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Education Featured Article

February 07, 2013

It's a College Student's Dream: Full Credit for Free Online Courses

By Allison Boccamazzo, TMCnet Web Editor

Remember the days when you were just a mere undergrad eagerly looking for an internship or course to take to fulfill some wandering requirement? The same mandate would always appear to the effect of, “Must be for college credit.” A commonly faced problem is that some courses you’d love to take weren’t offered for full or any credit, but now, one California-based university may be soon accepting college credit for free online courses.

The American Council on Education (ACE) is recommending degree credit for five undergraduate courses offered by Palo Alto (News - Alert)-based Coursera, a company that offers open online courses from leading universities, Yahoo reported.

The concept of digital courses has spread like wildfire, where students can access a full semester’s worth of knowledge through downloadable offerings on iTunes. For example, when navigating to my iTunes store and searching the keyword “class,” I was brought to a link saying “iTunes U” with a tiny graduation cap emoticon. Click on that and you’re brought to an overflowing wealth of free knowledge.

What is suggested for me? A Creative Writing Master class offered by the Academy of Achievement, which I can subscribe to for free; however, before subscribing, you are warned that the course may require some additional materials such as video and books that need to be purchased. The top courses currently being offered by iTunes include a coding class and entrepreneurship class from Stanford and a finance class offered by Yale.

Dozens of top universities have been rolling out these digital classes, and while they are just as effective and have enabled thousands of individuals to grow and learn as if they were physically in the classroom, the amount that offer credit for them are nearly non-existent.

ACE is looking to change that, as expressed by its President, Molly Corbett Broad, who says, “A rigorous evaluation of these courses showed that they meet ACE's standards for college credit recommendations.” Therefore, those students who take them and qualify for credit should be deserving.

Another plus about this concept is that it tackles head on the top issue of achieving higher education – the costs. The average amount of debt for today’s college grad with a bachelor’s degree is between $20k and $100k. ACE is looking to lower this amount of debt by making college credit more easily accessible. John Aubrey Douglass, a higher education researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, agrees, saying, “As long as we can assess and ensure quality, it’s providing one more way that students can receive an education at an affordable cost.”

Andrew Ng, a Stanford University researcher and co-founder of Coursera, told the Associated Press (News - Alert) he hopes these online classes not only take off with today’s younger generation, but also with those who thought their time to go back to school has passed. He explains, “I hope the convenience of an online class can be a first step for many of these adults to go back to school to earn their degrees.” Not only this, but it can entice fresh college grads to take that one class they always wanted to but didn’t have the time, or that one topic they wish they could’ve learned more about. It’s convenient, free and easily accessible for everyone depending on their goals and motivations.

Imagine, a child and their parent or even grandparent taking the same class at the same time for free. I don’t know about you, but I will definitely be looking into this some more.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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