​ASU Offers Freshman Year of College Online Through edX MOOCs

VIRTUAL COLLEGE: Thanks to a partnership between Arizona State University (ASU) and edX, students will soon be able to earn credit for the first year of college through MOOCs. ASU hopes the Global Freshman Academy will provide an affordable freshman year for those otherwise unable to afford traditional higher education, according to ASU News.

The Global Freshman Academy will be comprised of 12 general education courses, ranging from math to humanities to the natural sciences, each lasting seven and a half weeks. ASU will roll out the program over the next two years: one course, Introduction to Astronomy, will start in August 2015; ASU will release two more courses each in October, January, March and summer 2016. By completing eight of the MOOCs, students will earn full credit for freshman year from ASU. Transcripts will not specify that students earned the course credits online.

Students will be able to enroll in a course for free. If interested in getting course credit, he or she will pay around $600 per course: $45 as a base cost for an identity-verified certificate, and an unannounced amount per course hour. The courses currently offered through ASU Online cost $480-$543 per course hour, according to InsideHigherEd.

Yet some criticize the Global Freshman Academy for not reaching the low-income students that ASU, through programs like its partnership with Starbucks offering a free education to employees, hopes to serve. Because students will not have to pay a fee until they’ve completed the course, they will not be eligible for federal financial aid, which doesn’t provide funding for prior knowledge, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

edX CEO Anant Agarwal hopes that the Global Freshman Academy will “move the needle” on the low completion rate for edX courses, which typically hovers around 7%, according to The New York Times. ASU Online boasts a retention rate of nine out of 10 students.

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