careers require that the student has earned at least a bachelor’s degree; several career options require more than this. http://education-portal.com/articles/What_is_the_Difference_Between_a_Certificate_Diploma_and_Degree.html

Some online universities are awarding badges. Lynn O’Shaughnessy reports in the U.S. News article, Digital Badges Could Significantly Impact Higher Education. http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-solution/2011/10/04/digital-badges-could-significantly-impact-higher-education https://drwilda.com/2012/01/23/can-free-online-universities-change-the-higher-education-model/


Nick Anderson reports in the Washington Post article, Exploring credits for free online courses:

The American Council on Education, which represents university presidents, said Tuesday it is teaming with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the free online education provider Coursera on an initiative to seek answers to those questions.

The announcement is the latest sign of the emerging influence of what are known as mass­ive open online courses, or MOOCs. Millions of people this year have tried out MOOCs on Web sites such as Coursera, edX, Udacity and others.

MOOCs are an intriguing, innovative new approach that hold much promise for engaging students across the country and around the world, as well as for helping colleges and universities broaden their reach,” Molly Corbett Broad, president of the council, said in a statement. She said the council is eager to help answer questions such as whether the free online courses can “increase learning productivity.”

Under the initiative, Coursera will pay the council a to-be-determined fee to evaluate the credit-worthiness of a selection of its courses. Coursera, a for-profit company, hosts about 200 courses from 33 prominent institutions. Among local participants are the universities of Virginia and Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.

Broad said the council also is in discussions with edX, a nonprofit MOOC venture led by MIT and Harvard University, about possible analysis of its courses.

The universities that offer MOOCs have not said that they intend to award credits for them. But a recommendation from the council that the courses are worthy of credit would be a key step toward helping students obtain transfer credit from other schools. Another key step would be to arrange proctored exams to verify student work….

Some university presidents are skeptical.

C.L. Max Nikias, president of the University of Southern California, said his school will not offer free online courses. He said he worries about how much students learn through MOOCs and whether their achievement can be verified. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/exploring-credits-for-free-online-courses/2012/11/13/ccdcbac8-2d8f-11e2-89d4-040c9330702a_story.html?wpisrc=emailtoafriend

See, College Credit Eyed for Online Courses http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/education/moocs-to-be-evaluated-for-possible-college-credit.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Jeffrey R. Young reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, American Council on Education May Recommend Some Coursera Offerings for College Credit:

ACE also announced on Tuesday that it will set up a Presidential Innovation Lab that will bring together college leaders to discuss the potential of MOOC’s and new business models for higher education. The lab is supported by an $895,453 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of about $3-million in new MOOC-related grants announced Tuesday.

The review process by the council will be “similar to the way regional accreditation works,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of ACE. Professors will look at the content, teaching methods, “evidence of student engagement,” and other elements of MOOC’s to see if they appear equivalent to that taught by an accredited college, she added.

To pass the council’s test, Coursera will make a few changes in the courses for which it seeks certification. For instance, ACE requires an “authentication of identity,” said Ms. Broad, meaning that Coursera must have some kind of proctored examination or other way to prove that students are who they say they are.

For the courses in the pilot project, Coursera will form partnerships with online proctoring companies that use Webcams and special software to monitor tests remotely, said Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera. Students hold up their ID’s to a Webcam during an appointed exam time, and an employee from the proctoring company checks them to verify identity, and then watches students take the test to make sure they aren’t cheating.

Meanwhile, the proctoring company uses software to monitor the students’ activity to make sure they aren’t just Googling the answers. Ms. Koller expects the cost of the proctoring to be less than $30 per exam.

The remote-proctoring strategy differs from an identity-verification system used by other providers of MOOC’s, including edX, a nonprofit started by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Udacity, a start-up company competing with Coursera. Both of those organizations say they will use a series of testing centers run by Pearson, which will require students to travel to a test center to take final exams in person, if they want a certificate of completion.

Related Content


With any education opportunity the prospective student and their family must do their homework and weigh the pros and cons of the institution with with the student’s goals and objectives. In answer to the question of whether online college is a threat to traditional bricks and mortar universities, it depends. The market will answer that question because many students do not attend college to receive a liberal arts education, but to increase employment opportunities. If the market accepts badges and certificates, then colleges may be forced to look at the costs associated with a traditional college degree.


Verifying identity for online courses                                            https://drwilda.com/2012/04/15/verifying-identity-for-online-courses/

Is online higher ed a threat to bricks and mortar colleges? https://drwilda.com/2012/09/17/is-online-higher-ed-a-threat-to-bricks-and-mortar-colleges/

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5 Responses to “Will ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCS) begin to offer credit?”


  1. Verifying online education identity: By your keystroke, we will know you « drwilda - January 10, 2013

    […] Will ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCS) begin to offer credit?                                                                             https://drwilda.com/2012/11/14/will-massive-open-online-courses-moocs-begin-to-offer-credit/ […]

  2. MOOCs are trying to discover a business model which works | drwilda - July 21, 2013

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  3. Georgia Tech offers a cost-saving ‘MOOC’ computer science degree option | drwilda - August 19, 2013

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  4. University of Pennsylvania study: MOOCs are not bringing the level playing field to education that many thought | drwilda - November 24, 2013

    […] Will ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCS) begin to offer credit? https://drwilda.com/2012/11/14/will-massive-open-online-courses-moocs-begin-to-offer-credit/ […]

  5. Harvard and MIT study: So far, MOOC courses are not growing as fast as expected | drwilda - April 15, 2015

    […] https://drwilda.com/2012/11/14/will-massive-open-online-courses-moocs-begin-to-offer-credit/ […]

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