What happens when faculty are encouraged to adapt MOOCs intended for large global audiences for use in traditional classroom settings and curriculum? Can this “off label use” bring benefits like improved learning outcomes or the ability to educate more students in a given course? How can institutions make informed, evidence-based choices about the use of these technology enabled courses on their own campuses?
To answer these questions, we embarked on a study of MOOCs used in ways that differ substantially from their original purpose.2 Working jointly with the University System of Maryland (USM) and with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we are testing the hypothesis that MOOCs can be used to improve outcomes and/or reduce costs for students enrolled in traditional institutions. The project began this year, and has had an encouraging start. We succeeded in recruiting faculty members to undertake fifteen tests involving MOOCs, and in gaining permission from Coursera and its partners to use their content in these tests. (We engaged in discussions with edX and Udacity as well, but we were unable to reach agreement on particular test cases.) These participants deserve enormous credit for stepping forward to take part in this initiative, which we hope will add a substantial amount of data to conversations about what role MOOCs should play in higher education.