Two MOOC curriculum announcements in one week

In two apparently unrelated announcements, both MIT and Wharton announced they were moving beyond just courses and putting significant parts of their curriculum into MOOC platforms, both with identity verification. MIT is putting several undergraduate sequences online through MITx (their implementation of  edX), while Wharton business school is putting a “foundation series” of first-year courses online through Coursera.

First the MIT news from Inside Higher Ed (see the Chronicle for additional coverage):

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will this fall package some of its online courses into more cohesive sequences, just as edX prepares to roll out certificates of completion using identity verification. Seen together, the two announcements may provide a glimpse at what the future holds for the massive open online course provider.

The “XSeries” sequences add a new layer of structure to MITx, the institution’s section of the edX platform. The first of seven courses in the Foundations of Computer Science XSeries will be offered this fall, with one or more new courses being rolled out each semester until the fall of 2015. The Supply Chain Management XSeries, consisting of three courses, will begin in the fall of 2014. The two sequences will target undergraduates and working professionals, respectively. [snip]

EdX allows students either to audit courses or complete assignments to earn a certificate of completion. Right now, the gateway to earning a certificate is guarded only by an honor code. Beginning next spring, instructors can choose to implement an identity verification process that prompts students to present government-issued identification at specific milestones, like a midterm or final exam. Their identities are then verified by Software Secure, which offers online proctoring services.

Apart from the security benefits, edX officials said the verified certificates are intended for students who enroll in online courses to further their careers.

And the parallel Wharton news from Bloomberg Businessweek:

Getting a Wharton MBA involves taking off from work for two years, moving to Philadelphia, and spending about $200,000 on tuition and expenses. Now, with the addition of three new courses on the online learning platform Coursera, you can get much of the course content for free.

While you won’t get the full Wharton on-campus experience—or an internship, career services, or alumni network, for that matter—the new courses in financial accounting, marketing, and corporate finance duplicate much of what you would learn during your first year at the elite business school, says Don Huesman, managing director of the innovation group at Wharton.

A fourth course in operations management that’s been offered since September rounds out the “foundation series.” Along with five existing electives, which include courses on sports business and health care, the new offerings make it possible to learn much of what students in Wharton’s full-time MBA program learn, and from the same professors. All nine courses are massive open online courses, or MOOCs, expected to attract students from around the world. [snip]

Students in all four courses are eligible, for a $49 fee, to receive a verified electronic certificate indicating that they’ve completed the course requirements.

Huesman says Wharton has no plans to accept the certificates for course credit should students subsequently enroll at Wharton, adding that “there’s a very different experience that happens in a two-year immersion in a community of scholars that culminates in a degree.” But he says what students learn in the online classes can be used to “test out” of required courses just as those with knowledge of the subject matter can do now.

In both cases the schools go out of their way to emphasize that the MOOC curricula do not replace the immersive experience of face-to-face courses, but that professors are experimenting with flipped classroom approaches using the MOOC materials.

Update: eCampusNews has an article on the MIT announcement, focusing on the usage of webcams for the identity verification.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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6 Responses to Two MOOC curriculum announcements in one week

  1. tom abeles says:

    With the movement to competency based measures for students and the willingness of the US government to allow such measures to meet the criteria for financing of programs/students, it is becoming clear that how the knowledge is acquired to meet the competency-based criteria is less important. Just like buying a car, one can go for basic transport or get one with a choice of “features” including on-campus experience, small groups, etc.

    With the move towards universities reducing tuition and also starting to normalize faculty salaries as discussed in issues of IHE, it is even more clear that we are seeing a profound change in the HEI’s where “advertising” the features of on-campus, small classes and ivy covered halls, or luxury branded, medallion, degrees, along with the “externalities” and amenities give the real sense of commodification.

    These are issues at the baccalaureate level, primarily. Post baccalaureate issues and the overlap is more complex.

  2. In both cases the schools go out of their way to emphasize that the MOOC curricula do not replace the immersive experience of face-to-face courses, but that professors are experimenting with flipped classroom approaches using the MOOC materials.

    Are they being disingenuous? It’s a replacement if people will take one or the other, but certainly not both, in pursuit of a degree. If an institution grants the same credit either way (not this week, but eventually, sooner than we think) it sure walks and talks like a duck.


  3. Phil Hill says:

    Disingenuous, overconfident, willing to experiment? I’m not sure of the right characterization, but you make a good point. MIT comment seems relevant here:

    “Terman said he believes there will always be students who want to experience a residential academic career at MIT, but that the institution’s online ventures might help faculty members rethink their face-to-face courses. ‘I don’t think our intent is to put ourselves out of business, but I think our business will change a lot,’ he said.”

    One other consideration – MIT and Wharton have and will have enough student demand that even if the courses become a quacking replacement, they will be able to serve both populations. Other schools are not in such a comfortable position, which probably helps explain why it’s MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, Wharton, etc that are pushing the envelope.

  4. Tom abeles says:

    Hi Phil
    One of the “elephants in the room” is the question of the responsibility of a university for taking a dominant position in effecting social change, or letting society shift that responsibility to the universities. One does not argue the need for education beyond secondary school. How, indeed, can universities level the economic playing field when those with greater resources can, for their community afford to maintain the differential. Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” lays out the case well.

    As IHE notes, there is a move to cut tuition and also level faculty salaries. MOOCs are low cost options when competency measures are blind to. How a student gained such. Like buying a car, one can go for basic transport or finance a luxury education with social networks and amenities. None levelizes the post baccalaureate opportunities, the concern of many. Should MIT not offer MOOCs for credit? IT cerrtainly can not be expected to open its enrollment on campus.

    Most of these arguments are academic versions of those used by railroad brakemen when roller bearings and electronics eliminated jobs or when electronics eliminated the need for a third person in the cockpit of airliners neo-Luddite

  5. Phil Hill says:

    Tom, I do think that the combination of MOOCs and competency-based ed for credit (such as MIT with this announcement, UMUC with recent news, etc) is something big to watch. Initially the moves by these schools care as much about “how the knowledge is acquired” is still a big part of the equation – both MIT and UMUC are offering this approach for pre-selected, institutionally approved MOOCs. If that movement has any success, then I could see long-term trend for relative importance to shift much more to the assessment itself. I could also see schools favoring the approach that still lets them select the inputs, particularly like MIT & Wharton where it is their own courses online.

    I am not against MIT offering MOOCs for credit, based on the assumption that they will not water down their brand and allow overly-simplistic assessments. We will need more longitudinal studies, however, to determine whether quality of new approaches is similar at least in outcomes.

  6. Pingback: MIT и Wharton выходят за рамки предоставления одиночных онлайн курсов, предлагая серии MOOCs и сертификацию | Education-events

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