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July 20, 2012 1:37 PM No, Free Online Courses Are Not For Credit

By Danny Vinik

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that 12 new universities are partnering with Coursera, an online education platform, to offer over 100 massively open online courses (MOOCs) expected to attract over a million users. The piece stated that one of the schools, the University of Washington, was even going to offer these MOOCs for credit.

This was big news in the education community and the College Guide reported it as well.

MOOCs are still fairly new and traditional universities have not yet offered credit for them. If the University of Washington was taking that next step, it would be a big development in the world of online education.

Alas, that’s not the case. At Inside Higher Ed, Steve Kolowich has the story:

The “enhanced” versions will add a number of features designed to make them more closely resemble conventional online courses — including more assessments, direct interaction with instructors, and the opportunity to earn a certificate that hypothetically could be redeemed for course credit.
But the “enhanced” MOOCs will also come with price tags and enrollment caps. And while students might be able to redeem their completion certificates for credit toward a University of Washington degree, they could do so only if they enrolled as tuition-paying students at the university, says David P. Szatmary, the provost.

The Times has not yet issued a correction for the error. Enrollment caps mean these “enhanced” courses are not MOOCs and the price for these courses will be similar to the price for any other for-credit course at the school. Thus, education wonks are still waiting for a school to find a way to offer credit for MOOCs.

Danny Vinik is an intern at the Washington Monthly.