Perhaps you've heard of Massive Online Open Courses, MOOCs. The first such course so named was available in 2008, but it wasn't until 2011 that both institutions and the public entered the arena that may well change higher learning, according to CampusExplorer.com . The MOOCs are in the news because the American Council on Education , ACE, with members being presidents from many of the country's best colleges and universities, has agreed to review a small number of the free courses and even consider recommendations that other colleges grant credits for the online learning, as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education .
What's the Difference Between Online Learning and Massive Online Open Courses?
In the past, what was termed "online learning" in higher education was available first through institutions whose main focus was education provided online. When that became successful, some brick-and-mortar institutions began to offer online learning for some of their coursework.
MOOCs also offer online learning, but the difference is that courses are being offered by some very prestigious institutions of higher learning such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale, Brown, Wesleyan and the University of Texas system. Unlike the original online learning courses, MOOC courses have mostly been available free of charge, with students completing the courses receiving a certificate of completion.
ACE's Review of Courses and Possible Recommendations for College Credits
It would be a major feather in the cap of MOOCs if ACE endorsed both the quality of the learning experience through the open online efforts of the participating institutions and that online students be given credit for such coursework by other colleges and universities. The process of reviewing five to 10 MOOC courses will take some time, after which the organization may decide reviewed courses meeting its criteria, including identity authentication of the student taking the online exams, could be added to ACE's College Credit Recommendation Service.
The attraction of quality learning online that would also be recognized by traditional institutions of higher learning would be a big bonus for MOOCs. Even with the ACE Credit Recommendation, it would still be up to each institution to determine if such credits would be accepted.
For its part, ACE today announced that at its March 2013 95th Annual Meeting, participants will learn more about MOOCs from a panel of experts, including representatives from Duke and the University of Wisconsin system.
MOOCs offer young and old the opportunity to learn from prestigious schools of higher learning, courses that use the same syllabi and coursework as is used at the originating institution. With or without college credits being transferable, no one can take away the knowledge and experience acquired through such a learning opportunity.
High school students, if ready for the challenge of college coursework, could get their higher education feet wet without leaving home, and baby boomers can begin working on a second or third career as some of them are wont to do, again from the comfort of home.
Higher education hasn't had many changes in the course of my 50-plus year lifetime. Massive Online Open Courses may well be the shot in the arm needed.
Smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer generation, L.L. Woodard is a proud resident of "The Red Man" state. With what he hopes is an everyman's view of life's concerns both in his state and throughout the nation, Woodard presents facts and opinions based on common-sense solutions.
- Teaching & Learning