Wednesday, June 3, 2015


Dean Dad makes a tremendously important point about MOOCs:

As a commenter correctly noted, there’s nothing stopping someone now from taking a MOOC in a “gen ed” area and then taking a CLEP exam to get credit.  CLEP fees are often lower than even community college tuition.  The ASU model is a more expensive and clunkier version of CLEP.  The MOOC-to-CLEP option has existed for a couple of years now, but students haven’t taken advantage in significant numbers.  
In case you're not familiar:
The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a group of standardized tests created and administered by College Board. These tests assess college-level knowledge in thirty-six subject areas and provide a mechanism for earning college credits without taking college courses. They are administered at more than 1,700 sites (colleges, universities, and military installations) across the United States. There are about 2,900 colleges which grant CLEP credit. Each institution awards credit to students who meet the college's minimum qualifying score for that exam, which is typically 50 to 60 out of a possible 80, but varies by site and exam. These tests are useful for individuals who have obtained knowledge outside the classroom, such as through independent study, homeschooling, job experience, or cultural interaction; and for students schooled outside the United States. They provide an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in specific subject areas and bypass undergraduate coursework. Many take CLEP exams because of their convenience and low cost (typically $15) compared to a semester of coursework for comparable credit.

I plan to spend a lot of time this summer writing about better using CLEPs  and improving MOOCs. For now though, I want to get a couple of big points.

The Internet has a way of producing deceptively large numbers. This has certainly been true with MOOCs. Articles have breathlessly reported huge enrollments despite the fact that for online classes enrollment is an almost meaningless statistic. When we have tried to assign meaningful metrics to online classes, they have tended to do very poorly. CLEP-usage would appear to be another example.

CLEP exams are a well-established, easy, and cheap way for students to get college credit for taking online courses, but very few seem to be taking advantage of it. That's a bad sign, but it does suggest a way forward.

Now, just to be clear, I am not saying that CLEP tests are a perfect solution for this problem – – I am certain we could come up with a better system, particularly once we have some experience to build on – but for the time being these exams are probably our best option and the fact that we're not seriously exploring them indicates a deeper lack of seriousness about MOOCs.

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