Top-tier universities offer online classes for free

A dozen universities are offering 'massive open online courses' for free.

Jeremy Hobson: In Washington this week lawmakers are considering some ideas to make college more affordable. But far from the Capitol, more than a dozen top-tier universities are signing on to a plan that will make college more affordable. They'll be offering some of their courses online for free.

Elizabeth Wynn Johnson reports.

Elizabeth Wynne Johnson: They're called 'massive open online courses' -- MOOCs, for short. And if you can get an education online for free, why you would you pay $50,000 a year in old-school tuition? Won't colleges have to lower tuition to compete?

Prof. Siva Vaidhyanathan says no. He heads the Media Studies department at UVA.

Siva Vaidhyanathan: There's nothing about any of the current experiments in terms of online course content delivery that comes anywhere close to real education.

Carol Twigg is president of the National Center for Academic Transformation. Most MOOCs don't count toward a degree, and she doesn't see top schools changing that anytime soon.

Carol Twigg: If they open that university up to the world for credit and degrees, suddenly that devalues their exclusivity, if you will.

In fact, Vaidhyanathan sees MOOCs as a marketing tool that will actually draw more students to brick-and-mortar campuses.

I'm Elizabeth Wynne Johnson for Marketplace.

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I wonder how many online courses Siva has taken through Coursera or Udacity? My guess is zero.
Most of Sebastian Thrun’s brick and mortar Artificial Intelligence class at Stanford University stopped attending class because they learned better from the online version he was teaching. Evidently these students would disagree with Siva’s comment that online isn’t ‘real’ education.

Online schools just do not have the respect that brick and mortar ones do. Rainbird, one of the largest manufactures for irrigation equipment, will not recognize MBAs from the University of Phoenix, for example.

Online education has been riding the gravy train of the education industries claim that education results in employability. It doesn’t, but we bought the education marketing bait hook line and sinker.

The trend of brick and mortar schools offering online classes might be move towards the lucrative world of online profits – once a student gets on the school loan treadmill it is almost impossible to get off. With no jobs the only way to avoid costly repayment is to continue being a full time student and rack up debt.

The schools get their money from the banks and the banks get their money from the Department of Education through Sallie Mae. Of course, we will all end up paying in the end. It is like the real estate/mortgage swindle.

Vic Napier

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