By Thomas K. Lindsay
Although the public’s faith in traditional, brick and mortar higher education is dwindling, college tuition prices keep rising. A Pew Research Center national poll found that 57 percent of prospective college students believe that a college degree no longer offers a value commensurate with the price of tuition and fees. The same poll revealed that 75 percent of prospective students doubt that a traditional degree is affordable at all. And for good reason: By one estimate, college tuitions and fees nationwide increased 1,120 percent between 1978 and 2011, resulting in a staggering amount of student loan debt, which, at $1.3 trillion, is larger than national credit card debt—and this in a country fairly addicted to credit cards.
In response to this crisis, defenders of the higher education status quo blame the hand that feeds them, citing mythical “state disinvestment” as the cause of tuition hyperinflation. Meanwhile, tuition and student debt keep rising.
What can be done? When Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) made their first foray into higher education about a decade ago, the hope was that they would deliver education content to more students at a lower, or even, no cost. They delivered on the cost savings, but the most common critique of this education innovation has focused on the low rate of students who complete these courses, which some studies have found to be only ten percent.
A number of MOOCs have taken on the challenge to increase course completion, crafting innovations that are now yielding completion rates that are up to five times the average. They have accomplished this through seeking to ameliorate the “loneliness”—that is, the social isolation—of the long-distance learner. This advance is especially encouraging, given the speed with which MOOCs are multiplying: According to one survey, roughly 2,000 new MOOCs have taken flight since the beginning of the year. CONTINUE READING HERE