Some think MOOCs will eventually shift to a for-credit model, thereby allowing students to take a sizable chunk of their college courses for free. But for now, only a handful of colleges nationwide grant transfer credits for a completed MOOC.

online-courses

Most California community colleges had wait lists in 2012.

Measured by size, the University of Florida course the Fundamentals of Human Nutrition was a resounding success. The class, offered this past spring, was UF’s first foray into the online trend of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. The course was open to anyone interested, from around the world, and more than 69,000 students signed up.

For comparison purposes, UF as a university has a total enrollment of about 50,000 a year.

In other ways, though, UF’s MOOC – and the track record of MOOCs in general – is less impressive. With the courses generally offered free of charge (hence the “open” part of their title) some inevitably sign up simply out of curiosity, or because it allows them to listen to the lectures of big-name professors at far-away schools such as Harvard or MIT.

Students often have no real intention of doing the work. Completion rates are generally abysmal, with more than 90 percent of students dropping out.

At UF, tens of thousands of students registered but didn’t even watch one class presentation.

Also, if stadium-sized online classes are indeed a glimpse into the future of higher education (and many have suggested they are), how are universities supposed to stay financially afloat when they’re giving away their product for free? Another issue: MOOCs usually don’t include any college credit, so how useful can they be for students who want a credential that is recognized and valued by employers?

See Page 2 for details about how online learning is often tailored for adults.


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