American Council on Education Approves 5 MOOCs for Course Credit

By Catherine Groux
Posted February 08, 2013 01:00 PM

Students could soon receive course credit for MOOCs.
Students could soon receive course credit for MOOCs.

In a historic move for online education, the American Council on Education (ACE) announced that five of Coursera's massive open online courses (MOOCs) are close enough in quality to regular campus-based classes to offer students credit for their completion, The New York Times reports. To date, these are the first MOOCs to be deemed eligible for credit.

Currently, students can take free MOOCs through Coursera as well as a wide variety of colleges and organizations. However, they will not receive college credit for their efforts. With ACE's approval, Coursera could change this, giving students a chance to pay a fee to take an identity-verified, proctored exam and purchase course transcripts to send to colleges of their choice. ACE estimates that the total cost of gaining credit for these classes would be between $100 and $190.

Two of the five approved MOOCs - Introduction to Genetics and Evolution and Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach - are offered through Coursera by Duke University, The Chronicle of Higher Education states. Another class - Calculus: Single-Variable, comes from the University of Pennsylvania, while the remaining two courses - Pre-calculus and Algebra - are offered by the University of California at Irvine.

While ACE can recommend that colleges give students credit for passing these courses, individual schools maintain the right to determine whether individuals receive credit. However, if schools accept ACE's recommendation, this could prove to be a large leap forward for online education.

"This could make it much easier for students to get credit for MOOCs, and they don't necessarily have to figure out the complicated, back-roads way of doing so," Amy Laitinen, deputy director for higher education at the New America Foundation, told the Chronicle. "Making it easier is a big step toward making it happen at scale."

The approval of the five MOOCs is only the first part of ACE's ultimate plan of understanding how the free online courses could impact academia, said Molly Corbett Broad, president of ACE. In January, ACE announced that with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it planned to study ways in which students could receive credit for MOOCs.

"This is an important first step in ACE's work to examine the long-term potential of MOOCs and whether this innovative new approach can engage students across the country and worldwide while helping raise degree completion, increasing learning productivity and deepening college curricula," Broad said in a statement. 

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