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ACE MOOC Effort to Include Possible Credit Recommendation

The American Council on Education (ACE) announced yesterday a broad effort to evaluate the academic potential of massive open online courses (MOOCs) based on its engagement with the MOOC provider, Coursera. Supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the project encompasses three core activities:

"1. Creation of a Presidential Innovation Lab that will bring together presidents and chancellors from diverse institutions to engage in conversations about potential new academic and financial models inspired by the disruptive potential of MOOCs that can help address attainment gaps.

2. Evaluation of select Coursera courses for college credit by the ACE College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT).

3. Examination of effective approaches, pedagogies and practices that lead to student success, as well as the applicability of college credit recommendations for MOOCs to college degree completion programs."

While ACE's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) will evaluate a select number of Coursera MOOCs to determine if they would recommend that institutions award transfer credit for them (an Inside Higher Ed article quotes a Coursera representative as saying the number would be "small" at first, but potentially rise to "8-10"), individual institutions must ultimately decide whether they will accept ACE's recommendations and award credit to students on that basis. ACE's press release on their credit recommendation process describes it as follows:

"During the ACE CREDIT review process, a team of academic faculty from relevant disciplines carefully evaluates courses and exams and makes college credit recommendations. (Actual credit is awarded at the discretion of individual colleges and universities.) In this way, qualified nontraditional education becomes eligible to count toward traditional degree programs. Through the ACE CREDIT Registry and Transcript System, adult learners who have successfully completed courses or exams with valid ACE CREDIT recommendations can obtain official transcripts for documentation."

ACE President Molly Broad is quoted in the Inside Higher Ed article as describing the ACE CREDIT course evaluation process as "very much like accreditation." Thus, it is not surprising that Coursera indicates in the article that it expects the review and credit recommendation process to take "many months." In the meantime, neither the article nor the ACE announcement specify timeframes for the association's MOOC projects or when the results of its MOOC research efforts might be forthcoming.