• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


What Problem Are ASU and EdX Solving?

Students already have the option of low-cost courses at community colleges -- with instructors who can provide feedback.


April 23, 2015

Maybe it’s me. But I’m just not grasping the ASU/edX MOOCs-for-credit thing.

According to Carl Straumsheim’s piece in IHE, a student who enrolls in one (or more) from a specific set of MOOCs offered through edX will have the option of paying a $45 fee for identity verification, followed by a $200 per credit fee to Arizona State, to have the MOOC performance translated into academic credit by and for ASU.

Or, that same student could take an actual course, online or onsite, from a community college. It would cost less, and would have an actual instructor provide actual guidance and feedback  throughout the course. The credits would transfer anywhere, not just to ASU. Tuition at Maricopa -- the community college local to Phoenix -- is $84 per credit, as opposed to $200 for the MOOC. Even in the higher-tuition Northeast, we come in well below $200 per credit. And community colleges run full slates of general education courses.

Even better, taking the course with a community college offers access to online tutoring, library resources, and other student supports that have been “unbundled” from the MOOC.

ASU is pointing out that a student doesn’t need to pass through the ASU admissions process to take a MOOC. That’s true, as far as it goes, but community colleges are also open-admission, and have been for decades.

I’m just not sure which problem they think they’re solving.

To the extent that MOOCs were going to disrupt higher education, I thought the argument was that they’d undercut incumbent providers on cost. But with over 1,100 community colleges in America routinely undercutting the MOOC on cost, I don’t see it.

I guess there’s a presumption about prestige, but at this point, community college credits are far more widely recognized than MOOC credits are. ASU is offering to launder the currency, in a sense, but if you’re going to jump through extra hoops anyway, why not work with a real professor?

Maybe in a few places, the local community colleges are oversubscribed. But online, you aren’t necessarily tied to a local college.  

Scheduling might be the issue, to the extent that MOOCs start whenever you want. (I couldn’t tell from the article if that applies here.)

Wise and worldly readers, am I missing something?  Does the ASU/edX solve a problem I’m not seeing?


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