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Thursday, July 26, 2018

What On Earth Is A MOOC-Based Degree Path? | Forbes Now

"MOOCs were promised to be a thunderclap of global education reform – making the best in higher education freely accessible to anyone, anywhere" says Derek Newton, writes about education including education technology (edtech) and higher education.

Sara da Silva works on two computer screens at once at Mass Bay Community College in a computer science course that is designed in conjunction with online learning from MIT, on March 12, 2013 in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts. Students watch video lectures on their own through an edX MOOC, massive open online course, and then attend class at their community college where the professor helps them understand their homework. Online learning is a big trend in education. Da Silva hopes to transfer to UMass after saving money here.
Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

MOOCs – the massive, open, online courses – were going to topple the ivory towers of academia by bypassing the guards who walled off learning.

But they have not. And it’s safe to say they will not.
Frankly, MOOCs aren’t adequate learning tools. A 2013 University of Pennsylvania study of a million MOOC users who participated in the school’s MOOCs found that only about half of the registrants viewed even a single online lecture and that the average completion rate was just 4%. 
Most people who sign up for MOOCs already have college degrees. 

Consequently, MOOCs had been presumed dead.

But MOOCs are enjoying a second life – a notably undead life in which they star as their own degrees. Or something. And that’s a problem.

Carolyn McIntyre, the Founder & CEO of MOOCLab, for example, is all in on the MOOC. “The rising costs of Higher Education are making the traditional degree increasingly inaccessible to many and we believe MOOCs … offer the perfect gateway to gaining the same level of knowledge that anyone enrolled in a university degree can gain but without the cost,” she said.

That sounds great. Except, of course, for the problem that the cost of higher education is not really rising. And that there’s not much evidence at all that a traditional degree is becoming increasingly inaccessible, due to cost or for any other reason. If anything, the opposite is true – college is more accessible than ever...

First, the MOOCLab Degree Path is exactly like a path to a degree except that this path in no way whatsoever leads to a degree.

Second, and more troubling, is that MOOCLab has no idea what, if anything, is being taught in the MOOCs they are bundling into these “degree equivalent” designations. They have no way to know what a participant may have learned – if anything whatsoever. When someone gets a certificate from a MOOC – something they almost always have to pay to get – MOOCLab can “safely assume they learned from the course,” according to McIntyre.  That assumption, it seems, is good enough.

Say what you’d like about a degree and its value – and it does remain the best lifetime investment anyone can make – when a degree is conferred, there’s an institution willing to place their name on the content of the degree and stand behind it. Many would argue that’s what you’re really earning with a degree – the conferred reputation of the issuer.

With “Degree Paths,” MOOCLabs is trying to pass along the reflected integrity of the providing institutions in ways they cannot have imagined and almost certainly do not sanction. “Although MoocLab’s degree paths are not themselves accredited, the individual courses are all provided by distinguished accredited universities,” McIntyre said.

Yes, it is true that the MoocLab’s “degree paths” are not accredited. They have no more academic weight than the McDonald’s dollar menu.

Source: Forbes Now