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.