Bill could be another big step forward for the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) model.
The state of California has recently approved a bill (SB 520) that mandates statewide open online courses be approved for college and high school credit. By requiring that these courses be open to all students who require them and cannot get access to them in their own schools, the bill positions 20 MOOC-like courses to become credited by high schools and colleges across the state.
The bill dictates that students who are shut out of a high school or college classrooms due to a lack of space in that class, must be allowed to take the same course in an online or non-classroom format. (Check out the Bill 520 “Fact Sheet” here).
The debate lies in whether or not those courses provide the same quality of learning and same standards that the accredited high school and college classes provide.
The actual legislation assumes uniform standards between online and classroom classes, which in real life is more difficult to nail down. For those who oppose SB 520, the argument is that it is simply not possible to guarantee that large online courses will meet the same standards that are met by classroom courses.
So, while there’s a real problem of there not being enough space in classrooms for students (particularly in California), the solution might present another problem in and of itself.
Those who support the measure would argue that this is a necessary step for the state of California (and possibly the state of Florida in the near future) to make it possible for students to take the classes they need and be able to graduate in a more reasonable amount of time.
Many students in California are having trouble graduating college in the allotted four-year time frame due to the high probability that they won’t be able to get into a lot of the classes they need due to a shortage of space.
Being able to get these credits elsewhere, particularly for baseline or general education classes, would go a long way in alleviating the bottleneck that is being experienced at both the high school and collegiate levels, especially for immigrants looking to earn a degree in the United States.
This argument assumes the validity and standards of most open online courses that are available now. Whether or not you agree that is a safe assumption will likely determine which side of this issue you are on.
Those who oppose SB 520 have one basic argument: you can’t assume that each MOOC style course will require the same level of learning or provide the same standard of quality as classroom based, fully-accredited courses.
This is certainly a viable debate to have, as it is difficult to determine whether the same course from two different institutions will provide any kind of equivalency or similarities. While there are a lot of organizations that partner in providing credits between one another, many of the mediums that offer MOOCs now are either free or far cheaper than their classroom alternatives.
Up until now, many of them have also not been accredited.
That leads critics of the the bill to believe that the quality and accountability of learning is going to be far lower than it would be in a more formal setting.
Both sides of this debate would agree that something needs to be done about the shortage of classroom space in California, as well as other states in the U.S. The disagreement lies in whether or not awarding credits for MOOCs or similar types of courses is a valid fix for the problem.
Both sides have fairly sound reasoning at this point, so it will likely be up to the courts to decide whether or not SB 520 stands as is, or gets shot down and sent back to the drawing board.
Learn more about recent amendments to the bill here.
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