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Credentialing MOOCs: A Case Study

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Embedded Systems and Mobile Computing

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.340.1 - 24.340.9



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Paper Authors


Cory Brozina Virginia Tech

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Cory Brozina is a PhD student in the Engineering Education department at Virginia Tech. His research is in educational technology and data analysis.

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David B. Knight Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education Orcid 16x16

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David Knight is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education and affiliate faculty with the Higher Education Program at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on student learning outcomes in undergraduate engineering, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, organizational change in colleges and universities, and international issues in higher education.

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Credentialing MOOCs: A Case StudyMassive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are pushing the boundaries of how education istaught, learned, and administered. MOOCs allow generally free enrollment and participation byanyone in the world. These courses, developed and offered by colleges and universities, areadministered online through various platforms such as Coursera, Udacity, and edX; coursesrange from Law and Humanities to Artificial Intelligence and Data Analysis. Because of theiraccessibility and openness, some courses have enrollments in the hundreds of thousands.Curricular content is delivered via asynchronous video lectures, quizzes, assignments, andexams, and online discussion forums enable student engagement throughout the course withfellow students as well as with the instructional team.Such an innovation could provide an exceptional educational opportunity. MOOCs allowlearners the chance to be educated at a time and in a setting that meets their own convenience.Individuals from rural areas who normally might not be able to attend postsecondary classesduring the work day, for example, could gain new access to educational advancement. Inaddition, MOOCs tend to be taught by the top faculty members and researchers in a given field,thereby expanding broad access to some of the world’s leading academics.Though the MOOC concept to enable quality learning and broaden access to educationalopportunities seems admirable, colleges and universities have been struggling to operationalizethe idea effectively. MOOCs are slowly being integrated with current university offerings in avariety of ways. For example, models range from a hybrid “flipped classroom” approach to amodel where completing a MOOC encapsulates the entire class. Such approaches, however,raise many logistical concerns, such as quality control and alignment between the standarduniversity semester and the timeline of the MOOC offering. Thus, postsecondary institutions arefaced with a challenge on how to strike an effective balance between allowing students to takeadvantage of external resources while integrating such approaches within their current internalsystems.In this paper, we propose and describe a low-risk, potentially high-reward model that allows theintegration of MOOCs into the university culture. We present findings from a case study at amajor research institution in which this model is currently underway in the College ofEngineering. Following an independent study approach, both the content and mode of deliveryof a MOOC are leveraged for a rigorous, innovative educational experience. We discuss theprocess, documentation, and experiences of obtaining university credit by integrating curricularand pedagogical experiences from three MOOC courses on the Coursera platform to serve as asingle graduate-level course at the university.Following such a model, students may be able to take online courses that align with theirinterests which could offer additional educational benefits than on-campus offerings. Findingsfrom this case study will inform other universities who are struggling to find ways to takeadvantage of the MOOC space. Additional implications from this case study includecontributing to the discussion of how institutions might consider awarding academic credit forcompleting MOOCs.

Brozina, C., & Knight, D. B. (2014, June), Credentialing MOOCs: A Case Study Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20231

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