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Heard: Online Startups Offering Free College, Challenging Existing Colleges

The Washington Post published a report by Jon Marcus from The Hechinger Report at Columbia University about the entrepreneurs, who are aiming to lower the cost of higher education from tens of thousands of dollars to nearly free. He notes that some universities look down on free, Internet courses and do not award academic credit for such studies. But the startups are looking for ways around the monopoly by creating badges, credentials and certifications that workers can take to employees instead of university degrees. He lists:

  • (200 free online college courses in 12 majors)
  • Peer-to-Peer University (P2PU, which has backing from the Hewlett Foundation and Mozilla)
  • University of the People, which has 30 online courses and charges $10 to $50 as one-time application fees. It is backed by the Clinton Global Initiative.
Marcus writes:

The content these providers supply comes from top universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyUniversity of California-BerkeleyTufts University and the University of Michigan. Those are among about 250 institutions worldwide that have put a collective 15,000 courses online in what has become known as the open-courseware movement.

The universities aim to widen access to course content for prospective students and others. At MIT, a pioneer of open courseware, half of incoming freshmen report that they’ve looked at MIT online courses and a third say it influenced their decision to go there.

He also mentions:

  • StraighterLine, a Baltimore for-profit company, which charges students $99 a month plus a $39 registration fee for each of more than 30 online courses.

By contrast, University of the People has registered 1,100 students in two years. StraighterLine says it enrolled 4,000 during the past two years. doesn’t have a count of how many students take its courses; P2PU says that about 25,000 users have opened accounts on its Web site since 2009 but that there is no tally of how many have finished courses.

Some students who complete courses through the new online-only providers are able to win credit from conventional colleges. Albany State University in Georgia, for instance, encourages incoming students to take StraighterLine courses to build credits toward a degree.

  • The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is running a $2 million competition to design digital “badges” that can be used instead of university degrees to prove a job candidate’s experience and knowledge to employers. P2PU and Saylor are experimenting with such badges for students to show they have completed courses.
  • This spring, MIT will begin offering certificates of completion to anyone who successfully finishes courses the university makes available free online. There will be a small fee for certificates in this project, known as MITx.
  • CompuCom, a Dallas information technology company with 5,000 employees, has begun to work with StraighterLine. Burck Smith, chief executive of StraighterLine, said such partnerships mean “colleges that want these students later will have to accept StraighterLine credits.”
Via The Washington Post 


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Heard: Online Startups Offering Free College, Challenging Existing Colleges | WiredAcademic | Dr. Richard NeSmith's Storage
Jan 29, 2012 19:12

[...] universities look down on free, Internet courses and do not award academic credit for such studies.Via Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

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