University System of Georgia taking a closer look at MOOCs

Georgia college leaders joined a new partnership to explore how they can best use the fast-growing market of free online courses.

The University System of Georgia announced today it is one of 10 public systems and universities taking a collaborative look at how massively open online courses (MOOCs) could increase college access and make a degree more affordable.

MOOCs started almost two years ago to offer quality online college courses from elite schools, including Georgia Tech and Emory University. Millions of people worldwide signed up

Lately the focus has been on turning these free courses into college credit.

Georgia colleges could use the courses to reduce the expense of a degree and offer students more flexible class schedules, said Houston Davis, the system’s chief academic officer.

Davis stressed the system is not outsourcing teaching, but said the online courses could help the system reach thousands of potential students interested in college. It could be especially beneficial with two-year associate degrees and the general education classes undergraduate students take, he said.

Some work is already being done in this area.

The American Council on Education is evaluating the quality of existing MOOCs so students could get credit just like they do for traditional classes when they transfer from one college to another.

In January, Georgia State University agreed to give students credit for MOOCs provided the material meets college standards and students can prove they’ve mastered the lessons.

Still, there has been some backlash against the rapid growth of MOOCs as faculty raise concerns about quality and whether students get enough support.

Other schools joining Georgia in the partnership are: State University of New York system, the Tennessee Board of Regents and University of Tennessee Systems, University of Colorado System, University of Houston System, University of Kentucky, University of Nebraska, University of New Mexico and West Virginia University.

They will work with Coursera, the largest provider of these online courses.

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