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Even the professors behind massive online classes aren’t sure they should count for credit

Are massive open online classes (MOOCs) from the likes of Coursera, Udacity and edX living up to the hype?

Even though many in academia have expressed skepticism, a survey from the Chronicle of Higher Education finds that the professors behind the MOOCs have many positive things to say about the new classes. But, interestingly, these most enthusiastic academics say that while they’re embracing MOOCs, they don’t necessarily believe they should be worth credit from their institutions.

According to the Chronicle, while 79 percent of respondents said they believed that MOOCs are “worth the hype,”  just 28 percent believed that students who succeeded in their MOOC deserve formal credit from their home institution. The survey, which attempted to reach every professor who has ever taught a MOOC, ultimately included responses from 103 professors (out of 184).

The generally positive response to the Chronicle’s survey contrasts with a 2012 survey from the Babson Survey Research Group, which found that just about 30 percent of university chief academic officers believe their faculty accept the value of online learning. The Chronicle acknowledged that the survey isn’t scientific and that the most pro-MOOC academics may have been the ones to reply. But it still provides an interesting window into the developing and nuanced attitudes of the first professors willing to try their hand at the emerging medium of instruction.

Another interesting finding was that while 86 percent of professors believed that MOOCs could eventually reduce the cost of attaining a college degree in general (45 percent said it would significantly reduce the cost; 41 percent said it would marginally reduce the cost), just 64 percent MOOCs believed they would reduce the cost of a degree at their own institution. That response likely reflects the caliber of the schools the professors represent (the big MOOC providers have made a point of partnering with Ivy League and other top tier schools) and I wonder if it indicates a belief among these professors that MOOC credits will count the most at lower-tier schools.

You can check out all of the results on the Chronicle’s website but a few other findings of note include:

  • 66 percent of surveyed professors don’t believe their home institution will eventually grant formal credit to students who succeed in their MOOCs
  • 15 percent of respondents said they taught a MOOC at the request of a superior (meaning that these were eager and willing participants)
  • 73 percent said they hoped MOOCs could increase their visibility among colleagues, media and general public

7 Responses to “Even the professors behind massive online classes aren’t sure they should count for credit”

  1. @julian – The thing that universities do is legitimise knowledge. The teaching isn’t the powerful bit. It’s the fact that the university can say whether someone does or does not have the knowledge that matters. Creating a MOOC doesn’t threaten the authority of the institution as a legitimising body; giving credit to anyone who completes an online course does, because it somewhat devalues what the university trades in.

  2. I would like to understand the reasons they gave for not wanted to credit online courses? It is down to online courses not achieving the same standards (easier to cheat, etc) or because they want to with hold the credit for the paying customers?

  3. Area Man

    I’m sure reasons for taking these classes vary, but a lot of the people I’m in a class w/ right now (Calculus) don’t care about credit. Some are taking the class as a refresher, some as a prelude to taking the “real” class next semester. I’m taking it because I want to learn other things that require a basic understanding of Calculus.

    Similarly, my employer doesn’t care as long as I have the skills to make stuff happen.

    Great research though; this stuff is really early stages and already shows a lot of promise.

  4. brown_te

    I’d be interested in hearing what their perception of the gap would be – compared, for example, to an online Master’s program from a well-regarded institution.

  5. Kindroid

    Pretty self serving on the part of these Professors. They want all the upside….but none of the downside. Done in the environment of competition, MOOC will have a significant impact on education costs.