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Duke classes among those eligible for Coursera credit

Students from other universities may have the opportunity to receive credit for two Duke Coursera courses.

Coursera, a California-based online education company, has submitted five of its Massive Open Online Courses to the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service, which evaluates each course and determines its eligibility for credit equivalence. Among the five MOOCs submitted were two Duke courses: Genetics and Evolution taught by professor Mohamed Noor and Bioelectricity taught by professor Roger Barr. Both have been recommended for credit by the ACE.

Both Noor and Provost Peter Lange agree that Coursera is no substitute for an actual course taught at Duke, even if the Coursera course is taught by Duke faculty. Duke will not be giving credit for Coursera courses, Lange said.

“[Coursera] is the baseline material, the lite version of the app,” Noor said. “The Duke experience is much greater. [Coursera students] don’t have reinforcement during class, a lab section, and [they] don’t have access to the professors and the teaching assistants.”

More than 2,000 colleges may consider ACE credit recommendations, including Johns Hopkins University and the University of California at Berkeley, but Duke currently has no plans to participate in the credit granting program. Using Coursera is free, but to receive credit, students must pay from $100 to $190 to confirm their identities, take tests monitored via webcam and gain transcripts with ACE credit recommendations.

The new for-credit program is another addition to a series of self-improvements that Coursera has made over the past few months. The most recent one was Signature Track, a tool that used keyboard typing pattern recognition to verify the identity of the student taking the course.

Coursera’s new for-credit program is developed from Signature Track. If a student attends a college that has an arrangement with ACE, the student can now receive college credit for a Coursera course, which can be applied towards graduation. Whether a certain university participates in that arrangement, however, is completely up to that institution, Lange said.

Additionally, high school students could use Coursera credit as an alternative to Advanced Placement credit.

“This is a great opportunity for people applying to colleges, almost like an AP that you can take at home,” said Noor, professor and associate chair of biology.

Students who plan on taking the course for credit will be required to use Signature Track as well as take an online proctored exam, the prices of which will depend on the class, according to Coursera’s official website. Students will only be required to pay for their Coursera courses if they would like course credit.

The program will work just like any other source of transfer credit. Students will receive an ACE CREDIT transcript, which can be given to any participating college.

As a result of Coursera’s shift to charging students who want course credit, people have questioned whether this changes the goal of Coursera to provide free education globally.

Noor does not think that the objective of the new program is to earn profit, although Duke does receive a small share of the revenue. Coursera still provides education to a global audience, only now they are expanding the way courses can be used.

Jacob Vigdor, professor of public policy and economics, does not think the MOOCs will be an effective money making product for Duke anyway.

“I’m on board with the idea that MOOCs are good for students, and that Duke is part of an elite club of universities participating in the MOOC scheme,” he said. “But where I’m not so much on board is this notion that MOOCs are going to be a big money maker.”

Since the free version of the courses is still available, Coursera will still serve as a platform that provides easy access to education globally, Lange said.

“The span is just as big,” Lange said. “But now there are options within that span for different kinds of students with different kinds of purposes in taking those courses.”


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