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MOOC News Roundup – The Low-cost Online Degree is Here

Welcome. Here’s your roundup of MOOC News for May 19, 2013

MOOC news roundup

by Emily Spaide via 500px

Before the big news, let’s look at some context. Our “something’s got to change” white paper of the week is ”Voice of the Graduate” from McKinsey & Company.

  • Nearly half of graduates from four-year colleges say they are in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.
  • Half of all graduates express regrets, saying they would pick a different major or school if they had to do it all over again.
  • The types of jobs for which demand is growing are different now than they were 20 years ago, and they increasingly require specialized skills that graduates are not acquiring to a sufficient degree.

Why is this MOOC news? Well, did you hear about the name-brand university that’s going to start using MOOCs to offer a complete (graduate) degree that is:

  • coordinated with market demand
  • a fraction of the cost
  • serve many times the usual number of students
  • and that will get started doing it in what counts as a blink of the eye in academic time?

This week Georgia Institute of Technology announced a new online master’s degree program in computer science that will be taught using Udacity courses and supported by tutors and mentors at the university. The cost of the Master of Science in Computer Science — a 10-course program taking about three years to complete — will be $7,000. On a per-credit basis, that’s $134 vs. $1,139 for out-of-state students, never mind the savings on living and travel expenses. Georgia Tech expects to enroll 10,000 students in the first three years.

So people who argue that MOOCs will turn faculty into glorified teaching assistants now have an example to point to, and the efficiency vs. quality argument isn’t going to be held in the abstract for much longer. Whatever the actual learning outcomes of an online degree program, I’ve always said the real test of MOOCs will be in the employment marketplace. Can you imagine the company you work for hiring an I.T. professional with this degree? If so, you can imagine how MOOCs will be disruptive. If that doesn’t happen at a large scale, MOOCs might turn out to be the next version of correspondence courses.

One more detail about the Georgia Tech MOOC degree deserves more attention than it’s gotten. Apart from how disruptive this may be on the cost front, it’s potentially disruptive of the admissions process itself by taking G.R.E. test scores and other traditional criteria out of the equation. That’s because Georgia Tech will allow some students to enter on a kind of probationary/non-matriculated status regardless of test scores and, if they do well in the first two courses, fully enter into the program.

In other words, the low marginal cost of a MOOC allows a school to use its own classes as the admission criteria. Personally, I hope we see the day when this concept is pushed down to undergraduate admissions so that the stranglehold that the S.A.T. has on the U.S. system can be broken. I’m rooting for a day when talented teenagers — or working adults who have been out of school for awhile — can demonstrate their college-readiness by actually taking free college classes in MOOC form.

Our under-noticed MOOC of the week is “The Modern Genius: Art and Culture in the 19th Century” from the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. The art history MOOC starts June 17 and, like a lot of MOOCs from lesser-known institutions, it’s on the Canvas network.

You probably heard that Yale University is finally getting in on the MOOC action. There’s nothing particularly different about how they’re doing it so far as I can tell. Like Harvard and M.I.T., Yale has an existing repository of free online course materials — called OpenYale — that they could potentially use as starter dough for MOOCs. All of the first four professors teaching Yale MOOCs have experience with OpenYale. They are also well-positioned to use the split “massive for thee, personal instruction for me” model because of experiments with synchronous online seminars they’ve been piloting.

You may not have heard that the University of Chicago plans on pulling up a seat, too, “in the near future.” They’re still checking out the suitors.

Coursera expanded its reach into other languages this week, adding more partnerships with cultural institutions and translation services. The short version is that for a handful of classes, lecture transcripts, but not other class materials apparently, will be translated into Russian, Portuguese, Turkish, Japanese, Ukrainian, Kazakh and Arabic.

While we’re on the subject of foreign language MOOCs, I want to give an early notice of a very exciting project we have coming up here at MOOC News and Reviews. We have been working hard the last few weeks putting together the definitive resource on MOOCs from around the world, including many in local languages. It turns out there a lot of them! So many, in fact, that it’s going to take us three separate posts to present them, starting tomorrow. So please be sure to check back throughout the week for our “MOOC Around the World” series.

As always, if you spotted some MOOC news that didn’t get enough Twitter chatter, make sure we know about it. In the meantime, to get this news roundup in your email box, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

Robert McGuire (51 Posts)

I’ve been a graduate student in English literature, a newspaper and magazine reporter, an ESL teacher at home and abroad, a marketing consultant and a grants and outcomes measurement specialist in nonprofits. Currently, I provide higher education MOOC consulting services and teach writing at a local university, and my “other job” is volunteering for several local nonprofit organizations. I started this project because I believe MOOCs are going to be an important – not to mention fascinating – social development, and I want to ensure that students and teachers could participate in lively critical dialogue about it. You can find me on G+.