Global Freshman Academy from edX and ASU Provides a New Path Into College

This past year, accreditation has been the focus of many conversations surrounding MOOCs, or massive open online courses. Each MOOC provider has been testing different programs to tackle this issue, many partnering with established higher ed institutions to provide credits to students in select programs. For edX, the nonprofit MOOC provider founded by Harvard and MIT, a partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) to create the Global Freshman Academy may be the next step toward achieving a full global college accreditation model.

The Global Freshman Academy provides general education requirements to students around the world via online courses, at about half the cost of the U.S. average for in-state college tuition at a public university.

According to a statement on the ASU website, the program was “the first time that the power of the edX platform [has been] harnessed to help students earn credit on a global scale.”

The Global Freshman Academy is free until students complete the course materials and pass the final exam, after which they will have the option to pay $200 per credit hour to obtain college cred for the course. The program requires the completion of 8 courses, the equivalent of a full freshman year at ASU, which will cost half of the nation’s average for in-state tuition at a public university.

As edX CEO Anant Agarwal told Fortune, the program was “the first time any MOOC provider [has offered] a curriculum of courses that any learner can take for free or for a small fee as a verified student and then parlay that for credit if they pass the course.”

The course is designed to help students of all backgrounds get a leg up on their college education, giving them the ability to explore and decide what they want to do without the monetary pressure of the typical freshman year. Entry into the program doesn’t require the typical admissions process involving transcripts and SAT scores or a significant monetary commitment, so it casts a wider net than usual, reaching lower-income students, first-generation college students, students still on the fence about college, and even high school students who want to get ahead.

This small step in the future of MOOCs is one of many steps toward the future of higher education. Who knows—by 2025, it could be the norm to attain a college degree from the comfort of your own home.

Photo credit: Arizona State University

Hannah Nyren

Hannah Nyren

A Texan by birth but a Bostonian at heart, Hannah is an educational writer, AmeriCorps alum, and one-time StartupWeekend EDU (SWEDU) winning team member. She started her career at a Pearson-incubated edtech startup, but has since covered travel, food & culture, and even stonemasonry in addition to education.