By Tamar Lewin
Arizona State University, one of the nation’s largest universities, is joining with edX, a nonprofit online venture founded by M.I.T. and Harvard, to offer an online freshman year that will be available worldwide with no admissions process and full university credit.
In the new Global Freshman Academy, each credit will cost $200, but students will not have to pay until they pass the courses, which will be offered on the edX platform as MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses.
“Leave your G.P.A., your SATs, your recommendations at home,” said Anant Agarwal, the chief executive of edX. “If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself, and you can get a year of college credit.”
Under Michael Crow, its president, Arizona State has been a leader in using technology to serve large numbers of students — for example, through web-based introductory math classes. Still, before now it had never embraced MOOCs, free courses offered by edX, Coursera and others that began three years ago — shaking up the traditional academic world and attracting 100,000 or more students.
But the courses do not offer credit or lead to a degree, and their larger promise of democratizing higher education has not materialized.
Education policy experts said the new Arizona State effort could be different, 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.”
With 83,000 students, Arizona State has adopted a mission of inclusivity, instead of going after the exclusivity favored by most top universities. It made headlines last year when it began a partnership with Starbucks to offer its employees the chance to complete their degrees online at A.S.U. at no cost, with subsidies from Starbucks.
[ Full article available at The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/23/us/arizona-state-university-to-offer-online-freshman-academy.html ]