Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have captured the attention of higher education and the political community in a way seldom seen, Excelsior College President John Ebersole writes in Wired. To many, the idea of accessing instruction at world class institutions for free is the answer to a prayer. As a new form of instructional delivery, MOOCs could take some of the heat off of higher education, with its ever rising tuition, and the politicians as well, whose cuts to state support have made necessary those increases. Hopefully, MOOCs will offer ways for state governors, legislators and college administrators to promote universal access to higher education without having to worry about cost. On the other hand, many within higher education question MOOCs’ effectiveness as vehicles for real learning. They view any rush to recommend credit for use in satisfying degree requirements as premature. Partly as a result of this growing concern, only five MOOCs have been deemed credit-worthy, so far. … Historically, a recommendation of credit for learning outside of an accredited institution, and the oversight of its faculty, has been held to higher standards than we see with MOOCs.

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