Should You Take a MOOC for College Credit?
Last fall, Colorado State University offered college credit to students who took a MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course. This was big news, because previously MOOC’s were free—but also free of college credit. Colorado State charged for its credits, but only $89 for three credits—a deal compared with the usual cost of $1,050 it charges for a traditional course.
Surprisingly, however, it’s been a year since the college opened up this option to students—and it hasn’t seen a single taker.
There are several potential reasons for this. One is that the college is only offering credits for one course—not several that could be applied across many programs. This limits the number of students who would find the course useful in getting their degrees. In addition, it’s possible that the college did not publicize the program widely enough.
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This isn’t the only challenge on the way to MOOC’s taking over traditional campuses, however. San Jose State recently made another agreement to start offering credit for MOOC courses through Udacity—and then halted the program just six months later. According to its data, over 50% of the students enrolled in the online courses received failing grades.
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The courses weren’t exceptionally difficult—topics included entry-level math, introduction to psychology, and elementary statistics. While 83% of students finished the courses, approximately 56 to 76% failed—an unusually high number, even for the most difficult college classes, and indicative of potential problems with the courses rather than the students themselves.
Whether you should enroll in a MOOC for college credit depends on your learning style, the credits you need, and many other issues. But here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re one of the few who currently has that option.
First, a MOOC isn’t designed and run by a college—even if your college is offering credit. MOOC’s are run by large companies including EdX, Coursera, and Udacity—and students from all over the world can enroll. A MOOC is different than a typical online class because it attracts thousands—sometimes hundreds of thousands—of students.
This can make online discussions more difficult to participate in, and it means that many of your peers may not be as serious about the class as you are. So far, it’s been found that a large percentage of students drop out of MOOC courses before the end.
In addition, individual attention is even likely with a MOOC than it would be with a traditional online course. Because of the high volume of students, it’s challenging for professors to give any one student individual attention. This isn’t the case for more traditional online classes, which typically limit their enrollment only to students enrolled in the college—and where professors are more likely to answer individual student questions and give each student a certain amount of attention. Detractors of MOOC’s point to this as a major reason why many students drop out early—some of those may be the more at-risk students that need more structure and guidance.
MOOC’s have a lot of potential to change the face of traditional and accredited online college—by bringing classes from the most elite universities to people anywhere on the globe, for free. But what you’re getting isn’t what you’d get on campus at Stanford—or even through a more traditional online course. Critics say that many MOOC’s focus mainly on reading comprehension—and the sheer size makes class participation, even online, fairly difficult. Still, a MOOC could save you a lot of money if you’re earning it for credit—and if you have the opportunity, it might be worth looking into.
Radio Free Europe: Make Way for MOOC’s: How Free, Online Courses Could Revolutionize Education
Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory: Are MOOC’s Really the Worst Threat to the Future of Universities?
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