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Are MOOCs, Bootcamps and Other Alternative Education Options Effective?

U.S. News & World Report

THE HOUSE HAS PASSED one bill, and is likely to pass another, that would provide funding for people to enroll in certificate programs, apprenticeships, bootcamps and other technical education programs. But a new study questions the quality of these programs, as well as the evidence that demonstrates their efficacy.

The courses, many of them online, have been called the perfect solution for education seekers put off by the time and expense of traditional college degree programs. Praised as shorter, cheaper and more tailored to practical skills than four-year degree programs, the alternative programs have seen rare moments of bipartisan support from lawmakers: the new GI Bill, which heads to the House of Representatives for a vote, and the Perkins Act Reauthorization, a career and technical education funding bill that passed unanimously in the House last month, provide federal support for these types of educational opportunities.

However, a study released Wednesday, "The Complex Universe of Alternative Postsecondary Credentials and Pathways," proves more complicated to determine. According to researchers Jessie Brown and Martin Kurzweil, while these programs have had some success in bridging key skill and employment gaps, they require further data collection and quality assurance efforts to validate their effectiveness.

The study, conducted by Ithaka S+R for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is the first major effort to describe the vast and varied landscape of alternative postsecondary credentials. Kurzweil said this category of educational opportunities has lacked both definition and quantification up until this point.

"We quickly learned that while there's some piecemeal information, there really hasn't been this kind of landscape review before," Kurzweil said. "That's surprising, because there's millions of Americans engaged in this kind of postsecondary education."

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View full story: U.S. News & World Report



Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education

Roger W. Ferguson and Michael S. McPherson