Free online courses offered by universities including Harvard and Princeton may one day award college credit, after a higher education trade group said it will study their eligibility.
The American Council on Education will evaluate select courses offered by Coursera Inc., a company started last year by two Stanford University professors, according to a statement today by Washington-based ACE, which represents private and public degree-granting institutions. Coursera has already signed up more than 30 schools including Princeton University, the California Institute of Technology and Duke University.
U.S. colleges, seeking cost-efficient ways to deliver instruction, have been signing up with companies that provide MOOCS, or massive open online courses. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology formed a similar venture called EdX that has enlisted the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Texas System.
The ACE evaluation will focus on whether the courses can improve educational outcomes -- college completion rates and learning productivity, council President Molly Corbett Broad said in the statement.
“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,” Broad said. “As with any approach, there are many questions about long-term potential.”
Universities are under no obligation to award credit, even if the ACE review process results in such recommendations.
The trade group will also work with the University of Illinois on research into MOOCs, including to what extend they reach low-income adults and older adult learners, according to the statement.