Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MOOCs for credits revisited

Credit by GotCredit, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by GotCredit on Flickr

Martin Weller suggested in 2013 that MOOCs could be used to replace the first year of undergraduate study, MOOCs As 1st Year Undergrad Replacement. Now two years later this prediction is coming true as Arizona State University announce a first year undergraduate programme made up of MOOCs and with full credits available for a fee, according to an article in Education NewsArizona State Offers Freshman Year Online For Credit. ASU are teaming up with MOOC consortium EdX to form Global Freshman Academy, offering real credentials at a price of $200 per credit. Furthermore you don't have to pay unless you successfully complete the course.

The entire first year of study can be taken completely online and although you have to pay to be assessed for credits, the fees for your first year of study will amount to half of the cost for the campus equivalent, excluding accommodation and food. As far as I can see the full campus option will still be available but by offering an online alternative the university hopes to attract over 100,000 additional students worldwide.

“We’re going to have 12 new courses, of which students will take eight,” said Arizona State president Michael Crow. “They have to be constructed at a fantastic level of digital immersion, not just talking heads. This is a general education freshman year, not a series of disconnected courses, so they have to be thought through together.”

This certainly seems to offer a more affordable entry into higher education for many students who aren't sure they want to invest in the full campus deal. Try the first year online at a lower cost and see how it goes before committing to campus for tear two. It's an interesting experiment but I wonder how they will deal with 50,000 online students all wanting credits and choosing to sign up for year two on campus? Where do successful online students go from there since only a fraction of the expected MOOC students will be able to start year two on campus? What is actually on offer here for the thousands of online students - your first year completed online and then what?

The offer also promises to solve the thorny issue of low MOOC retention rates with the logic that if you offer credits then students will complete the course. That tactic has been tried already several times with spectacularly unimpressive results. Very few MOOC participants seem interested in credits at all and you could say that the whole appeal of MOOCs is the joy of learning for the sheer sake of it and if you throw credits into the mix it all gets too serious. I don't think the MOOC community will be attracted by this scheme though some might complete the odd course out of interest. The target group here is probably prospective students who intend to go to university but are looking for a more flexible path and a chance to test the waters before committing to high fees and moving to campus.

So it sounds revolutionary but it isn't really so different from many other MOOCs for credit schemes. Good luck all the same and I look forward to reading some results in 2016. Have a look at George Siemens' post on the subject, Nothing new here: Arizona State and edX partnership.

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