MOOCs: A path to early college

Today the MOOC platform Coursera announced a new partnership with 10 major state flagships and state university systems, the Hechinger Report reports. While Coursera’s existing university partnerships focus on professors at elite institutions producing and sharing online versions of their courses, these partnerships are different. The focus is on incorporating existing MOOCs and newly created MOOCs– covering basic intro level and general education requirements–into the universities’ offerings, flipping the classrooms at public institutions, using MOOCs as a catalyst for collaboration on teaching and learning, and to enhance access to credit-bearing programs. One area of innovation that Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller singled out to me is the use of MOOCs for high school dual enrollment programs. “I’m really excited about it,” she said.  “There are so many studies that demonstrate the benefit to students in high school in having access to college-level material. It encourages them to go to college and complete college. But that opportunity has largely been available to the most advanced students at highly endowed school districts that have teachers that can teach college-level subjects. It’s been a very inequitable offering.” Research suggests that having access to college courses doesn’t just benefit the highest achievers. It can give average performers a way to transition more easily into college and a head start on completing their degrees. It can potentially address the needs of the high percentages of public high school graduates who need remediation when they get to college. It could also save money, which is especially important for low-income students.

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