MOOCs in K-12 education (Part 1)

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have garnered considerable attention in post-secondary education, as courses from organizations including Udacity, edX, and Coursera have attracted tens of thousands of students. That is the number of students who start some courses—far fewer complete them. Colleges and universities have created MOOCs and MOOC-sponsoring organizations, and in some cases turned to MOOCs as an alternative to traditional remediation. MOOCs are not nearly as prevalent in any part of K-12 education, but the attention they have received has not escaped the attention of K-12 educators and policymakers. For example, Michigan Virtual University (MVU) is working with Kent State University to pilot a MOOC for K-12 students (among others) during SY 2013-14. The course, "K-12 Teaching in the 21st Century," is aimed at in-service teachers, pre-service teachers, and high school students interested in teaching as a profession. MVU expects that the course will be provided for certificate only, but that it might be used to fulfill the online learning experience high school graduation requirement in Michigan if the local school that the student attends supports it.

Similarly, ilearnOhio, a state-funded online learning platform, is listing 14 MOOCs offered by Coursera in elective subjects. The course descriptions state “There is no academic credit for taking any Coursera online course, but completing a course offered through Coursera may qualify a student for Flex Credit”—a competency-based path by which schools in Ohio can grant credit.

Among the key issues in how MOOCs would be offered to high school students is the issue of how credit would be granted, and whether local school administrators would grant credit for the courses. Because in most cases MOOCs don’t provide a mechanism to demonstrate seat-time or its equivalent, the paths by which schools can grant credit while meeting funding and other requirements are somewhat limited—although they do exist.

Amplify is piloting a MOOC in Advanced Placement Computer Science in SY 2013-14 that attempts to address both of these issues. By choosing an AP course, schools are given the option  of granting credit based on competency, which can be demonstrated by a student receiving a 3 or better on the exam (if the state has a competency-based mechanism for granting credit). Amplify is also offering a “MOOC local” option that aims to provide the school enough information about student activity in the course to allow the school to claim funding in states that allow for such funding mechanisms.

Florida, perhaps not surprisingly, is the first state that is reviewing MOOCs formally from a policy perspective. We will look at Florida’s MOOC review plans early next week.