Friday, April 24, 2015

EdX Global Freshman Academy

EdX, the on-line course consortium and Arizona State University have announced "Global Freshman Academy", offering introductory university courses. These differ from previous edX courses, being for credit, so they can count towards a university degree. The "Verified Certificate" costs $45 in advance, plus $200 per credit hour if the student passes the course. The course "Introduction to Solar Systems Astronomy" is 4 credit hours, making the total cost of that course $845. Other courses offered initially are Western Civilization: Ancient and Medieval Europe (3 credit hours), Human Origins (3 credit hours). There is also a demonstration course "Welcome to Global Freshman Academy".

An unusual aspect of the Astronomy course is that it is only 8 weeks long (not the more typical 13 weeks for a university course) and requires 18 hours work by the student per week week (not the usual eight to ten hours). As an on-line student myself I have found a course requiring eight to then hours difficult to do while having a day job. This seems to be a common experience and the trend for such on-line courses has been to make them shorter (down to four hours) with less student work per week (as little as four hours), not more.

An interesting aspect of the new edX  Global Freshman Academy is the status of the students. Previous edX students were not really students, as their courses were not for credit. However, these for-credit courses would need to be subject to all the usual university, state and national government rules and laws. The cost of administering these rules and laws would need to be taken into account in working out the fees for the course. As an example, the university has to have courses run thorough a quality control process and students have a right of appeal over their results.

The fees for these courses may need some further explanation. Arizona State University fees foe non-edX courses are $1,993 for 4 credit hours to a Nonresident Online Tuition student. This is more than twice as much as the edX fee. Of course the edX course only costs $45, so if most students fail the edX course it will be cheaper than a regular one for them (the success rate for these type of on-line courses has been low: about 10%). However, in a well designed conventional on-line course progressive assessment is used and a student will know if they are unlikely to pass and be able to withdraw (and get at least a partial refund) before the end of the course.

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