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Falling in Love Online: Grad School Edition

17 Nov

Students with laptops and books.

[ Photograph by Mood Board/Getty Images ]

By Natalie Kitroeff

He tells people they met online. She says they met in graduate school. They’re both right.

Raffaele Giarnella and Jessica Perry first noticed each other on a video chat platform they had each paid about $100,000 to access. They were in accounting class, earning their first credits toward an MBA the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School delivered entirely online. Perry lived in Orange County, Calif., and Giarnella in Durham, N.C., but they noticed each other immediately and eventually pursued a long-distance relationship. “By the time the second class came around, I was absolutely smitten,” Giarnella says.

That the relationship transitioned from the screen into real life isn’t just significant for the couple. It’s a sign that Kenan-Flagler may have overcome one of online education’s biggest obstacles: re-creating the personal engagement that comes with in-person interaction.

The multibillion-dollar online education industry is watching examples like these as it tests its latest innovation: getting people to pay for virtual school. Briefly, it seemed that massive open online courses, which make a la carte instruction available for free to anyone who wants to enroll, were the future of higher education. But the speed and power of the MOOC backlash almost matched the initial enthusiasm for the classes. They weren’t making money, and what’s more, many argued, they didn’t work. MOOCs have a high failure rate in part because it’s hard to wrangle the same kind of commitment from someone via an Internet connection as you can when they’re in the room.

Some universities are shifting their online strategy from giving away education for free to charging students for the right to get an advanced degree from the comfort of their bedroom. Companies such as 2U are happy to help. In addition to providing the technology for Kenan-Flagler’s program, 2U also supports 17 degree-granting online programs at universities like Georgetown, University of California at Berkeley, and Syracuse. Udacity, the company founded by Sebastian Thrun, once known as the high priest of MOOCs, is moving in the same direction. The company started offering a $6,600 computer science master’s through Georgia Tech this year. Novoed, a startup that began by powering MOOCs and other online classroom aids at Stanford, announced last month a $16,000 entirely online executive MBA through Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

[ Full article available at Bloomberg Businessweek: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-11-17/online-mba-at-unc-shows-virtual-courses-can-imitate-real-classrooms ]

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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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