Thomas Edison State College’s Open Course Option

Since their inception, MOOCs have been touted as the answer to the ever-rising cost of college tuition.  However, while their enrollments have soared, many people have wondered what their real impact on tuition, and higher education, has been.  Some are already calling MOOCs a failed experiment as Udacity and Coursera turn away from higher ed to focus on workplace training. Not only have very few MOOCs been reviewed by the American Council on Education (ACE) for college credit, but schemes to set up MOOC-for-credit opportunities have failed miserably.  Colorado State University-Global Campus offered a MOOC-for-credit program, and didn’t manage to attract a single student.  San Jose State University bailed on its partnership with Udacity to provide remedial math classes to students after only one semester.  California’s bill to open the door to MOOCs for credit stalled in the face of grumpy faculty unions.

So have MOOCs failed on their promise? Looking at that list of evidence, you might be compelled to think so.  However, Thomas Edison State College is not those schools, and our students are not those students.  Since 1972, we have been committed to the idea that it doesn’t matter where you learned something, as long as you can demonstrate that you know it, you can earn credit.  We don’t care about seat time, we don’t care about attendance.  For decades, we’ve been granting credit for students who acquired college-level learning through workplace training, professional certifications, and military service.  MOOCs and open courses are simply a new avenue for students to educate themselves outside of a traditional college experience.

And our students are not those who crave a traditional college experience.  Our average student is 36 years old, and has been out in the workforce for over a decade.  They are realistic about what they expect from their educational experience, and assume personal responsibility for their learning goals.  More than anything though, these students are looking to improve their lives without bankrupting their future.  It is this population that, more than any other, is in desperate need of a solution for the rising cost of tuition; and it is this population that is in the best position to utilize new program we have developed.

So what is this new program?

It’s called the Thomas Edison State College Open Course Option, and it offers a new twist on an old model.  We’ve partnered with the Saylor Foundation – a DC-based non-profit committed to driving down the cost of education – to provide students with an affordable pathway to an Associates of Science in Business Administration degree.  That’s right; we aren’t talking about a single class here.  This is an entire degree program.  Go to Saylor.org and take their free online courses (which, unlike Udacity and Coursera’s courses, are available any time) and then come to Thomas Edison State College we’ll assess you on what you learned using our vast array of prior learning assessments.

Are you a good test-taker, who thrives under pressure?  Come participate in our TECEP credit-by-exam program.  Would you rather a more self-reflective process that allows you to connect with what you learned and articulate it in writing?  We can have a subject matter expert evaluate your portfolio assessment and your learning narrative.  Maybe you’d like to do some combination?  It is entirely up to you.  More than anything, this program emphasizes flexibility.  Not only can you choose your form of assessment, but the Open Course Option is entirely self-paced, which means that students are able to complete their studies entirely on their own schedule, completely independent from semesters and deadlines.

But, the best part of this program is the price.  According to the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing Report, the average two-year Associates Degree costs $17,310 for in-state students and $21,706 for out-of-state students.  The Open Course Option on the other hand, costs approximately $3,700 for in-state students and $5,300 for out-of-state students, assuming they complete it in one year.  That’s a savings of 79%.

MOOCs may have failed on their promise to students, but at Thomas Edison State College we are committed to keeping ours.

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