Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are supposed to be large online classes that offer a reputable education to a global audience completely free of charge. Multiple popular MOOC providers teamed up with distinguished universities like Harvard and University of California at Berkley to give those who couldn’t afford an education a way to enrich their mind, but the only problem was these free online courses didn’t offer students college credit. In the past few months, both universities and MOOC platform providers have been exploring ways to award MOOC students with university credit hours and have found that the only way they can award this course credit is for the MOOC students to pay a fee.
The first university to offer course credit through a MOOC was Colorado State University. They partnered with Global Campus to offer three credit hours for the completion of their MOOCs. The fee was a low $89 dollars to pay for a proctored exam; this $89 course is truly a steal considering the cost of a three-hour credit for on-campus students is $1,050. The bewildering problem with Colorado State’s for credit MOOC is that no one was signing up. Colorado State isn’t the only university who has had trouble with their for credit MOOCs. San Jose State University partnered with Udacity to offer $150 courses for transfer credit, all a student had to do was pass the class and pay the fee and they’d receive a three hour credit towards San Jose State. These online courses had awful retention rates, around 29%-51% passing, the worst being in remedial math. San Jose State ended up having to delay the offer for more courses with Udacity simply because their student pass rates were so awful. Even though these two universities have proven that a for credit MOOCs are not a guaranteed success many universities have decided to follow suit and try to have a successful for credit, and costly, MOOC.
The Georgia Institute of Technology, with some help from AT&T, has decided to launch a computer science master’s degree program MOOC. This MOOC program will only cost $6,600, which is a complete bargain when compared with Georgia Tech’s on-campus computer science master’s degree which costs upwards of $21,000 for in state students and $45,000 for out of state students. This master’s program will launch in January of 2014. The University of Texas at Austin offers credit for psychology class MOOC for the registration fee of $550. This is one of the more serious for-credit MOOCs; students must be logged in at 6 pm every Tuesday and Thursday and can gain credit by passing the class. This MOOC is broken into pods and is monitored by online TAs. This psychology credit, like most for-credit MOOCs, is incredibly cheap when compared to its on-campus counterpart. In comparison in state on campus students pay $2,059 for a three credit hour and out of state students pay $7,137.
This for-credit MOOC idea is not exclusive between single universities and their third party providers. The Semester Online Consortium is a collaboration MOOC hosted on 2U and includes prestigious universities like Wake Forest, Boston College, Brandeis University, Emory University, Northwestern University, The University of Notre Dame and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The first course offered in this consortium is an introduction to bioethics class and will launch in the spring of 2014. This consortium is for-credit, charges tuition and has a selective admissions process. The consortium gives students many options of classes to take considering there are over five different universities involved, but already the consortium is having very poor enrollment rates and might be another example of a giant MOOC flop.
While these for credit MOOCs are clearly the cheaper way to get college class credit they are still proving to have many problems. These MOOCs are yielding low success and registration rates making many skeptics feel that MOOCs, regardless of if they’re for credit or not for credit, will never be successful and by the recent numbers these skeptics might just be right.
Author: Katie FitzGerald is our Fall Community Manager here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.