Gates Foundation announces it will fund MOOC research project at Maryland universities

Inside Higher Ed reported yesterday that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will fund an 18-month project assessing the impact of MOOCs in selected public universities in Maryland. The project will cost $1.4 million and will be run by nonprofit research group Ithaka S+R.

The goal of the project is to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of MOOCs, to see if they make a difference in student learning. Because MOOCs are comparably inexpensive to costs associated with traditional face-to-face classes, there could be great benefits to using MOOCs in a university setting. If the research results show equal or improved student learning, they could open many new doors for MOOCs and influence academia to rethink their role in formal education.

Ithaka S+R will watch these courses closely and measure their effects with, according to Robinson, “rigorous assessment[s] of how students fared using these technologies”.

Although the full list of MOOCs hasn’t been decided, spokeswoman for the Gates Foundation Debbie Robinson lists Coursera and edX as two that the project will definitely use.

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