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Online Ed
ASU Pushes MOOCS into the Mainstream

Here’s a big leap forward for online ed: Arizona State University is partnering with MOOC provider edX on a freshman year program that doesn’t require any application or upfront costs. Students only pay— $200 per credit—once they pass the courses. They’ll also receive full university credit. “Leave your G.P.A., your SATs, your recommendations at home…If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself, and you can get a year of college credit,” crowed edX’s CEO.

Some policy experts are just as excited, the NYT reports:

Education policy experts said the new Arizona State effort could be different [than previous MOOC experiments], because it offers academic credit under its well-known brand and the opportunity to delay payment for that credit until it is earned.

“The monopoly that used to exist in terms of how higher ed is done is over, and this is part of a continuum of things that are welcome new approaches,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, the president of the Lumina Foundation, an Indiana-based nonprofit group concerned with educational attainment. “It has big potential in giving students a jump start on completing their degree. And because of the A.S.U. imprimatur, the likelihood that the credits will be transferable is pretty high.”

We don’t yet know exactly how well this program will work. We’re skeptical, for example, that students who go through it will always find it simple to bring their credits with them to another school. Universities, for fairly obvious reasons, don’t really want to make things easy for transfer students. In addition, the ASU program buys into the existing higher ed cartel structure: students are paying more for the university’s brand recognition and stamp of approval than for the actual information learned. We hope that future students will be able to prove what they know and what they can do without having to pay a big name to back them up (perhaps via metrics like testing or more transparent online curricula).

Still, this kind of experiment is promising, and shows how the mainstreaming of MOOCs could help lower costs. A program that is both much cheaper than a traditional university program and also accredited is a crucial addition to higher ed offerings. Moreover, joining MOOCs to ASU’s brand could help make online programs more popular nationwide. More of this, please.

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  • johngbarker

    I think that this article needs correcting; the ASU website lists costs per credit at about $500 (depending on major) and students must meet university admission requirements.

    • johngbarker

      I see my error; the article refers to a special freshman program, but will the costs be different in the next three years?

  • maulerman

    Any connection between this and the Starbuck’s employee college education initiative? It seems obvious to me, but not mentioned in the post.

  • FriendlyGoat

    One could argue that the courses are free but the credit costs $200 per credit hour? Still, no pass—-no pay is a very attractive idea.

    • GS

      It is perfectly possible to have a tuition-free higher education. Why, the United States Military Academy at West Point does not charge tuition, and there are many foreign examples, including the civilian ones. But – and it is a crucial but – all such setups operate on “cast not your pearls before swine” principle and use a reasonably rigorous [and the more rigorous, the more successful they are] meritocratic selection of the student bodies involved.
      They are not for “If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself”- bring in yourself, be tested, and if you measure up to the standards, then you are welcome. Your internet connection you can leave at home.

      • jhp151

        West point does in fact charge tuition in the sense that post graduation is an minimum 5 year active duty commitment followed by a 3 year reserve commitment. This is similar to other programs that offset the cost of education by requiring post graduate commitments.

      • FriendlyGoat

        I don’t think ASU sees this new program as being comparable to the most competitive places such as West Point or other institutions for those testing at highest aptitudes. But there are all kinds of students and situations, right?

        • GS

          Charles Murray described the traditionally understood college education as teaching the information processing [cognitive skills] at the level beyond the reach for most of the population [“The Real Education”]. And he was right. Remove the dumbed down and filler courses like “lesbianism in Picasso blue period” and a proper “college” would have a student cutoff about 1 sigma, IQ115. And that’s about 16% of the age cohort. We have debased and defiled the whole idea of “college” and are sending there more than half of the age cohort, i.e. even the left-shoulderers. No wonder they fail and wash out, even with the courses for idiots. Indeed, they can do nothing else – it is simply not for them, they are out of their place there [just like a decidedly non-athletic person would be on a varsity team]. Hence the gigantic resource waste, be it in the form of student loans outstanding, or of misuse of colleges.
          What I am talking about is that instead of “no child left behind, let us herd them all to college” we need to think in the diametrically opposite direction – of very seriously tightening the screws, to return to the word “college” its proper meaning. And yes, it would mean that at most 20% would go to college, instead of 60% as now.

          I have a beautiful relevant example, my favorite, and it consists of two parts.
          The first part comes from the NAEP [national assessment of educational progress] for 8-graders, as quoted in Charles Murray’s book “Real Education”:
          “Amanda wants to paint each face of cube a different color. How many colors would she need?”. A
          multiple-choice idiocy, and its target audience IQ could be estimated as 90, since something like 30% of the 8-graders still got it wrong. (The answer is 6).

          The second part comes from a different point in time [ca. 50 yrs ago] and space [a foreign land], but it was also
          directed at the 8-graders there:
          “Given a cubic playing dice, how many different point arrangements on the dice faces are possible, one number
          (1 to 6) per face? Two dice number arrangements are considered different if they are not interconvertible into each other by rotating the dice”. No multiple choice there, the students were supposed to write the answer and a proof of it on a clean sheet of paper. (The answer: 30 if the points orientation on a cube face is irrelevant; and if one considers that the 2, 3, and 6 points, as normally used, do not have the C4 symmetry of the dots arrangement on a dice face, and therefore allow for two orientations each with regard to the rest of the
          dice cube, then 240).
          This, of course, had a totally different target audience: a special school with the minimal student IQ of 140. Most of these students got the first half of the problem (30) right, but some of them did not get the second part (240).

