The New York Times reported yesterday that the University of Washington planned to offer college credit for some of their newly-announced Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). It was almost too good to be true—a traditional university opening up its tightfisted-hold on credits so that students around the country and world could get both learning and “legitimacy” (aka credits) from one of our country’s public Ivies? “Awesome,” I pretty much said here on Higher Ed Watch.
Sadly, it appears news of UW’s plans to award credits was a case of “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Inside Higher Ed’s Steve Kolowich reports today that UW is not planning to offer credit for their MOOCs. They plan to offer “enhanced” (read: not free) versions of the courses for which non-credit certificates can be earned (also not free). This is not news. Students across the country can already pay to take online certificate courses. What they can’t do is take MOOCS—which are free—and get credit for these courses. I didn’t expect that UW would give away the credits after giving away the courses; but I was excited to see how they grappled with unbundling the learning and the credit processes. It looks like we’ll have to wait for another day to see what that will look like.
But I don’t think we’ll have to wait that long. As more students learn from MOOCs, more will start asking why they’re not getting any credit for their learning. Credit that they can use at other institutions. Credit that they can use to earn a degree. We’re already seeing organizations like LearningCounts.org provide a back-end way (prior learning assessments) of providing credits for MOOC-based learning. As the demand for degrees and the availability of MOOCS continue to increase, we’re going to see more efforts to help students get college credit for this learning.
So while it turns out that UW is not going to help accelerate a sea change in higher ed; change is coming. Traditional higher education needs to get ready or risk being washed away.