Top universities join together to offer fully online credit courses
BY: Melanie Graysmith
November 18, 2012
Credit bearing, fully online courses will soon be a reality, and differ from the non-credit free MOOC’s that have been getting the buzz lately. A consortium of ten top universities will soon offer fully online, undergraduate credit courses in partnership with 2U, a company that partners with higher education institutions to facilitate learning. The courses will be open to all students enrolled in any “undergraduate experience anywhere in the world,” according to 2U CEO Chip Paucek.
This is news, and is a definite turning point in online education. This is the first example of top-tier universities offering credit courses, fully online, to students not enrolled in the universities offering the courses.
J. Lynne Zimmerman, senior vice provost for undergraduate and continuing education at Emory University, one of the institutions in the consortium says, “We want to be part of the experiment, and we feel the time is right.” This is a general consensus among the participating universities.
“I don’t think the idea of offering credit online is, anymore at least, such a strange one,” is the sentiment expressed by Ed Macias, provost at member school Washington University in St. Louis. Macias continues, “I think the issue everybody is facing now is how to do it.”
While massive open online courses, better known as MOOCs now offered through Coursera and edX have prepared the stage for the 2U consortium, the consortium plans differ from MOOCs.
The new courses aim to replicate not only the content and assessment methods of traditional courses, but also the social and intimacy of an established learning environment. Much like 2U’s credit graduate programs, at Georgetown University and the University of Southern California, and others, the new undergraduate courses will contain recorded lectures and online materials, with live instructor-led discussion segments via videos. The aim is to create seminar-like settings where students can engage directly with their classmates and instructors face to face.
Each University Is In Control
Each university will set their admissions criteria for each course, and not 2U, the company behind the undergraduate programs. The same goes for course prices. Each course will have selective criteria, and enrolled students will have to pay roughly market rate, about the price of on-campus courses. Prices for courses have not yet been set at all locations, but when they are 2U and the universities will share any revenue that comes from the project.
Universities in the consortium include: Duke, Emory, and Washington Universities, Brandeis University, Northwestern University, the Universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Notre Dame, and Rochester, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest University.
While the courses are not designed to reach the scale of MOOCs, the Semester Online courses, if successful, might mean that home institutions could expand their enrollments and the tuition revenue they generate. But the schools insist that the Semester Online courses are not there to reduce operating costs, although they do hope the program will generate additional revenue.
Tuition costs, which have increased in recent years due to funding problems, will not likely see reductions. “Do I think that having available of these types of courses will be able to allow us to lower tuition to the full Duke experience?” asks Duke University provost Peter Lange. His answer is no. “It may slow the growth, but I don’t think it’s going to lead to a reduction.”
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