Online Colleges Getting Boosts As Doubts Continue

From New York to New Mexico, 10 state universities have announced that they are joining the ranks of the institutions that are embracing the massive open online course options. On Thursday, they revealed a landmark partnership with Coursera with 3.5 million registered users. It's the biggest effort to catapult degree granting institutions into the world of global education on a scale like never before. The state universities of Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, Nebraska, Kentucky, New Mexico, New York, Houston, and West Virginia are all taking the plunge to get involved and offer online courses to students around the world for free.

Most of these colleges already offer a catalog of their courses online. Coursera will format these into modules for a fee of $3000 to $5000 each. That would break down to between $30 and $60 per student, which is a fraction of what it costs to develop and develop a traditional course. For schools responding to tight budgets, it is an opportunity to save money and cut the costs. This experiment stems from the economic realities of higher education, but many of the brick and mortar campuses that already exist are here to stay and won't be eliminated by the online options.

Although this is going to transform the way that people are able to teach on college campuses, it's not going to replace or substitute for it. If the experiment works, students could be able to earn a degree more quickly and cheap either entirely online or as part of a regular course of study. Institutions would be able to showcase their top professors and connect students to professors at other schools. Critics of these courses aren't sure that MOOCs can do what everyone is claiming or hoping, however.

One sociology professor said she felt uncomfortable about it because she wouldn't want her own child's education to be part of an experiment. She is with a union that represents 35,000 faculty members in the State University of New York system. "We know that MOOCs have about an average of 10 percent completion rate and that's among very highly motivated students. If you target MOOCs for incoming students, students who need remediation, the chances are we'll lose them." says Eileen Landy.

Despite the fact that faculty at a number of institutions have raised their similar concerns, the chancellor of the SUNY system says that the main goal is to help students across the system of 64 campuses complete their degrees. There are many who hope that it will serve as a model for Coursera's social mission, which would be working with countries around the world where people do not have an access to higher education. This type of technology would be life changing for those individuals because it would provide them with the opportunity to pursue their education in areas where there are no educational options or where the educational options may be too expensive for the majority of lower and middle class individuals to be able to afford the costs.