Who is accountable at Coursera?

Coursera wants to be the Google of the education world. You can’t complain about your email if the email is free, right? And the same thing holds true with their courses.

So when things like this happen in the course I am taking, where the exact answers to pass the final are revealed by mistake during the process of taking the final, it’s just a bug. These things happen, right?

But think this through in light of the “let’s transfer MOOC credit in” model that schools like Antioch are looking at.

Think about Antioch’s options. They could transfer in this course, only to find out that passing it was trivially easy, and demonstrated no real aptitude in economics.

In that case, the Antioch brand is damaged. A credit transfer system is only as strong as its weakest link.

Alternatively, Antioch could hear about the snafu, and refuse to transfer this credit in. But in that case a bunch of students took a class for four weeks expecting to get credit only to find out that they are not going to get any credit because Coursera made a technical error. Four weeks of work down the drain.

The only thing that Coursera is offering that extends much beyond straight up OCW is an assessment framework. If they can’t guarantee that ¬†— or if they don’t at least freak out about its failures — why would you ever transfer in MOOC credit without additional assessment?

And yes, this is partially an argument for why all xMOOC credit should be wrapped in a layer of authentic institutional assessment, if only to protect the value of your degree.

But it’s also a straight up question — who at Coursera is accountable? And to whom?

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3 Comments on “Who is accountable at Coursera?”

  1. mikecaulfield says:

    I’ll add one more thing in here, because if I don’t, Amy Collier will come here, kick my ass and remind me — the third piece of this is the offering institution. Johns Hopkins is involved with this course. It has their name associated with it. If this was Coursera’s mistake, not JH’s, what is the recourse there? And if it was JH’s, is there any damage to its online brand? Or is it just all PR upside, because despite what people are telling you, no one is taking this seriously anyway?

    I seriously don’t know the answers to some of these questions. Feel free to educate me. But it occurs to me that incentives are not well aligned here…

  2. But…how do we really know the details of the quality of ANY course we allow to transfer for credit? Don’t we rely on the integrity of the insititution (Harvard vs. Phoenix?). Of course you raise the question of “who will be the evaluator” and “what are the criteria” for good or bad courses. My concern as a prof. is that decisions at big online schools are being made by “people at the top” who may not understand reliability, validity, etc.

  3. [...] its online offerings, universities rightfully remain wary not only about ensuring rigor and accountability in Coursera, but also about evaluating the impact of these courses on the prestige, and experience, [...]


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