Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rapid progress of MOOCs. When will the business model be discovered?

I have been wondering how long it would take for an accredited college/university to grant college credit for free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs. That was last month. Colorado State has started to do it! In the recent Chronicle of higher Education article, A First for Udacity: a U.S. University Will Accept Transfer Credit for One of Its Courses, Colorado State took the step. It is their course offered through Udacity, but the implications are interesting. Typcally. colleges and universities in the US will accept college credit transferred from regionally accredited colleges and universties. CSU fits this criteria.

This should mean that almost any school in the US will also grant credit for the course(s) when transferred from CSU, or will they? I would guess that over the courseof this academic year many college curriculum or admissions committees will have to decide how they want to handle this.

"Some 94,000 students worldwide took the course when it first came online early this year, and 98,000 more signed up for the second class, which started in April. "We have students from well over 100 countries, from 13-year-olds to 80-year-olds, sharing in the experience," Mr. Evans (course instructor from UVA)said of the class, one of a growing number of massive open online courses, or MOOC's, that have been attracting national attention this year."

Once colleges deal with the transfer issue, they will have to think about creating their own policies for granting credit for MOOC courses. According to the Chronicle article "in order to earn the three transfer credits toward their bachelor's degrees at Colorado State, students will need a "certificate of accomplishment" from Udacity showing they passed the course. Then they have to pass a proctored examination offered by Udacity through a secure testing center. The exam, administered by the Pearson VUE testing group, will cost $89."

So Pearson is already stepping in to provide testing and assessment services. How different is this from the College Board or the Educational Testing service providing verification of accomplishment tests for high school advanced placement students. Not very different.

Time to ask more questions:

Does this mean that with the proper assessment from a respected assessment vendor or college that other colleges will accept the courses in transfer and grant credit?

Will traditional colleges limit the amount of MOOC credit that they are willing to accept toward a degree? Many do this with transfer credit now.

What does this mean for the student and the cost of a college degree? If students take as many MOOC courses as they can transfer to the school of their choice, how will this reduce the total cost of their college degree?

Will "for profit" colleges start granting degrees totally on the basis of MOOC classes (for a modest processing fee?

When will someone find a business model that makes MOOC courses viable on a large scale. Let's see, if "College X" charged $25 for a MOOC class and $75 for the "verification of learning exam" with 98,000 students in the class -- a single class could generate $9,800,000. Most of these students could transfer the credit to the school of their choice and apply it toward a degree.

Most colleges are still shaking their collective heads and writing the whole MOOC thing off. I am glad to see the Gates Foundation funding some research on MOOC courses. This will be good information for the education community to consume and use for even further discussion. I feel more committee meetings being called.