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A day later, I’m still puzzling out the ASU/edX partnership. I took a first crack at it yesterday, but since then, some others have added some worthwhile points.
1. Prior learning assessment -- the mechanism by which credit is granted -- is not covered by financial aid. It probably should be, but that’s another post. Which means that not only is ASU charging more than the local community college, but ASU’s prices are entirely out-of-pocket, while the community college’s courses are eligible for financial aid. For low-income students, this is no small thing.
2. As a commenter correctly noted, there’s nothing stopping someone now from taking a MOOC in a “gen ed” area and then taking a CLEP exam to get credit. CLEP fees are often lower than even community college tuition. The ASU model is a more expensive and clunkier version of CLEP. The MOOC-to-CLEP option has existed for a couple of years now, but students haven’t taken advantage in significant numbers.
3. The contrast between ASU and LSU may be instructive. LSU is taking a nasty funding cut from the state, and may respond by declaring fiscal exigency. ASU took a nasty funding cut from the state, and responded by growing its reach. For that, ASU has been roundly condemned, while LSU has been given a free pass. One could easily imagine a counterargument to the effect that partnering with private sector providers has prevented layoffs.
4. Kevin Carey suggested that the ASU model offers the “freedom to fail” for free. That’s true, I suppose, though it brought back memories of the old “right to fail” argument that was largely cast aside when student success became the imperative. More cynically, the edX partnership allows ASU to move failures off-book, thereby keeping its success rates high.
5. As another commenter noted, many of us in higher ed think of it as an ecosystem. ASU may have decided that it’s actually a Hobbesian war of each against all, and it’s determined to win that war. The contrast with LSU suggests there may be something to this interpretation. If that means cannibalizing community college enrollments, then that’s what it means.
6. Some commenters suggested that the partnership is a desperate attempt to provide something resembling a business model for MOOCs. That may be true from edX’s perspective, but it doesn’t explain ASU’s motive.
Wise and worldly readers, is there another, better way to understand what ASU is doing?