College is one of the biggest investments a person can make in his or her lifetime. Increasingly exorbitant enrollment, textbook and housing fees combined with the countless hours spent in lecture halls or studying notes add up to a lot of resources spent obtaining a degree. The process of deciding whether to enroll in college can be daunting, but several American universities are offering prospective students the chance to test the waters before signing on for a four-year education. Partnering with an online degree developer, the collective of academic institutions, including University of Cincinnati and Florida International University, are launching a massive open online course (MOOC) available at no cost to anyone who wishes to participate.
Testing the collegiate waters
Campus Technology reported that students who enroll in the MOOC2Degree program will have access to an introductory-level course for select online degree programs. Covering a range of concentrations, including Business and Engineering, the available courses will feature the same content and instructors as their non-MOOC counterparts. Participants can access the classroom software remotely, never needing to step foot on campus. In an unprecedented move, students will not only be able to experience a sample of the curriculum, but they will also have an opportunity to obtain credit toward an online degree.
“Making the first course in a degree program open and available at no cost provides students risk-free access to a high quality experience, allowing them to asses if they are suited for the online learning environment,” President of the University of Arkansas System Donald Bobbitt said in a press release.
Reaching out to more students
The program may prove beneficial for both students and university administrations. Students will receive access to college-level courses and the opportunity to jump start their academic careers with some experience and possibly course credit. The boosted enrollment numbers could lead to increased interest in online degree programs offered by participating universities. With blended learning methods becoming increasingly popular in higher education, colleges are placing a new premium on online coursework. According to data released by consulting firm Academic Partnerships, online enrollment rose by 9.3 percent in 2011.
Wider adoption of MOOCs also allows universities to chase the lucrative pool of foreign students, who are much more likely to attend North American universities remotely. Higher education institutions are discovering that digital learning is quickly becoming a viable alternative to the expensive, traditional educational process, offering a comparable academic experience at a fraction of the cost.
Are MOOCs and other modes of online coursework destined to replace the classroom? Would you give an online degree the same value as a traditionally obtained one? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!