In a move that may go a long ways towards giving online degree courses more recognition and respect, the California State University system has announced a partnership with Udacity, a startup company that produces online college classes, to begin offering a series of introductory courses FOR CREDITS. Subjects offered will include remedial algebra, college level algebra, and introductory statistics. For the time being, these courses are being offered to a limited number of students, for the price of $150, which is many times cheaper than a more typical college or university tuition. These MOOC online classes will involve watching videos and participating in online interactive exercises and quizzes. Students will also have access to online assistance from professors or other mentors.
In a similarly high profile news update, Coursera (arguably the most popular and familiar platform for offering free online education) has announced that it has received approval to make five of its courses available for college transfer credits, including mathematically oriented subjects such as pre-calculus, single variable calculus, and intermediate algebra. Naturally, this can be viewed as an experiment before potentially increasing the number of its courses that would qualify for this credit equivalency.
These massive online courses are gradually becoming more popular and important in schools' education programs and policies, as can be seen by the increasing number of schools that have begun offering variations of these correspondence courses and the availability of transferrable credits towards a degree. One of the main problems, however, is the alarmingly high dropout rate. Some of these MOOC online degree courses have 90% dropouts. That may be because of a high number of people who sign up to just browse the course without ever having an intention of seeing it through to completion, or some may find that there is not enough support or assistance offered, something that regular attendees of campus institutions take for granted. As such, this new program by Udacity will include many mentors available to assist and other student support services, such as check-ins and email encouragements - simple but effective touches to keeping students interested and motivated.
While these programs should probably best be viewed as pilot programs with uncertain futures, if they are received well it should be expected that they will increase their course offerings that carry transfer credits. This will go a long ways to proving the value of the MOOC concept, and will likely cause a cascade of educational institutions to begin offering their own variations of the platforms. It feels as though we may be at a pivotal point in education history. Learning has traditionally been done in schools with lectures, hands-on experience, and supervision - all at high cost - while online education programs - especially the free ones - have typically been regarded as supplementary to these customs. However, with some of these platforms gaining credit equivalency, these may be some of the first steps for these services towards gaining recognition for providing meaningful education that is widely available and affordable - a real education revolution.