|Photo: Andrew Smith Lewis|
The courses are open to any learner, anywhere in the world, and, like other MOOCs, are free. Students will be charged only if they want to earn credit for the course, and the $200-per-credit fee is applied only after the student passes the course. As edX CEO Anant Agarwal notes, this is “the first time any MOOC provider will offer a curriculum of courses that any learner can take for free or for a small fee as a verified student and then parlay that for credit if they pass the course.”
The potential benefits of the program are massive and disruptive. At a time when university tuition is soaring and funding is being slashed, initiatives like the GFA offer a new vision for higher education. It opens access to begin college, while lowering the initial financial barrier.
Naturally, the program has already met with its share of skepticism and criticism. Critics still argue about the desirability of online learning versus in-person classrooms, and some worry that the program cannibalizes community college education without the aid, guidance or oversight that those institutions offer.
I believe the real test for the program and technology will be not only in how well it actually broadens access to learners, but how the technology can truly advance learning while empowering students and instructors. The potential is much greater than simply putting college courses online — it can transform the way data impacts how we learn.
In thinking about this from a technologist’s perspective, there are three essential, data-oriented questions that I believe will determine the real success of the Global Freshman Initiative. ASU and edX need to strongly consider each of these as the program gets underway next year.