Arizona State University MOOC program for freshmen

By Lillian Williams

When I began writing about MOOCs a while back, little did I foresee this action:  Arizona State and edX this summer will roll out the first completely online freshman-year program, for academic credit.


Tempe campus of Arizona State University. Wikipedia Commons photo usage rights.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are utilized in many ways—particularly for adults who want to add to their educational portfolios. Though some offer certificates, typically MOOCs do not carry academic credit. Most MOOCs are free.

But this latest move beckons college freshmen–and offers academic credit, for a fee.

Arizona State University will team with MOOC provider, edX, for a bold project entitled, Global Freshman Academy.  These new MOOCs offer online, freshmen-level courses with no campus visits required.  Even high school students can take these courses.

The MOOC provider in the partnership, edX, was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012.

But as reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education this week, there is a catch: Students in the program will not be eligible for federal financial aid.  The cost is about $600 per course, according to the Chronicle.

The project is described here in a video.

“At ASU, we’re committed to academic inclusion and student success, regardless of a student’s family circumstances,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow in a statement released by the university.  “We will not be successful unless we reach talent from all backgrounds around the world, and the worldwide reach of the revolutionary edX platform allows us to open this program to anyone with the drive to obtain their degree.”

Declaring this a new educational avenue, Crow said, “The Global Freshman Academy will empower students to prepare for college and achieve what they may not have thought they could. There are many pathways to success, both academically and in life. This is now one of them.”

What will this first-year curriculum offer?  The following are key takeaways from Arizona’s statement about the project:

  • “The Global Freshman Academy will offer a collection of first-year courses designed to fulfill a specific set of general education requirements.”
  • “Upon completion of each Global Freshman Academy course, students who pass the final exam will have an option to pay a small fee of no more than $200 per credit hour to get college credit for the course.”
  • “Completion of eight courses in the series, including several required courses and some elective, equals the requirements for a full freshman year at ASU – at about half the cost of the national average for a year of in-state tuition at public universities.”
  • “The general studies focus areas will include mathematical studies, humanities, arts and design, social-behavioral sciences and natural sciences.”

Enrollment has opened. The first course, Introduction to Solar Systems, begins in August.  Two other courses will start in Fall 2015—Human Origins and Western Civilizations: Ancient and Medieval Europe.

Read more information about this project here:

What is your take on whether this experiment will work for freshmen students?  Let us hear your voice in the comments section below.

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