As many as 40 US public universities has entered into an unusual agreement with a commercial company that plans to offer introductory online course for free and with full credit, in the hope that those who pass will pay tuition to complete a degree program. The new initiative, know as MOOC2Degree where MOOC stands for massive open online course, is being run in a partnership between the universities and Academic Partnerships, a commercial company that helps public universities move their courses online.
While universities like MIT, Harvard and Stanford has been offering free educational materials from its undergraduate and graduate-level courses, these were merely intended to be used for reference and have not been tied to a university credential. But MOOC will be part of a degree program, not a novelty.
Through this new initiative, the initial course in select online degree programs will be converted into a MOOC. Each MOOC will be the same course with the same academic content, taught by the same instructors, as currently offered degree programs at participating universities. Students who successfully complete a MOOC2Degree course earn academic credits toward a degree, based upon criteria established by participating universities.
"Making the first course in an online degree program a MOOC brings real value to both the student and the university," said Randy Best, Founder and Chairman of Academic Partnerships. "The free start is just the encouragement many working adults need to enrol in a degree program that will have a big impact on their future success. For universities, MOOC2Degree will potentially attract larger numbers of qualified students into their degree programs."
Some of the early participants in Academic Partnerships' MOOC2Degree initiative include: Arizona State University, Cleveland State University, Florida International University, Lamar University, University of Arkansas System, University of Cincinnati, University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing, University of West Florida and Utah State University. Additional universities are joining the initiative in the months ahead as they work through their processes for providing MOOCs.
The first MOOC offerings will start this spring.
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