Online education got a boost last week when the American Council on Education (ACE) announced the approval of four online courses for transferable college credit. The classes are offered by Coursera, a for-profit online organization that records traditional classroom lectures from various well-reputed colleges throughout the nation. Coursera currently offers more than 200 classes through 33 colleges, though none of them have been transferable for college credit until now. The four newly approved courses include a pre-calculus class from UC Irving, two classes from Duke University (genetics and bio electricity) and a calculus class from the University of Pennsylvania.
While these courses have been given the green light by ACE, it will still be up to colleges and universities to decide whether or not they will allow students to use these course in place of traditional, classroom courses taught on campus.
This can only be seen as a step in the right direction for Coursera and similar organizations that work to make education accessible for working adults and nontraditional students through the online education platform. The opportunity for students to get some of the general education requirements out of the way before stepping foot onto the campus of their choice is a win-win for both sides. Universities have been unable to meet the demand of many freshman classes, causing a waiting list for enrollment and delaying graduation. Allowing students to take certain classes through one of the online forums will take some of the pressure off schools and provide a means for students to get these classes under their belt at their own pace.
Another positive aspect to this shift to internet-based education is cost. It is a more cost effective option not only for students, but for universities and colleges as well. Classes taken through Coursera or a similar web-based group are often free or far cheaper ($30-$99 for a completion certificate through Coursera) than classes taken in a traditional university setting.
Universities like San Jose State have begun partnering with online education organizations to provide students with an alternative for taking for-credit classes and receiving an education that coincides with their lifestyle. Many organizations similar to Coursera recognize the importance of making education attainable to working adults or others who could benefit from online learning, an indication that higher education as we have come to know it is evolving.