In recent media, that has been the question. Although the average completion rate of a MOOC is around 10% (which, for a class of 160,000 students, is pretty good), many in higher education have pointed out there is more to mastering a subject than just simply completing a course. How comfortable are universities with accepting MOOC credits on a transcript? And, perhaps more importantly, how comfortable are employers with hiring applicants who received their experience online?
MOOCs gaining ground for college credit
In the first half of this year alone, it already seems like MOOCs are well on their way to being accepted for college credit. The American Council for Education has at the start of this year recommended five Coursera courses as credit-worthy, and the state of California just approved legislation requiring high school and undergraduate institutions to accept transfer credit from certain MOOCs to alleviate overfull classrooms and continue students in their degree progression. Georgia Tech has recently announced its plan to launch a completely online master’s degree in computer science. Although the program requires tuition, it’s much less expensive than enrolling in traditional courses. AT&T has pledged $2 million dollars to support the program, hoping to prepare more students with skills they’re looking for in future employees.
Is accreditation contrary to the spirit of the MOOC?
Of course there has been backlash to this news. Professor Joshua Gans at University of Toronto holds that accrediting MOOCs will tailor their content towards testing. Instead of allowing room for teacher creativity and class curiosity, both professors and students will be worried about what’s on the final. He claims that this is in opposition to the spirit of the MOOC, which, when they were free and credit-less, students took because of curiosity and the desire to learn. While it can be said that intellectual curiosity is a driving factor for some, aren’t most MOOC-takers looking to improve their skill sets in ways that are demonstrable to current or future employers? In these instances, some form of assessment is necessary. Are there ways to freshen up the online classroom experience while still teaching to the exam?
Alternatives to accreditation
In lieu of credit, some people are now suggesting that online students be awarded “badges” for certain skill sets they’ve learned online. Employers can look at these badges and determine if an applicant has the necessary skills they’re looking for—despite not having attended “real” college. In the same spirit, MOOCs are now showing up on resumes. This article advises students on when and how to incorporate MOOCs into their resumes and LinkedIn, and this article advises employers on how to assess MOOCs on applicants’ resumes.
Accredited or unaccredited, it is becoming increasingly evident that employers are becoming more willing to consider MOOC education as a valid form of job training.
This post is part of a series on “Making History Online” that involves an examination of open online learning. Students and faculty at the House Divided Project at Dickinson College are collaborating this summer on a new open, online course called, “Understanding Lincoln,” taught by Prof. Matthew Pinsker and covering ways to teach Abraham Lincoln’s legacy using close readings of his most important writings. This new type of online course represents a unique partnership between Dickinson College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The course is available for both graduate credit and free participation. Registration for the course closes on Friday, July 19, 2013. For more information, go to https://www.gilderlehrman.org/programs-exhibitions/understanding-lincoln-graduate-course.