Monday, 29 October 2012

Credit for MOOC's - just what is Antioch up to?

I feel that I am witnessing the first true example of an innovation ecosystem in higher education. I say this because I am pretty sure that it is innovations like those at Antioch that are catalyzing the remarkable evolution of MOOCs, and innovations like Coursera that are catalyzing the acceptability growth of MOOCs, and innovations like MOOCs that are enabling innovations like those at Antioch. I am not sure how long this phase of it will last, I am not sure if the outcomes will be "good," but I do think that it will be interesting for a while. I hope that hangover is not so bad.

I read this morning in MOOCs for Credit, by Steve Kolowich in Inside Higher Ed that Antioch University has made arrangements with Coursera to include Antioch students in Coursera delivered courses. It is Antioch’s intent of provide credit to its students for successful completion of select courses. Apparently the University will provide additional faculty support to its students beyond whatever support can be expected within the native MOOC community. The offering will be limited to a small group of courses that Antioch has identified and the option will only be available to Antioch Los Angeles students.

The arrangement supports a degree completion strategy in which learners complete their first 2 years of a bachelor's degree at a community college, and then earn a year’s worth of credits in residence at Antioch. I suppose remaining credits can be earned in a variety of ways, including courses delivered through Coursera. Tex Boggs, the president of Antioch University Los Angeles, is clearly connecting innovation, cost, and convenience while indicating that,

Antioch’s strategy is to make a compelling offer to cost-conscious students who want to finish their bachelor’s degrees after completing two years at a community college. While the university would require one full year of traditional coursework at Antioch (even under an expanded partnership that would open the door to more of Coursera’s course offerings), “what we’re offering is a third year at a cost that is somewhat similar to the cost you can get at a community college,” says Boggs. (Antioch's campuses specialize in serving adult students.)

Note that although no per-credit prices were provided in the article, it was indicated that, “...Antioch says it plans to charge them less than the per-credit cost of its traditional courses, and, quite intentionally, less than that of California’s public university systems.” This got me thinking a bit about yesterday's post that included some thoughts about California public higher education.

Antioch seems to be engaging in a strategy that allows a revenue stream for Coursera, Coursera partner universities, the faculty at Coursera partner universities, and Antioch, while providing some financial relief for Antioch students, which should enhance access to an Antioch degree. It seems like a nice little ecosystem. In yesterday’s post, Articulating Value - Rethinking Phoenix and Funding California Public Higher Education that placed the University of Phoenix strategy next to what is happening with Proposition 30 for public higher education in California, I indicated that I would like to see the California public higher education systems clearly articulate how they are addressing their financial challenges while meeting their educational and societal missions. While writing that post, I was thinking that this will be a challenge for many non-profit colleges and universities as well. Antioch and Boggs seem to be communicating at least part of the story - one way in which they are going to address financial challenges.

Given the nature of Antioch, I think the financial issues will only be a part of a very interesting story. Antioch Los Angeles’ primary undergraduate destination seems to be a B.A. In Liberal Studies, which is the type of programming that I recently have had on my mind. I will be following this story and revisiting it on a number of accounts. I am very interested in learning more about,
  • how Antioch is going to support their Coursera engaged students and faculty,
  • how this arrangement may fit into their mission,
  • how participation in MOOCs might contribute to the larger questions about what it means to be educated at Antioch,
  • if at the end of the day, after providing additional support, the economics work, and
  • if the Antioch support model addressed the completion rates with unaffiliated MOOC students.
On the last point, I am guessing that payment up-front and the promise of credit for a program in which the learner is currently enrolled, will address completion to a large extent.

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