The Impact of MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been a key topic of discussion on the recent conference circuit.  Coursera, edX, MITx, Udacity and Wedubox are some of the leading examples of MOOCs and dozens of institutions around the world are now engaging with the MOOC phenomenon.  As of December 2012 the US platforms (Coursera, edX, and Udacity) offered around 230 MOOCs from 40 US based HEIs to over 3 million students.

The value of MOOC qualifications

There has been considerable discussion about the “value” of MOOC qualifications.  It is widely acknowledged that students undertaking such courses do not have exposure to the full higher education experience.  In fact, many of the courses are designed as ‘taster courses’, an introduction into full-time courses offered by the university in question.  Furthermore, in many cases, students will usually receive a “certificate of completion” rather than a traditional qualification.

Some of the course outcomes have been structured to allow credit onto related programmes at the universities involved.  However, it has already been suggested that the awards will struggle to carry the same weight as traditional qualifications with employers.

Recognition of MOOC qualifications

Whilst UK NARIC are yet to be presented with a MOOC qualification for evaluation, the initiative nonetheless poses interesting questions of evaluation criteria that have traditionally been employed.

UK NARIC uses a range of criteria when considering the comparable level of an international qualification – in line with the Lisbon Recognition Convention. These include:

  • the status of the awarding institution
  • the standing of the qualification within the country’s education system
  • the entrance requirements in the country of origin
  • the duration of a course of study
  • a review of the course structure
  • a consideration of course content
  • an analysis of method of study
  • the assessment method.

MOOCs are a game-changer

Some claim that MOOCs will have a revolutionary impact on higher education; others don’t.

It has been suggested that we should wait and see what employers think of the qualifications; but should it not be the role of the recognition and accreditation agencies to guide employers what the qualifications are worth?

If you are an employer, a professional body or an education provider you are going to have to consider how you evaluate MOOC qualifications. Will the current recognition processes allow this to happen?


Tim Buttress, July 2013

About ecctis

ECCTIS is the company which manages a number of national agencies on behalf of the Government. These include: UK NARIC UK National Europass Centre The UK’s National Contact Point for Professional Qualifications The National Contact Point for ECVET for England The European Network of Reference and Expertise in Vocational Education and Training ECCTIS Limited also offers a research and consultancy service which can help improve understanding qualifications in the field of international education.
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