Online education programs Coursera and EdX are making waves after only a few months in action, but they have yet to gain the respect of traditional universities. That may be about to change. The New York Times reports that the American Council on Education will determine whether Coursera’s online courses ought to earn students college credit or be considered in the admissions process:
The council’s credit evaluation process will begin early next year, using faculty teams to begin to assess how much students who successfully complete Coursera MOOCs have learned. Students who want to take the free classes for credit would have to pay a fee to take an identity-verified, proctored exam. If the faculty team deems the course worthy of academic credit, students who do well could pay for a transcript to submit to the college of their choice. Colleges are not required to accept those credits, but similar transcripts are already accepted by 2,000 United States colleges and universities for training courses offered by the military or by employers. . . .
“I feel strongly that degrees are really valuable to people, and having MOOCs allow for credit down the line will increase the number of students with the confidence and wherewithal to complete degrees,” Professor Koller said. “If you’re a random student from another country, what are your chances of being admitted to a university here? But if you can show you’re a motivated student who’s completing five courses and done well on the proctored exam, I think a university would pay attention.”
Obviously, there are no guarantees the study will deliver the results that Coursera hopes for. Either way, online education providers can expect resistance from traditional universities anxious to uphold the status quo.
But this is a clear sign that legacy institutions are beginning to take online courses more seriously. Integrating online courses into traditional college curricula was always going to be a long and halting process. Now, at least, it’s one step further along.