Students May Soon Earn College Credits Through MOOCs

By Catherine Groux
Posted November 16, 2012 10:00 AM

Students may soon earn course credits for free through MOOCs.
Students may soon earn course credits for free through MOOCs.
In recent years, several colleges, professors and organizations have used the increasing popularity of online education to spark the growth of the latest academic trend - massive open online courses, or MOOCs. These free online courses allow students to learn about a wide range of topics at their own pace with minimal involvement from professors. Frequently, participants master the material by watching video lectures and completing assignments graded by computers or peers.

While MOOCs allow students to expand their knowledge for free, so far these courses have not provided them with credit for their efforts. However, that may soon change, as the American Council on Education (ACE) recently announced that it will partner with Coursera, an MOOC provider, for a pilot project that will determine whether select MOOCs should award students college credits, an ACE press release states. During the project, the council will examine five to 10 MOOCs offered through Coursera to decide if they should be included in its College Credit Recommendation Service.

"MOOCs are an intriguing, innovative new approach that holds much promise for engaging students across the country and around the world, as well as for helping colleges and universities broaden their reach," said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. "But as with any new approach, there are many questions about long-term potential, and ACE is eager to help answer them - questions such as whether MOOCs can help raise degree completion, deepen college curricula and increase learning productivity."

Currently, Coursera works with more than 30 colleges and universities across the country to provide students with free classes in the humanities, biology, mathematics, medicine, business, computer science and social sciences. Given the many program options, almost 2 million students have registered for a Coursera MOOC.

As Coursera strives to further increase the popularity of its free online classes, its creators feel that if they are allowed to give students credit for finishing these courses, they will improve their access to a college degree.

"We believe strongly in the value of a college degree and, by offering these high-quality courses to students in a way that opens the potential of college credit, we hope to ease the path for students toward graduation," said Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera.

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