MOOCs should give real credits

Since the University of Minnesota began offering massive open online courses more than a year ago, the courses have had more success than some people predicted.

The courses, commonly known as MOOCs, allow any number of students to enroll in well-developed online classes for free — marking a crucial development for the intersection of technology and education. The University has at least 16 instructors working on MOOCs.

Learning online has some inherent flaws, such as a lack of interpersonal connectivity and few opportunities to connect with instructors. However, MOOCs offer many benefits. For one, they can allow people to learn basic subjects or special areas of interest without any financial deterrents, as MOOCs are free.

One University MOOC has 52,000 students enrolled online. Although only about 2 percent of them received a course completion certificate, the class still gave a free education to more than 1,000 students.

Even with the success of MOOCs at the University, the school still doesn’t offer any way to receive credit from the courses — and one top school official said this isn’t likely to change.

Other schools around the country have found successful ways to offer credit for MOOCs by implementing systems in which students must prove they completed a MOOC and take a placement test to demonstrate that they truly earned the credit.

We encourage the University to find an effective way to offer credit for MOOCs so these courses can be more worthwhile. Doing so would provide a cheap class alternative to help low-income, transfer and international students.