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Academic Partnerships this week announced MOOC2Degree, a new program designed to put a sustainable revenue model behind massively open online courses. 

The program, which so far has 8 schools signed up for the first round of courses, underwrites the development of MOOC courses and then takes an (undisclosed) revenue share for students who enroll in the teaching institution upon completion of the free online course. 

The twist is that students who complete the MOOC will be eligible to receive academic credit for their MOOC completion (from the institution in which they enroll). The idea is that this is a win/win for students and schools, as students get a jump on their degrees and colleges and universities increase enrollment.

MOOC2Degree raises a number of questions about its methods, business model, and how exactly credit is awarded. To answer these questions I asked Randy Best, CEO and Founder of Academic Partnerships.

Can you talk about the platform which these MOOCs are being taught?

Academic Partnerships and Canvas have a strategic partnership whereby universities can use the Canvas Network at no cost to offer MOOC2Degree courses. Canvas is widely lauded as the industry’s most innovative learning platform because of its intuitive design, flexible pedagogy, integrated multimedia, deep social network integration and easy-to-use authoring system.

Some of our university partners already have an existing LMS system and may choose to use Canvas Network or the open version of their own LMS.

Will students get credit if they decide not to enroll in the institution? Will these credits be transferable?

Each individual university will determine whether or not a student who does not continue in a degree program will receive credit for the MOOC in the MOOC2Degree initiative. Universities will have a variety of approaches to its implementation. For example, Arizona State University, one of the most innovative universities in the world, will make the MOOC free and charge for credits for successful completers who continue in the program. University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Nursing will offer its MOOC for free and have the students pay a third party testing company approximately $25 for a final exam. The University of Cincinnati, University of Arkansas System and many others will make the first course in their degree programs open, free and for credit.

How can a MOOC course offered through this program be commensurate to courses that enrolled students would take? How can professors get to know students in a MOOC in the same way that faculty get to know students in a smaller course?

Many of our partner universities already have online courses with large enrollments where professors provide a high level of interaction with their students that results in strong student outcomes. This experience has prepared our partners for the increased enrollment that MOOC2Degree may bring. 

A great course is not about information delivery, but about a relationship between faculty and students.  How can this relationship scale to MOOCs?

In the MOOC2Degree initiative, the MOOC is an existing course in an existing online degree program. We anticipate students will receive similar faculty interaction and support that currently enrolled students are receiving.

Do the partner institutions worry about anchoring the price for their education at zero?  If I can get a course for free, why would I then want to pay for the same course at that institution?

I believe our university partners answered this one during the press conference. While we can’t speak for the universities, the MOOC2Degree model encourages increased enrollment in degree programs, which will subsequently increase tuition revenue for the university. Each of our universities will approach this according to their own objectives and strategies.

In the MOOC2Degree model, the free course applies to an existing course in an online degree program.

Will for-profit institutions be also participating in this program?

Academic Partnerships only serves public universities, however, it is most likely that universities of all types will adopt this model because of its benefits to both the student and the university.

What is the business model of Academic Partnerships?  How do they make money?

Academic Partnerships creates a new revenue stream for partner universities by helping them put traditional courses online and recruit students into these courses. We receive a portion of this new revenue.

Why go through Academic Partnerships instead of a Coursera or Udacity - a platform that has already aggregated demand?   What is the value add of Academic Partnerships?

In Academic Partnerships MOOC2Degree model, the MOOC is an existing course in an online degree program and students receive full course credit for successful completion. The concept is also a revenue-generating model for the university in that it anticipates that students who complete the MOOC will pay tuition for subsequent courses in a degree and stay in the program through graduation. The MOOC2Degree model anticipates a credentialing as the end game for all participating individuals.

Coursera and Udacity courses generally do not carry course credit and are not part of a degree program. Also, their courses do not generate a revenue stream for a university nor consistently lead to a credential for the student. 

Where would you push Randy to clarify or expand on his answers? 

What else would you want to know about MOOC2Degree?

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