Arizona State Offers Freshman Year Online For Credit


Arizona State University is partnering with online learning platform edX to offer first-year university students across the world the opportunity to take their first year courses online for full university credit and no admissions process.

The Global Freshman Academy will offer courses at a cost of $200 per credit, although students will not be required to pay until they successfully complete a course offered on the edX platform as a MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course.

“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.”

Ariozona State has a reputation for making use of current technology, with offerings such as a web-based introductory math class, but this will be the first time the school make use of MOOCs in an effort to attract over 100,000 or more students across the world, writes Tamar Lewin for The New York Times.

Typically, MOOCs do not offer college credit to participants, or a promise of a degree.  However, education policy experts feel the new offerings from Arizona State University will be different, as they do offer academic credit as well as the opportunity to pay for those credits at a later date.

Students who participate in the new program will be able to choose from 12 offered courses, having to select a total of 8 to make up their freshman year.  Each course was created by Arizona State professors.  The university plans to expand on their offerings in the next two years, reports Nick Anderson for The Washington Post.

The courses come with a single up-front fee of $45 for an identity-verified certificate.  In the end, the eight courses will cost students $4,800, far less than the in-state tuition price of $9,500 before room and board, writes Melissa Korn for The Wall Street Journal.

“We’re going to have 12 new courses, of which students will take eight,” said Arizona State president Michael Crow. “They have to be constructed at a fantastic level of digital immersion, not just talking heads. This is a general education freshman year, not a series of disconnected courses, so they have to be thought through together.”

MOOCs began to be offered online several years ago, providing thousands of college courses from top-rated colleges, free of charge, to students all over the world.  However, most of the individuals who participate in these courses already have undergraduate degrees, and the completion rates are typically very low, averaging about 7% through edX.

The Global Freshman Academy hopes to change all that by offering college credit for course completion.  Crow said he hopes the courses will attract individuals who do not currently have degrees, and the promise of receiving credit will encourage them to complete the online courses.

Crow went on to add that ASU’s online students currently suggest this outcome, as the program boasts a retention rate of almost 9 in 10 students.

“We were not big believers in MOOCs without credit, courses without a connection to degrees, so we focused our attention on building degree programs,” Mr. Crow said.