Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Degrees of Merit

Right now the most valuable asset of a lot of colleges is the right to issue accredited degrees.  Of course faculty, campus, and facilities count for a lot too.  The former property has been eroded by the proliferation of online diploma mills, but maybe not too much, since their degrees might not be taken very seriously.  They have been a big enough threat so that a lot of traditional schools, especially but not exclusively the lower end starving step children of academia, have pushed their way into online learning.

The Massive Online Open Course, the free courses offered by Coursera, edX, Udacity, and a couple of others, are a big monkey wrench in this trend.   First they carry the names of big name universities, and are taught by prestigious teachers from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley and others nearly as distinguished.  And right now, they are free.  Arizona State, the source of a couple of my degrees, made itself a big player in online ed and was in the business of selling online courses and degrees for just as much tutition as an on campus degree.

Right now, I don't see any course sequence from Coursera or edX that looks like a degree, but Udacity seems to be aiming that direction.  If the other big time corporate education players (e.g. Randy Bates and his MOOC2Degree) move in that direction, the true MOOCs may need to too.