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MOOC Initiative Opens Doors To College Degree Programs

For students seeking to tentatively test the college waters before signing up, nine public universities will offer a free initial course as a massive open online course (MOOC). Students that successfully complete the MOOC2Degree course will earn academic credits toward an online degree program.

The participating schools include Cleveland State University, Florida International University, Lamar University, University of Arkansas System, University of Cincinnati, University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing, University of West Florida and Utah State University.

The MOOC2Degree initiative, launched in collaboration with Academic Partnerships, will allow universities to offer the initial online course as a MOOC at no charge. The MOOC will mirror the participating universities' regular online class, which is taught by the school's instructor using the same academic content and materials.

Though nine universities are set to participate in the initial launch scheduled for spring 2013, additional universities are scheduled to come on board as they complete the process of setting up their systems to accommodate MOOCs.

A recent development in the realm of online learning, MOOCs are designed for large-scale participation. Although they are similarly structured to traditional online courses, participation is free and open to anyone who is interested and has an Internet connection. With several top universities offering MOOCs over the past year, interest in online learning has grown, but the MOOC2Degree initiative is among the first of its kind to offer college credit upon completion.

"Making the first course in an online degree program a MOOC brings real value to both the student and the university," said Randy Best, founder and chairman of Academic Partnerships, in a prepared statement. "The free start is just the encouragement many working adults need to enroll in a degree program that will have a big impact on their future success. For universities, MOOC2Degree will potentially attract larger numbers of qualified students into their degree programs."

According to data gathered by Academic Partnerships:

  • Seventy percent of higher education institutions acknowledge that online learning is now a critical part of their long-term strategy;
  • Online enrollment grew 9.3 percent in 2011, while on-campus enrollment declined;
  • By 2014, 81 percent of all college students will take at least one course online; and
  • By 2015, twice as many foreign students will be enrolled in U.S. universities' online versus on-campus

Academic Partnerships helps universities convert their traditional degree programs into an online format, recruits qualified students and supports enrolled students through graduation.

Information about the participating universities and the MOOCS they will be offering is available at mooc2degree.com.

Editor's note: This article has been modified since its original publication to correct a factual error. We previously stated that Arizona State University was a participant in MOOC2Degree. That is not the case. [Last updated Jan. 29 at 1:05 p.m.] --David Nagel

About the Author

Sharleen Nelson is a freelance journalist based in Springfield, Oregon. She can be reached at snelson858@comcast.net.

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