I have to admit, I’m surprised it took this long for the knives to come out and chop away at all the mythic possibilities of MOOCs (which if done right, have a lot of promise for expanding the knowledge of those who are motivated to learn). I guess the mythic properties really belong to the Udacity, Coursera, EdX model of MOOCs – the idea of enabling learners worldwide to have access to University level education to better themselves, well really doesn’t ring true. Sure they know more, can even prove they know more in many cases, but doesn’t really move the needle in getting a better job (outside a select few from Udacity who impressed the professors so much they got jobs with Google and other tech companies).
What’s really interesting about Coursera’s shift is not that they’re adjusting their strategy (as with all startups, they need to adapt strategy or else they are unlikely to succeed) but the reasoning. According to the Chronicle article with quotes from Diane Koller “most Coursera users have degrees”. Which suggests that people who don’t have degrees don’t find this idea of education an avenue of inquiry.
The shift from sole content provider to platform for content with a credit broker situation is hopeful. Most districts and institutions have shifting values of what English 101 is constituted of – California’s values are different from, say, Alberta’s or Quebec’s. If Coursera can construct a way for a student from one institution in Bangladesh transfer credits to the University of British Columbia – at a cost of $30 per course – through Coursera’s platform of course – I think the possibilities are quite good that Coursera will make a nice tidy sum. Ivy League institutions may opt out of such setups – there’s no benefit to their image when transfer credit leads to a completion without the student stepping on campus. Where the inroads can be met is when you have a second tier institution who essentially give away their courses to Coursera, and wait for the transfer credit money to roll in.
This scenario doesn’t address what Coursera’s statements are around – making sure people get their first degree. However with immigration being a huge player in Canada’s development, and external accreditation of professionals being talked about for the last twenty years, perhaps this is a gap that’s worth filling. And that is getting people their first degree (in North America).