By Joshua Kim
Comments on the IHE stories about the ASU/edX partnership appear to be running strongly to the critical. I’d like to make a start at enumerating our IHE community’s concerns, and to then offer some counterarguments.
Concern – A Devaluation of Postsecondary Credit:
The main concern here is that by providing a mechanism to receive college credit through a course offered at scale, that the overall value of college credit will be devalued. While the costs of a college credit vary widely by institutional type (private vs. public, community college vs. comprehensive institution, not-for-profit vs. for-profit etc.), credit bearing courses have never been associated with those offered at scale. Student-to-faculty ratios may vary significantly in credit bearing courses, but they will never go beyond a few hundred per instructor. Offering a course for credit where instructor / student interaction is not part of the educational design will fundamentally change how we think about the value of a credit.
Counter-argument – The Value of an On-Ramp to a 4 Year Degree:
The counterargument is that what is really valuable is the degree, the credential, and not the credit. What the ASU / edX Global Freshman Academy (GFA) is trying to do is get more students fully integrated into a resilient pathway to a 4 year degree. The hypothesis is that if the barriers to making it successfully part way through college can be lowered, then the path to successfully finishing that degree will be smoother. It is the barriers to matriculating into a 4 year degree program, barriers related to both costs and preparation, that most inhibit postsecondary enrollment and success. The ASU / edX partnership offers an alternative method to access college, one that is lower risk (as you only pay if you succeed), has lower barriers (as enrollment is easy and open), and is more flexible (as courses are online).
Concern – The Deskilling of Faculty:
There is no way that ASU faculty will be able to play the traditional mentoring role in an edX course as faculty play in traditional courses. It is simplistic and wrongheaded to view the faculty role as solely about information transmission, or solely about assessment and evaluation. Rather, the role of an educator encompasses a spectrum of activities – activities that do not lend themselves to operation at scale. Break down a system of postsecondary education built around faculty / student relationships and you risk hollowing out the main value proposition of our higher ed system.
[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/technology-and-learning/asu-edx-gfa-partnership ]