Tuesday, December 29, 2015

As currently implemented, MOOCs make no economic sense

Dean Dad does, of course, have a dog in this fight, but his arguments are completely sound, particularly regarding the strangely neglected CLEP option.

 Quick, which is the better deal:

    Watch videos online and pay $649 for three credits.
    Take a class with a human being and pay $252 for three credits.


That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course.  To the extent that folks watched MOOCs in the same way that they watch, say, TED talks, I don’t see the harm in it.  But to the extent that the partnership was supposed to be about opening pathways to bachelor’s degrees, it doesn’t come close to comparing to the already-established route of starting at a community college -- in this case, I used the tuition rate of Maricopa Community College, the largest feeder to ASU -- and transferring.

The program didn’t even follow the usual “script” for “disruptive innovations.”  It came in at a higher cost than a respected, existing alternative.  That’s not how disruption is supposed to work.  I have to wonder at the implied invisibility of the single largest sector of American higher education, but that’s another discussion. 

ASU was essentially trying to charge premium prices for Prior Learning Assessment and hope nobody would notice.  A savvy student could simply watch the MOOC and then take a CLEP exam for credit for less than a hundred bucks.  I admire the audacity of the effort, though I admire more the clarity with which most people saw it. 

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