MOOC certification?

Sure, you read the books, watched the video lectures, answered to quizzes, completed the exams, and even did some of the “additional readings”.  But can you prove it?

edX and Coursera have begun to offer varieties of “certificates” upon completion of their courses.  Each offers some evidence that you have consumed and digested the course material, but some courses offer different levels of “certification.”

edX courses offer an “honor code certificate of achievement,” a “verified certificate of achievement,” and an “XSeries certificate of achievement.”   The honor code certificate says you completed the course, but without verifying your identity.  The certificate includes a URL at which employers or others can check on the validity of this certificate.  A verified certificate includes a small fee, continuing proof of identity from a photo ID and your web cam, and an authenticating URL.  An XSeries certificate is earned upon the completion of two or more verified courses:  for example, MITx offers a two-course astrophysics series and a seven-course computer science series.  The total cost of these ($275 and $425, respectively) is less than what you would expect to pay just for books.

Coursera offers similar tiers:  a “statement of accomplishment” and a “verified certificate” via “signature track.”

In general, though, what these do not offer is college credit.  And in fact, you may not even get any certificate of completion.  I recently completed edX’s “Scientific Humanities” from France’s Sciences Po, and was told that in fact no, students would receive no acknowledgement of completion etc.

Sometimes education really is its own reward.

Law School Externships and Online Learning

While many universities have started to offer online-only or hybrid (much online; some on-site) degree programs, law schools have been slower.  Some of this is chicken-and-egg – the American Bar Association has not offered accreditation to any online-only programs and has seemed reluctant to do so.  In late 2013, it did agree to a 2015 pilot program with the ABA-accredited William Mitchell College of Law, to offer a hybrid program combining online and on-site education.

The National Law Journal reported that the ABA last week rejected a call to ease its ban on paid externships for law students – that is, what you know as “paid internships” in which the student receives both pay-for-work and academic credit. Law students who might go to Washington or New York for the summer, or who want to work in their field during the fall or spring semester, will be affected.  Critics charge that this most affects students who can not spend a summer working “for free” on Capitol Hill or elsewhere, or who must work during the school year and can not earn academic credit for that work, as their unpaid classmates can.

NLJ reported that removing the ban had been supported by the ABA’s Law Student Division but opposed by the Society of American Law Teachers and the Clinical Legal Education Association.

As law schools move toward online learning, this may affect many more students.  The importance of externships – both for education and for resume-building – could be especially critical for online-learning/distance-education students.  The ABA ban retains an important hurdle for future law students who will seek to combine valuable legal training and experience during the day while studying online at night.


Ann Ferren Conference 2015 – Call for Proposals

The annual Ann Ferren Conference bring together a great breadth of approaches to improving all aspects of instruction and instructional support:  teaching strategies, innovative assessment design, working with international students, supervising internships, and technology in – and out of – the classroom.  Browse recent years’ offerings, and consider a proposal about online learning, social media, the mobile student, or other topics that will make the rest of us better teachers:  call for proposals deadline September 22, 2014.

What’s up with MOOCs?

Online learning at American University and elsewhere tries to replicate the small-class experience of classroom-based courses: intense student-faculty interaction, student-to-student learning, and a community for discussion.  But in other places, the focus in the last couple of years has been on MOOCs – massive open online courses:  thousands of students, open admissions, no tuition, and no academic credit.  Here’s some recent MOOC news.

Study Finds MOOC Reality Not Yet Meeting High Expectations

Columbia University researchers conclude that from the educational and the business perspectives, MOOCs stll have a long way to go before they are fundamentally change the cores of higher education.  A summary and the entire report.

Another report concluded that so far MOOCs are “more like health clubs than hospitals” – a summary and the report.

In Defense of Teacher Learning

A blog from the global business school INSEAD notes the importance, but lack of discussion, of instructors reconsidering their courses when preparing them as MOOCs.  The new platform forces teachers to reconsider content choices, assignments, and assessments in ways that spill over into reconsidering their classroom-based courses.

Andrew Ng joins China’s Baidu

A Coursera co-founder, with roots at Google and Stanford will become chief scientist at Baidu, the Chinese Internet company with $1.5 in 2014 Q1 revenue.

MOOCs Go Global

From Jordan, Queen Raina’s Foundation for Education and Development will work to increase the number of Arabic MOOCs available for the benefit of Arabic students and scholars with a partnership with edX, called Edraak.  MOOCs are also being offered from Asia and elsewhere.

MOOCs – Not Just for Universities

Forbes notes that while MOOCs pose challenges and opportunities for universities, businesses like SAP and Sky News are also using the ideas that shape MOOCs for their own business purposes.

MOOCs on Everything – Including, Now, SABRmetrics

“An introduction to sabrmetrics, baseball analytics, data science, the R language, and SQL.”  From Boston University via edX.  Begins next week….

Writing Lab Support

From the Academic Support and Access Center:

Dear Faculty,

With great enthusiasm, we are writing you to announce that the Writing Lab in the ASAC will be offering online support for students enrolled in online classes this summer.

We will contact all students taking online classes and let them know about this opportunity and how to take advantage of it. It would also be beneficial if you could remind them of this service, when needed.

To visit our webpage, which contains all the instructions to schedule an appointment and prepare for it, please go to Online Writing Lab Schedule.

Please feel free to contact the ASAC (202-885-3360 or if you have any questions or need further information.

Have a great summer!

The Writing Lab at the Academic Support and Access Center
Mary Graydon Center 243

Want to teach online?

American University offers a training course of its faculty members.  The next session is May 14 – June 11 – contact the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning (CTRL) for more information.

Online Learning / Hybrids

May 14th – June 11th, 2014

Interested in teaching online or using a hybrid course model during the Fall 2014 semester? This is a new five–week course on pedagogy, syllabi and course design. The course focuses on building experiences that maximize student learning. The face-to-face sessions meet on May 14, May 21, June 4 and June 11, 2014 from 10:30am until 12:00 noon in the CTRL Lab.

If you are interested in participating in this course, please contact