          Using this [partially foreign] example as an illustration: the 8-graders who can do the dice problem will not have a cognitive problem in any college on the planet, from MIT and Caltech and down. They are prime college material. But herding into a college those who have trouble with the multiple choice Amanda question leads to nothing but problems and dislocation, economic, societal, and the other kinds. And it does not even matter whether one charges tuition to this latter group. College is not for them.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Can we get employers to only ask for any kind of college degree for “at most” 20% of all future job openings? Can we expect them to actually hire high school graduates into “at least” 80% of all future job openings?

            If we move to sending “at most” 20% of kids to college, can we expect other competitor nations to do likewise?

            Can we raise wages in high-school-graduate jobs so that the lower 80% of workers can even remotely support families?

            I get what you’re saying about limitations of ability, but I somehow don’t see anyone in society—–left or right—-actually admitting that far, far fewer people going to college is to be America’s new political and economic vision for the future. Where would you get the people to admit that in their election campaigns? Are we supposed to expect them to lie their way to election and then announce we will be testing our way down to 16% of the age cohort having any opportunity?

          • GS

            Our competitors do exactly this – Japan, china and russia send to college only their brighter ones. Cast not your pearls before swine. Occasionally I tutor [for free] – but I restrict my educational activities only to the brighter tutorees. All the others need not apply.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Nothing against master plumbers and stonemasons, but those are not 80% of job openings, right?

          • GS

            Jedem das Seine. If one is not fit for anything beyond ditch digging or hamburger flipping, then that’s where such a person will end, and it will be only right and proper. There is no such thing as an entitlement to a higher-end job. Read the works of Linda Gustafson, she compiled a pretty sizable table on which professions recruit from which IQ intervals. It was available on her site, online. From memory: physicians and attorneys [both professions well remunerated] are having the median ca. 120-125, and minimum ca. 110. One who does not measure up, would do well by considering an alternative career direction. On the opposite end there were those involved in packaging, loading, and offbearing [these were recruited on the left shoulder]. To each one’s own.
            And when I was interviewing lab technicians, I was not looking at their diplomas since I do not have any faith in the issuing institutions. I would listen to the past work presentation, and then offer a candidate a few problems to solve [not that we needed the solutions: we knew these already] – I wanted to see how well, or not so well, the candidates can think, and what they know.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You have firm ideas about whom you believe to be capable of what. I have an idea about what I believe is socially and politically tenable in this country at this time. Somehow, the thought of telling 84% of present and future young people they have no place in college strikes me as a non-starter with both voters and members of the business community.

            I do wish, though, that we could get the 18 GOP presidential hopefuls all saying that together. You think they will? They’re supposedly not dreamy liberals, after all, right?

          • GS

            In my line of work [chem/biotech R&D] I had no use for the retardees, nor do I know of anyone there who had. Nor am I in favor of practicing affirmative action toward the intellectually challenged, or toward anyone else. As the proverb goes, “what the Lord has not given, one cannot buy in a pharmacy”.
            And the more people have their limitations rubbed into their faces, the better it is for the society as a whole, for self-awareness [“know thyself”] is always good – and there is no need to coddle the self-esteems. Not everyone is fit to become a SEAL, for example. 150 push-ups as a matter of course, and I have never been athletic. Why, even 15 was difficult. Therefore, it is not for me and has never been. So what? I found myself another field of application.
            Jaroslav Hasek: “in the regiment he was given into the charge of Corporal Endler, who kept pounding into him, “you are such an idiot that it is mind-boggling even to imagine how one could be such an idiot””.
            Everybody needs such Corporal Endler, to stand over him or her 24/7/365. It could even be internalized. The desire to prove him wrong is an excellent motivator.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You are entitled to your views. You DO KNOW they are out of the mainstream, right?

            As for the proverb, “what the Lord has not given, one cannot buy in a pharmacy”——Did you know you can Google that and find it ONLY in four comment sections, all written by writers named GS and GSlob? It’s such a well-known proverb, it’s sort of akin to a googlewhack.

            Bye, bye. Too nutty for me.

          • GS

            Blessed are those who know the proverbs in only one language. Here we come back to the educational deficiencies of the contemporary American schooling. I have translated books from 4 languages, and I wish I had 6 or 7, like my ex-co-worker from Switzerland had.

          • Dale Fayda

            As a native-proficiency Russian speaker, I can tell you that your translation is accurate both verbatim and semantically. Haven’t heard that proverb used in a while – good choice.

          • GS

            Ditto as for the native proficiency, I have it as well. I have also been translating from German, French, and Afrikaans.

  • GS

    ” “Leave your G.P.A., your SATs, your recommendations at home…If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself, and you can get a year of college credit,” crowed edX’s CEO.”
    He forgot one crucial ingredient, though. “Bring your brain, if you have one”.

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