Does MOOC Accreditation Matter?

In an interview with CNBC in November, Daphne Koller was asked where the biggest growth will come from going forward.

 I think we’re going to see an extended growth in the audience of people who are no longer, or in some cases have never been to a college, and are looking to re-skill and up-skill themselves into a new job category, into promotion. — Daphne Koller.

And when asked whether traditional accreditation matters anymore, Daphne Koller had this to say:

 No, I don’t think so because most of our audience will never go back to school, so whether the courses that they’re taking build credit towards a degree really doesn’t matter to them. What matters to them is that it corresponds to a rigorous educational experience that is valuable to employers.

The assumption that course credit doesn’t matter to MOOC students is somewhat optimistic. There is little to no evidence that MOOC certificates are of any value to employers at this stage.

Degree Certificate
Jen Gallardo flickr, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I would love for there to be alternatives to the traditional path of degrees, and think that Coursera can blaze a trail here.

  • Why doesn’t Coursera provide a platform to showcase a career portfolio based on assignments taken during MOOCs? Surely this would provide deeper insights into a student’s ability than a simple certificate of completion.
  • Why not integrate Digital Badges in Coursera, so that students can accumulate a record of their educational achievements on various MOOC platforms?
  • Why not allow students to build reputations and social learning follower-ships that demonstrate mastery of topics and social leadership? The closest to this concept is Coursera’s ‘forum reputations’, which implements a rudimentary type of gamification to rank prolific forum posters who receive the most ‘votes’ (similar to Facebook Likes). At least this encourages participation and engagement in course forums. But the ‘feel-good’ factor is fleeting, since any kudos earned from offering value to other students is lost once the course finishes. There’s no way to capture, maintain, and build upon a record of value-added contributions that employers might see as a valuable trait in the increasingly social work landscape–where the ability to influence and build community is important.

If MOOC providers want to build an educational system for the long term, shouldn’t they be working with employers to gain recognition for MOOC certificates? Where is the evidence that MOOCs do enhance career opportunities? Where are the success stories of students who successfully gained employment because of MOOCs?

The opportunities are there. As an enthusiastic MOOC student–with around 50 courses under my belt–I remain optimistic about the future of the accreditation of MOOCs, and their key role in Lifelong Learning.

To discuss this and more, consider joining the Lifelong Learning Group on Facebook.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *