Only a few months ago, it seemed premature to talk about how massive open online courses, or MOOCs, will be the revolutionary development that solves the cost-of-college crisis for America’s students. Now, with the recent announcement by Colorado State that it will give college credit for a MOOC offered by an online education company called Udacity, the hard part is figuring out how not to talk about it.
According to the New York Times, last week Colorado State University’s Global Campus announced that it will give three transfer credits to students who satisfactorily complete Udacity’s Introduction to Computer Science: Building a Search Engine course. In order to receive the credits, students will need to take a proctored test on the material covered. With that announcement, the Global Campus becomes the first in America to offer college credit for a MOOC, although several European universities have made similar moves in the past year.
“Our students have been asking for credit for the courses for a while, and Colorado State has been very excited about online ed, so this was those things coming together,” said David Stavens, Udacity’s co-founder. Almost 200,000 students have enrolled in the class, which is the company’s introductory computer science offering, and its most popular, Mr. Stavens said. “We’re talking with other schools, but we’re not ready to name them yet,” he added.
Udacity isn’t the only entity whose MOOC offerings are taken seriously. The same day of CSU’s announcement, edX, an online collaboration between Harvard University and Massachusetts institute of Technology, announced a new option for those students taking advantage of online courses offered on their platform. In a move that aims to make it easier for colleges to accept edX courses for credit, the two universities said that students will now be able to take final exams for their MOOCs at Pearson VUE’s testing centers all over the country, where the exams will be proctored and their identity will be verified.
Anant Agarwal predicted that this arrangement will signal the next stage of development for MOOCs and take them from an academic curiosity to a real part of a student’s college education.
The proctored certificates, Mr. Agarwal said, should be valuable to students who want to prove their skills to potential employers. Initially, he said, proctored tests will be available for only one of the seven courses — he would not say which one — M.I.T., Harvard and Berkeley are offering at edX this fall.
Udacity is also going to be taking advantage of the 450 testing facilities in 110 countries offered by Pearson VUE. Students who wish to take the proctored version of an exam for their Udacity course will have to pay $89 as a testing fee.