University of Maryland University College to offer credit for MOOCs

As UMUC is specifically focused on adult learners, the university already accepts many forms of non-traditional academic credit.

University of Maryland University College (UMUC) believes it will be the first university in the Maryland system to let students earn academic credit for taking a massive open online course (MOOC).

But if the experiment is successful, UMUC won’t be a rarity for just the state; it will be an anomaly for all of American higher education.

Recent attempts by other institutions to offer credit for MOOCs have not gone smoothly. Last year, Colorado State University-Global Campus began offering credit for a computer science MOOC. Nearly a year later, no students have taken advantage of the deeply discounted course.

San Jose State University announced in May that their partnership with Udacity to offer for-credit MOOCs was being “paused” after many students had trouble passing the courses.

So what does UMUC think it can do differently?

“We’re an adult-friendly institution,” said Cynthia Davis, UMUC’s undergraduate dean. “I think that’s really the important thing that’s positioned us to do it successfully.”

As UMUC is specifically focused on adult learners who are older, less conventional students, Davis said, the university already accepts many forms of non-traditional academic credit and has systems in place for evaluating more experiential learning.

See Page 2 for how the university plans on administering credit for MOOCs.

The crediting process for MOOCs would be “fairly simple” for a  university like UMUC, she said.

“Very traditional schools who assume that students will get the degrees from them from beginning to end, it’s going to be hard for them to figure out MOOCs fit into what they do,” Davis said. “But schools used to non-traditional and transfer credit, it makes it simpler.”

The university will offer credit for the learning obtained through six MOOCs provided by the platforms Coursera and Udacity. The MOOCs are all introductory math and science courses that have already been evaluated and recommended for credit by the American Council for Education.

In order to earn the credits, students will have to prove their competency by taking standardized exams at a test center. UMUC will also allow students to earn credit through its portfolio review process, Bob Ludwig, the university’s assistant vice president of media relations, said.

While students will have to pay whatever fees Coursera and Udacity charge for testing their competency, UMUC will not charge any additional money for earning the credits.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen with MOOCs,” Davis said. “A lot of schools are trying to get their arms around what they mean. But we’re excited that there’s another way for students to learn and that we can accommodate it.”

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