Now that university systems are starting to take Massive Open Online Courses seriously, they are in the early stages of becoming part of an affordable route to a degree. One reason MOOCs are being taken more seriously is because they are becoming more serious: fledgling companies are providing quality education taught by highly credentialed faculty members at colleges and universities nationwide. Online course providers have also developed innovative ways of using technology to make learning an interactive and productive experience. The big news this week is that the next step has been taken: Udacity, a startup that offers free online courses is about to announce a new collaboration with San Jose State University.
The deal involves making introductory and remedial Udacity courses credit-worthy as part of degree programs in the university system. The program will involve a merging of online learning with in-class learning: the online course will be a large part of the course, but the course will also include the involvement of an in-class professor. This collaborative effort will serve to give students the best of both worlds, including lessening the price of their overall education. Importantly too, Udacity will benefit financially: free online courses have yet to find a financial model that supports profitability; this convergence could offer a best-case scenario for MOOC providers, schools and students.
The Udacity-San Jose deal is the first of it’s kind but will hopefully pave the way for more other collaborative efforts both in California and beyond. As it is a pilot program, it’s starting out with a small number of students in order to see how things go. The state of California, however, has been looking for ways to make online education a bigger part of higher education in order to make college more affordable. To facilitate this progress, San Jose State will be getting funding from the National Science Foundation in order to study and gauge how effective the online courses are at this point.
The outlook is good though. Research of similar online courses so far has produced positive results. EdX, another online course provider, which was kicked-off by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard a year ago recently completed a pilot program at San Jose offering a very difficult circuits and electronics course. Students overwhelming received much higher grades in the online course than they did in the traditional classroom course offered at San Jose. Score one for the instant age of education.
In the face of such massive problems plaguing our education system and the embedded culture of student loans, it’s exciting to see this progress toward change for the better. Things can’t keep going the way they are now and creative new developments are needed. For borrowers in need of help, an innovative student debt management solution is already here; don’t hesitate to take advantage of it.