ASU, edX reimagine first year of college
Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2015, click here.
Global Freshman Academy offers alternative entry into higher education
Arizona State University and edX, two leaders in interactive online education, will announce Thursday the Global Freshman Academy, a first-of-its-kind program that offers a unique entry point to an undergraduate degree.
The Global Freshman Academy will give learners anywhere in the world the opportunity to earn freshman-level university credit after successfully completing a series of digital immersion courses hosted on edX, designed and taught by leading scholars from ASU.
By allowing students to learn, explore and complete courses before applying or paying for credit, the Global Freshman Academy reimagines the freshman year and reduces academic and monetary stress while opening a new path to a college degree for many students.
“At ASU, we’re committed to academic inclusion and student success, regardless of a student’s family circumstances. We will not be successful unless we reach talent from all backgrounds around the world, and the worldwide reach of the revolutionary edX platform allows us to open this program to anyone with the drive to obtain their degree,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “The Global Freshman Academy will empower students to prepare for college and achieve what they may not have thought they could.
"There are many pathways to success, both academically and in life," Crow said. "This is now one of them.”
Since it was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012, edX has offered Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from leading global institutions, for learners around the world. This is the first time that the power of the edX platform will be harnessed to help students earn credit on a global scale.
“We’re proud to welcome ASU as an edX Charter member,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO. “ASU has established itself as a new model for the American research university with a focus on inclusion and global thinking. This partnership delivers on the founding mission of edX: the promise to transform education while increasing access to high-quality learning. As with other innovative technologies in the digital space, so too will Global Freshman Academy change the educational opportunities that will help people transform their lives.”
The program differs from other digital immersion undergraduate programs in the following ways:
• Course credit for open online courses: By completing the full series of eight Global Freshman Academy courses, students earn full college credit for freshman year; students will also be able to opt for taking individual courses for credit if they prefer.
• Cost effective: Freshman-year credit earned through Global Freshman Academy is a fraction of the cost students typically pay.
• Learning before payment: Students may decide to take a course for credit at the beginning or after coursework has been completed – reducing financial risk while opening a pathway for exploration and preparation for qualified students who may not otherwise seek a degree.
• Unlimited reach: Because of the open course format, learning takes place while scaling completely – there are no limits to how many learners can take the courses online.
• Innovative admissions option: Global Freshman Academy’s approach is different from the traditional admissions process of other credit-bearing courses, eliminating such barriers to entry as standardized tests and transcripts that are part of the traditional application process.
• Track record of success: This partnership brings together a globally recognized online educational platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a university whose innovative online degree programs boast an 89 percent retention rate.
Crow and Agarwal will officially announce the program’s launch on April 23, at the New America annual conference in Washington, D.C. This year’s New America conference theme is “Exploring a New America: What Drives Innovation Around the Country?”, and one focus is on innovation in education and the classroom.
“Innovations in education are critical on moral, economic and national security grounds,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of New America.
The Global Freshman Academy will offer a collection of first-year courses designed to fulfill a specific set of general education requirements. Upon completion of each Global Freshman Academy course, students who pass the final exam will have an option to pay a small fee of no more than $200 per credit hour to get college credit for the course.
Completion of eight courses in the series, including several required courses and some elective, equals the requirements for a full freshman year at ASU – at about half the cost of the national average for a year of in-state tuition at public universities.
The general studies focus areas will include mathematical studies, humanities, arts and design, social-behavioral sciences and natural sciences. The first course, Introduction to Astronomy, is now open for enrollment, and starts in August 2015. It will be taught by Frank Timmes, an astrophysicist who focuses on nuclear astrophysics, supernovae and cosmic chemical evolution.
Two additional courses will be offered starting fall 2015, with the remaining courses scheduled to be released within the next 24 months. Human Origins will be taught by Donald Johanson, who most notably discovered the hominid skeleton known as “Lucy.” Western Civilizations: Ancient and Medieval Europe will also be offered.
Because the series is hosted and administered completely online, learning can occur anywhere, at any time of day, any day of the week. The program is perfect for ambitious students who need a more flexible, economically viable model for their education that enables them to hold jobs, work remotely and save money. The Global Freshman Academy will also allow students to get a jump-start on their college education while still in high school.
“These classes and assessments are being designed, built and administered by leading scholars and faculty at ASU,” said Adrian Sannier, chief academic officer for EdPlus at ASU. “These courses are developed to their rigorous standards, and course faculty are committed to ensuring their students understand college-level material so that they can be prepared to successfully complete college.”