The American Council on Education, a nonprofit organization that represents most of the nation’s college and university presidents, is preparing to weigh in on massive open online courses—MOOCs, for short—a new way of teaching and learning that has taken higher education by storm in recent months.
A stamp of approval from the organization could enhance the value of MOOCs to universities and lead to lower tuition costs for students, who could earn credit toward a college degree for passing a particular course. At issue is whether the quality of the courses offered through MOOCs are equivalent to similar courses offered in traditional classrooms.
The popularity of MOOCs, which have been around for barely a year, has intensified quickly. Top faculty at dozens of the world’s most elite colleges and universities are teaching hundreds of online courses in a variety of disciplines to millions of students around the world. The courses are free, but they don’t count toward traditional degree programs.
“MOOCs are an intriguing, innovative new approach that holds much promise for engaging students across the country and around the world, as well as for helping colleges and universities broaden their reach,” says Molly Corbett Broad, president of the council. “But as with any new approach, there are many questions about long-term potential, and ACE is eager to help answer them.”
Part of the council’s plan, announced Nov. 13 and set to begin next year, involves teams of faculty who will examine the content and rigor of particular courses to evaluate whether they should be recommended for college credit. The initiative, to be funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also will involve research on the impact of MOOCs.
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