Credit where it’s due?

A couple of years ago MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were all the rage – as we discussed a couple of times in this blog. I was, as readers may recall, a little sceptical; and then the noise around MOOCs abated, and we went on to other things. One of the key problems with MOOCs, as I would have argued then, was that they didn’t provide the student with what most students principally want: a formally recognised qualification, a degree.

Now we may be seeing this addressed: the Open University and the University of Leeds are reported to be about to recognise time spent on MOOCs as part of the time spent working towards a degree. I don’t know anything else – how much credit can be accumulated in this way, whether the courses will attract fees, and so forth.

I still take the view that MOOCs run as genuinely open and free courses cannot become a major part of higher education, as there is no conceivable business model that would work here. But there may be ways in which online courses can be developed to play a  more realistic (and effective) role in the development of a new model of higher education. It will be worth watching this experiment.

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4 Comments on “Credit where it’s due?”

  1. As far as I’m aware, the number of MOOCs is still increasing and at a greater pace. The number of enrollments is up and the completion rate is improving as we get past the hype. As for a business model it remains to be seen if it needs one. Firstly, it is not that expensive to create one (see – unless you are a big university afraid of damaging your brand name). In fact it can be done so cheaply that a lecturer can easily create a MOOC for his/her own students and let the world in. Universities can justify spending money on MOOCs to increase recruitment (see MIT Masters in Supply Chain Management) and reputation building. MOOCs can be used with challenge examinations and Competency Based Assessment to reduce educational costs. It might well be more accurate to say that the current business model of higher education is unsustainable. Who knows, but won’t it be exciting to see how it all unfolds. Let’s try lots of models and keep an open mind.


  2. paulmartin42 Says:

    FutureLearn the UK University MOOC brand appears to be very successful; can I suggest you give one of their many many free courses a go over the long summer vacation.

    My experience has been very positive and I can see why mid-table HE establishments embrace this channel as there are a lot of students out there who are keen to investigate the market-place variety, Indeed, harping back to my musings as to which University to attend, I can appreciate the contrast in modern teaching approaches that Leeds have to say foosty St Andrews in the back-of-beyond.

  3. James Fryar Says:

    I think MOOCs are yet another example of a global phenomenon by which the dissemination of, and access to information is being equated with the gaining of knowledge. To illustrate the problem, and to take MOOCs one step further, why go to the bother of producing and financing the courses at all when you simply need to direct students to a list of existing websites containing the course material? Wikipedia isn’t too bad for some topics …

    This, to me at least, is an increasingly dangerous development. What we’re starting to see in the US as a result of this confusion between information and knowledge is a growing mistrust of academics and of scientists in particular, and an anti-establishment sentiment. One might even go so far as to call it anti-intellectualism. Who needs universities? Who needs so-called experts? All one need to do is find stuff on the web you can read for yourself. The ‘experts’ are obviously going to endorse worldviews that keep them in jobs, or support theories that ensure they maintain funding. And so on …

    This is why we have a huge rejection of climate change by large sections of the US population. This is why we have Republican senators going to great lengths to force organisations like NOAA into releasing their data and emails.

    The danger with MOOCs is that they force institutions into this murky arena of ‘the establishment information’ versus ‘the web’. MOOCs become no more or less authoritative than anything else. The courses can be viewed in light of the populist viewpoint. And when universities are seen as nothing more than factories to produce information for people to read, I think we’re in for some serious educational problems in the future.

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