Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

 Email  Share  Print

ACE/AIR Forum Explores Impact of MOOCs on Students, Institutions

October 04, 2013

People at computers


Millions of students around the world have signed up to take massive open online courses (MOOCs) and many institutions are offering them or weighing doing so.

That makes it vital for higher education researchers and other experts in the field to evaluate the early impact of these courses and assess their long-term potential, said members of a panel assembled by ACE and American Institutes for Research (AIR).

The Oct. 2 forum, Will MOOCs Pass the Test: Evaluating These New Online Courses, was moderated by Gina Burkhardt, AIR executive vice president. Panelists included Cathy Sandeen, ACE vice president for education attainment and innovation; Jessica Heppen, AIR principal research analyst; Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera; and Karen Vignare, associate provost, Center for Innovation and Learning, University of Maryland University College (UMUC).

There is widespread interest in who MOOCs are serving and what difference these new types of online courses are making for students as well as institutions, Burkhardt said in framing the discussion.

Many MOOC students are so-called “leisure learners” who already possess college degrees. But Sandeen noted that ACE launched a MOOC evaluation and research initiative last fall partially in response to students who wanted academic credit for MOOC courses and by questions about whether MOOCs could help increase the country’s attainment rate by shortening the pathway to earning a degree.

Heppen said that in examining MOOCs as possible tools to expand access and provide flexible options for adult and at-risk students, researchers must assess the design and quality of the courses; look at how to increase participation and completion of at-risk students; and, more broadly, evaluate the impact of MOOCs on the overall higher education system, national economy and society as a whole.

Ng said that as Coursera nears its two-year mark, he is struck by the richness of the MOOC experience. 
MOOCs are attracting a large number of educated individuals seeking high quality, flexible education for personal enrichment, Sandeen said. Nevertheless, she added, there remains an important need for traditional degrees, certificates and credentials from degree-granting institutions.

Similarly, Vignare said that while there are questions about how MOOCs will affect the role of faculty, she doesn’t believe MOOCs will replace the need for them. And Vignare noted that despite all the publicity surrounding MOOCs in recent months, UMUC students have not yet requested credit for MOOCs.

Other ACE News

  • May 29, 2015

    Today's Headlines

    HEADLINES: Today's Top Higher Education News

    In today’s headlines, Inside Higher Ed reports on the status of public higher education funding in Illinois, Louisiana and Wisconsin, and Reuters covers the court decision upholding federal “gainful employment” rules. In other news, The Associated...

  • Innovative Practices

    May 27, 2015

    Quick Hit Students in Classroom

    ACE Releases Quick Hit Paper on Predictive Analytics

    Higher education is at a pivotal point in the use of data to improve student success, according to "Moving the Needle on Predictive Analytics," the latest brief released by ACE’s Center for Education Attainment and Innovation.

  • Credit for Prior Learning

    May 27, 2015

    Register Now for Free Webinar on Military Credit

    ​Register now for Mapping Military Training & Occupations to Postsecondary Credentials, a two-part webinar scheduled for June 16 and June 18.

  • Innovative Practices

    May 22, 2015

    alternative credit project

    Calling All Proposals for ACE Alternative Credit Consortium

    Institutions demonstrating a strong commitment to access and attainment, particularly those serving nontraditional students, are invited to submit proposals to join the second wave of ACE’s alternative credit consortium.

  • Law and the Courts

    May 22, 2015

    Library with Colorful Books

    Access and Diversity Collaborative Issues Syllabus

    Designed to map relevant issues about campus diversity and direct institutions to important resources that can help them understand these issues, develop effective policies and mitigate legal risk.


 Related Content