Credit-for-MOOCs Effort Hits a Snag

The American Council on Education said last year that it would run an experiment on ways to help MOOC students redeem success in the free online courses for credit at traditional universities. But that project, like earlier efforts to turn MOOC success into college credit, has run into obstacles.

“The wheels turn slowly,” Ray Schroeder, the project’s director, said in an email. “No data has been collected yet.”

The plan was to find a group of universities that would grant credit to successful MOOC students on a trial basis—as long as the students enrolled in tuition-based programs, using those free credits to get a head start toward a traditional college credential. Mr. Schroeder, who is associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and his team would then track those students to see how well the MOOCs had prepared them for traditional coursework.

Seven institutions agreed to participate in the experiment, which would allow students to transfer credit from any MOOCs that had been vetted by the council. (It has now approved 14 courses.) In July 2013, when The Chronicle first talked to Mr. Schroeder about the project, he outlined a prompt timetable.

“We expect to see a number of students at those universities who will be receiving credit for the fall term,” he said at the time.

But then, when fall came, “we did not have reports of students asking for credit for MOOCs at the universities,” Mr. Schroeder told The Chronicle this week.

Once again, an invitation to redeem MOOC learning for traditional credit had been met with the sound of crickets.

Cathy A. Sandeen, vice president for education attainment and innovation at the American Council of Education, attributed the lag to the fact that the council had approved relatively few MOOCs by the time students would have had to begin taking such a course in order to have completed it by the fall.

Mr. Schroeder ascribed the problem to a lack of adequate publicity for the opportunity. He and his team decided to create a website to promote it. That website is currently under construction.

Mr. Schroeder said he now does not expect to have results from the experiment until April 2015.

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