The future of Internet education

Fraud examination training via MOOCs

By Cindy Greenman, Ph.D., CFE; Sylvia Tang; and George R. Young, Ph.D., CFE, CPA
cindy-greenman-80x80   sylvia-tang-80x80   george-young-80x70   Fraud EDge: A forum for fraud-fighting faculty in higher ed

According to the ACFE’s latest Report to the Nations, the majority of organizational frauds over the last several years were discovered via tips that weren’t necessarily provided by internal or external auditors. Tipsters, who can be any employee, are prime sources of information about frauds that have occurred or are continuing to occur in organizations. 

Therefore, all employees should be educated on fraud basics and how to detect schemes before they dramatically affect companies. As educators, we can make future employees more aware of the ill effects of fraud and how to detect and even prevent it. We eventually may be able to do this for thousands of students via a new powerful tool — massive open online courses (MOOCs). 


MOOCs contain recorded lectures and automated evaluation methods such as quizzes and testing. Students either study on their own or form self-guided groups to complete assignments and projects. One type of MOOC fosters student leadership by awarding points to students who correctly answer questions posed by other students. (If a student amasses enough points, he or she can be elevated to teaching assistant.)

Coursera, currently the largest provider of MOOCs, has become a full-fledged, tuition-free digital campus since its launch in April 2012. Two Stanford University computer science professors, in partnership with five universities, founded the educational technology company with just a few courses. It now has more than three million students (dubbed “Courserians”) from more than 190 countries and offers more than 300 courses from 62 (and counting) different universities and organizations across the globe. More than 100,000 students have taken some of the more popular courses available in five different languages. 

In January 2013, Coursera announced that the American Council on Education (ACE) had approved five courses for college credit at the University of California, Irvine, Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania. Cousera favors elite educational institutions as course providers, but it hasn’t ruled out partnering with other universities that aren’t members of the Association of American Universities, according to “Coursera’s Contractual Elitism,” by Ry Rivard, March 22, “Inside Higher Ed.”  

Another smaller MOOC provider, Udacity, was created by a three-person team headed by Sebastian Thrun, a tenured professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford University, and funded by venture capital. After completing an Udacity course, like Coursera, students receive a certificate of completion signed by their instructors. 

Another provider is EdX, which MIT and Harvard University jointly created. EdX works closely with other institutions by providing source code and development resources to improve its platform, according to “EdX builds community of developers for its online — and blended-learning platform,” June 5, MIT News. 

Even though ACE has approved five courses, the University of California, Irvine, and Duke aren’t yet granting credit to students. California and Florida state legislature representatives recently introduced bills that would require, in some circumstances, public colleges and universities to grant college transfer credits for MOOCs. The bills’ futures are uncertain, but the message is clear: Universities and colleges could, at some point in time, grant course credit for certain approved courses offered by MOOCs. (See “Outsourcing Public Higher Ed,” by Paul Fain and Ry Rivard, March 13, “Inside Higher Ed,” and “Taking on Accreditors and Faculty,” by Ry Rivard, April 11, “Inside Higher Ed.”)


MOOCs offer almost unlimited enrollment, free or inexpensive tuition, no attendance requirements at physical locations and studying at participants’ paces, all of which encourage students to take courses of different types, including fraud examination. 

Students of any major in this generation chafe at the requirement to sit in classrooms for four years to receive their formal higher education. Instead they take extended internships (some lasting an entire academic year), pick and choose electives that appeal to them, build their own startup companies and tinker with projects that hold their attention and passion so they can set structured classes on the back burner. Hence one of the most likely ways to broaden the reach of fraud examination to non-accounting/criminology students is to launch anti-fraud education through MOOC platforms. 

Now, as of publication, none of the MOOC platforms have anti-fraud courses, though Harvard has offered an open financial accounting course online for some time for a nominal fee. However, anti-fraud education could become standardized if fraud examination courses are included on platforms like Coursera. Also, when credit is eventually granted for MOOCs they could become elements of hybrid courses that combine online and in-class education. 

Though some believe that MOOCs threaten the traditional university structure (see the PDF “The Troubled Future of Colleges and Universities,” by Gary King and Maya Sen), others believe that use of this new learning tool will likely increase because of mounting costs for higher-education students. (See “The Professors Who Make the MOOCs,” by Steve Kolowich, The Chronicle of Higher Education.) 


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