Overnight, MOOCs -- with free tuition for all, attracting unprecedented enrollments reaching into the hundreds of thousands, and the involvement of world-class faculty -- have captured the imagination of the press, public and even legislators looking for ways to expand the availability of higher education at minimal cost.
But thus far little attention has been paid to the quality of MOOCs. Quality in online learning can be defined in many ways: quality of content, quality of design, quality of instructional delivery, and, ultimately, quality of outcomes. On the face of it, the organizing principles of MOOCs are at odds with widely observed best practices in online education, including those advocated by my organization, the Quality Matters Program. Many of the first MOOCs are providing quality of content, but are far behind the curve in providing quality of design, accountable instructional delivery, or sufficient resources to help the vast majority of students achieve a course’s intended learning outcomes.