Monday, November 19, 2012

Online-education trend expands

Another day, another development in the rapidly evolving world of massive open online courses, otherwise known as MOOCs.

Over the past several months, dozens of universities, including the University of Texas System, Brown and Wesleyan, have joined the bandwagon, working with MOOC providers to offer free online courses to anyone with an Internet connection.

Last week, the American Council on Education, an association for higher education presidents, raised the possibility that such courses could count toward a degree when it said it would review several to determine whether they ought to be eligible for transfer credit.

Two days later, a consortium of 10 universities, including Northwestern, Wake Forest and Notre Dame, announced plans to develop an alternative approach — classes are still taught online, but with just 15 to 20 students. The courses, to be offered next fall through an initiative called Semester Online, wouldn't be free, like MOOCs are, but students who pass the course could earn credit.

On Monday, edX, a MOOC founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, is expected to announce plans to bring a computer science course to two Massachusetts community colleges next spring.

Colleges and universities have offered online courses for years, but the embrace by elite higher education was "really a game-changer," says Ray Schroeder, director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois-Springfield. "Now we've really moved to disruption in higher education."

Schroeder was featured by USA Today on November 18, 2012.

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