MOOC Follow-ons

The MOOC tsunami is here, and I’ve been trying to think of MOOC accreditation models that don’t hollow out the subsidization business model that allows universities to function.

If you want to know why that’s important, you can read this. The summary is

  • I think it’s highly likely a state legislature somewhere will force state schools to develop a path to credit via MOOCs in the next couple of years.
  • If this is developed in the wrong way, it will kill the bundling which allows us to offer high-quality low enrollment face-to-face classes that really do matter. We run these classes currently at a loss, and subsidize them with profits from the larger enrollment classes that MOOCs are likely to hollow out of the curriculum.

One idea I have been turning over in my head is the “MOOC follow-on”. Instead of granting credit for a MOOC directly, the MOOC is used as a prerequisite for an intensive week-long project-based learning course.

How it would work is this — I take a MOOC approved by my state college system, say “Intro to Statistical Literacy”. Passing that class allows me to enroll in a one week intensive program on a college campus where a project builds off the MOOC course, say “Intro to Statistical Literacy Practicum”. You’d have 15 hours of class time, and 30 hours of out of class time to demonstrate through PBL the skills you’ve learned. This works out to a one credit hour class.

If you obtain credit in this follow-on class the course retroactively grants you credit for the pre-req. So you get a four credit package from one week of paid face to face instruction. The college charges what it needs to make this a marginally profitable class — perhaps charging a three credit price for the four credits you have gotten (or a two-credit price if it is sustainable).

Imagine how this might feel — students from around the state of New Hampshire or Virginia (or the world) taking a MOOC, and then driving or flying somewhere for the follow-on. Students would come having already forged relationships on the web, already having mastered basic skills. Instructors would know precisely what their class experience looked like and would be able to hit the ground running on day one.

Parents could send their kids away for an intensive week that has a sense of momentum and focus to it. Campuses could focus on what campuses do best — providing the sort of physical and cultural environment that creates an social and intellectual community where students can excel. Employers could know that the credit means something, that the student has not only taken proctored assessments but can collaborate with others, show up on some type of schedule, and produce meaningful work.

It doesn’t address the meritocracy issues of MOOCdom, but I can deal with that in another post. But it allows the integration of MOOCs for credit in a way that not only preserves the best aspects of face-to-face education, but heightens them, and it preserves the subsidy of later courses that may need to be offered wholly face-to-face.

Mainly though, I just think back to my own 17 year old self. How cool would it be leaving home for the first time to head off and meet you fellow online coursemates with the promise of doing amazing things in the space of a week? Heck, how cool is that as a 40 year old?

Why aren’t we doing this now, again?

5 thoughts on “MOOC Follow-ons

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