MOOC’s are courses offered online frequently for free, offering a variety of topics such as artificial intelligence, U.S. history and the like. Some prominent MOOC’s are run by Udacity, which has and Coursera. The latter has partnerships with the State University system of New York, the University of Tennessee, the University of Colorado and the University of Georgia.
Daniel Lautzenheiser’s recent policy brief  for the American Enterprise Institute, entitled “Getting More Bang for Our College Bucks”, makes his case that higher education reform can come from massive open online courses, or MOOC’s.
MOOC’s can potentially save California’s struggling students: only 16% graduate within four years. Offering courses online can serve 7,000 students who are on course wait lists as well as cuts down the cost of college tuition. San Jose State University (SJSU ) partnered with Udacity to construct courses that cost $150, which is “roughly one-third the cost of a normal credit at SJSU.”
But, faculty members objected and the SJSU+ (the MOOC program) was shut down because of poor performance. What this says about the preparation of professors is another story.
Lautzenheiser also highlighted Georgia Tech’s new master’s in computer science program, which has been piloted by Udacity and AT&T employees. Instead of a $25,000 online master’s cost, it will be around $7,000. But, the results have yet to be seen. Also, Southern New Hampshire University is testing competency-based learning through their College for America online initiative. No textbooks have to be purchased and the course is competency-based, meaning that as students progress and show they learn and apply learning to course material and assignments, they improve their skill sets and competency in the workplace. This initiative was supported by the Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who encouraged this approach in higher education. College for America graduated its first five students this past August. One student was able to earn an associate’s within 100 days.
Either way, the progress and advancement of MOOC’s show that higher education must adjust and be flexible in order to provide low-cost courses and credentials, which will help increase enrollment, help lower student debt and make the college dream affordable.
Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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