College students may now be able to receive credit for free online courses known as MOOCs– “Massive Open Online Courses.” In what could be a significant step toward greater student access and lower costs for higher education, in February the American Council on Education (ACE) announced it will recommend five MOOCs for credit.
“Postsecondary education in America is at an inflection point, and the economic and social imperative to educate our citizens is greater than ever,” said Cathy Sandeen, an ACE vice president. “ACE is assessing where MOOCs may fit into this evolving landscape.”
Individual colleges will ultimately decide whether to grant credit for the online classes recommended by ACE. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education , ACE provides “a credit recommendation service” to colleges. ACE recommends certain classes to their 1,800 “member colleges,” but each college must decide whether it will grant students credit for that course. Thus it works similarly to transfer credits.
Millions of International Students
The five recommended MOOCs come from Duke University, the University of California-Irvine, and the University of Pennsylvania. The courses are Introduction to Genetics and Evolution; Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach; Pre-Calculus; Algebra; and Single-Variable Calculus. The courses will be offered through Coursera, a company that works with universities to provide online college courses “for anyone to take, for free,”  according to the organization’s website.
Coursera has enrolled 2.8 million students in nearly 200 countries, ranging from teenagers to elderly adults.
"We have been able to provide educational opportunities to millions of people around the world, including many who would never have had access to this type of knowledge before,” said Daphne Koller, Coursera’s founder.
End Game: Cheaper College
Over the last decade the number of students taking online college course has quadrupled, said Tom Vander Ark, founder of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. More than 7 million U.S. students are currently enrolled in some type of online higher education course. He expects the demand will continue to increase.
”The real story is how the diverse web of nearly 5,000 institutions—broadly speaking—of higher learning in the U.S. are responding to cost pressure, calls for higher completion rates and better job preparation, and student demands for relevance. The answer is that they are adopting blended learning strategies at a remarkable rate,” said Vander Ark.
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