President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has a message for the federal government and regional accreditors: Go easy on the MOOCs.
In a report released on Wednesday, the council of engineers and scientists recommends the federal government not interfere with vendors and providers experimenting with massive open online courses and other forms of distance education. That message extends further to accreditors, which are encouraged to waive some of the standards required of institutions seeking approval for traditional programs.
“It would also be premature to impose standards and regulations that might impair the power of competitive market forces to motivate innovation,” the report reads. “If the bar for accreditation is set too high, the infant industry developing MOOC and related technology platforms may struggle to realize its full potential.”
As a third recommendation, the council suggests establishing grant programs to spur research into online education and the effectiveness of MOOCs. To support such an initiative, the data could be made available through a "national exchange mechanism" such as a "center for high-scale machine learning."
The accreditation issue is a delicate one, and many faculty critics have questioned why MOOCs are not subject to more oversight. Many of the initial MOOC providers launched with courses that offered no credit, and so said there was no need for accreditation reviews. Recently, however, MOOCs are being used by students to earn credits and certificates -- although the credit often comes from an institution, not a MOOC provider.
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