Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology & Associate Professor at Royal Roads University

MOOCs, credit, accreditation, and narratives


Posted on November 20th, by George Veletsianos in moocs, online learning, sharing. 22 comments

I’m working through my thoughts with this blog entry, as I’ve been trying to use this space to think out loud about my work and what I see happening in online education and higher ed.

A lot has been written about MOOCs and accreditation, and a lot more will be forthcoming. For example, see Terry Anderson’s post on this.

Today, I run across this quote in an article at Time Magazine:

…if Liu passes the graduate-level Harvard course she is taking for free through edX — one of the leading providers of massive open online courses, or MOOCs — she will be granted 7.5 credit hours, which her school district has agreed to accept as a form of professional development that can help her earn a higher salary. Liu might be among the first students nationwide to turn free online coursework into tangible college credit, but that number may soon grow exponentially.
Critical educators have done a good job on exposing systems of oppression and unequal distribution of power that impoverish learning experiences. I believe that such a lens is increasingly important in the work of any researcher and educator thinking about the future of education. To illustrate, the description above is not just a narrative of the success of open education. It’s also a narrative of moocs  “carving new markets” rather than innovating the way higher education functions for the masses of people that could not have attained a degree in the first place. I think that we need to keep an open mind with regards to the potential, as well as the aims and pitfalls, of such initiatives. To explore a different perspective, I suggest that you read Richard Hall’s analysis on how the profit motive is threatening higher education.
Contrast this with the TechCrunch perspective that  “the school system, as we know it, is on the verge of extinction”as “it’s inevitable that online courses will in one way or another replace schools.”  The question to ask here is not whether this prophecy will come true. We know that it won’t because universities are valued social institutions that are embedded in the culture of their times, and even though they may change, they won’t disappear. An analysis of educational technology predictions of the past also shows that hype is rarely realized (pdf). What is important to ask however is this: Who benefits from the narrative of “extinct schools?” Is it the student? The edtech startups? The investors?