MOOCs for Academic Credit

Concurrent Session 11

Brief Abstract

After their early days focused largely on opening up access, MOOCs have increasingly shifted toward offering credit for open learning opportunities. In this session, we'll explore the opportunities and challenges in offering academic credit for MOOC completion.


David Joyner is the Associate Director for Student Experience in Georgia Tech's College of Computing, overseeing the administration of the college's online Master of Science in Computer Science program as well as its new online undergraduate offerings. He has developed and teaches CS6460: Educational Technology, CS6750: Human-Computer Interaction, and CS1301: Introduction to Computing, all online.

Extended Abstract

In the early days of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) development, most MOOCs focused on making high-quality education more accessible. In order to accomplish this goal, sacrifices had to be made for scale, and among them was sacrificing credit-worthiness. In the absence of human evaluation, integrity assurances, and student support, MOOCs could offer access where it was otherwise lacking, but could not attach credit to that access.

As MOOCs have matured, new efforts have emerged to attach credit to MOOCs. Some of these follow a subsidized model: Georgia Tech's online Master's of Science in Computer Science, for example, requires tuition, registration, and other traditional mechanisms for students to receive academic credit. These mechanisms fund the creation of online courses, but these courses are then opened up to the public for free: the funding to produce them comes from a for-credit program, but once produced, the content is shared with the world.

Others follow a hybrid model. Both MIT and Georgia Tech have offered classes as MOOCs that may also be taken as for-credit courses. Here, the actual course content and experience is similar between the two, but students in one more controlled section complete the coursework for credit. This lends validity and respect to the work completed by MOOC students, given its similarity to work completed by for-credit students.

Others have followed a sectioned model. edX's MicroMaster's programs, for instance, allow MOOC students to take the same courses as for-credit students prior to being accepted into the school. Upon completion, these MOOCs may be applied for actual credit, allowing students to trim one or more semesters off their actual time spent on campus at the school. In some cases, like in Georgia Tech's Analytics program, students may then complete the full Master's program online as well.

In all these cases, the common thread is that MOOCs are transitioning into relevance for for-credit education. They may be the foundation of online courses that have additional assessment for for-credit students; they may be identical content offered in a scalable fashion to the world; or they may be a separate section of the courses for not-yet-admitted students to demonstrate their ability. In this session, we will discuss these and other emerging ideas around using MOOCs for credit, including the challenges and untapped opportunities.