MOOCs may cut the price of a SUNY degree by one-third

by Grace

The State University of New York’s new agreement to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) opens the possibility of obtaining a SUNY degree at about one-third discount off full price.

SUNY announced Thursday that it signed an agreement to partner with Coursera, a website with 3.7 million users that is a leader in offering what are called “massive open online courses.” Universities worldwide, including private schools in New York like the University of Rochester, upload video lectures and course materials onto the website in an effort to enhance educational access.

Starting with a course from Stony Brook University in the fall, SUNY is planning to offer some courses through the site, although how many is unclear.

Exact details are still to be worked out, but students could be granted prior learning assessment credits for MOOC courses taken through a SUNY campus or even elsewhere.  These “would essentially act as transfer credits” that would require a fee, but not a tuition charge for each course.  Presumably the credit transfer fees would be minimal, well below tuition costs.

A student might be able to get his SUNY degree at about two-thirds the cost of a traditional program.

SUNY allows only one-third of the coursework for a degree to be transferred.

“There would be a limit,” SUNY spokesman David Doyle said. “It’s not like you could get a free degree.”

This strikes me as not very different from the Advanced Placement program, which allows college students credit for up to one year ‘s worth of college courses.



13 Responses to “MOOCs may cut the price of a SUNY degree by one-third”

  1. You said “This strikes me as not very different from the Advanced Placement program, which allows college students credit for up to one year ‘s worth of college courses.” Actually, it is more like taking classes at a community college. The Advanced Placement credit is for performance on a standardized exam, not for taking a course. Many colleges offer little or no credit for either AP exams or community college courses—either for financial reasons or because they have found that the quality control is too low and students given such credits can’t then keep up in the subsequent courses.


  2. Yeah, your analogy is better. Except that in most cases, AP courses are free to students, with perhaps a nominal testing fee.

    “Many colleges offer little or no credit for either AP exams or community college courses”

    But I suspect that most do.


  3. I really wonder about this movement and the resulting quality of instruction. I’m taking a course through Coursera right now and it seems to me to be watered down relative to what I would expect from an in-person course. The mathematical content is simplified and there is a lot of scaffolding on the (programming) assignments. Although the content is something that you wouldn’t expect to learn in a freshman level course, the work and rigor is lower than any class I took as a freshman in college.

    I’ve heard of success in courses that use a mix of on-line lectures and in person tutorial/recitation, but I think that’s quite different from a totally on-line course.


  4. Kcab, which one are you taking?
    I’ve done a couple (not very seriously, though) on very advanced topics, and found that they were bad in a different way – the lectures were perky, fun, and relatively light on the content – and the assignments were difficult and sophisticated, with many students floundering publicly on the message boards. I also hated the fact that the material was on video because you can’t easily search video for content when you need it. On the message boards, people were trading recommendations for outside reading to help with the assignments, which I think would have been necessary to actually complete them. I don’t think the completion rate was very high.

    I think in order to be successful, MOOCs need to add reading assignments, and perhaps shorten the videos significantly. And key information such as formulas need to be attached as handouts or readings to the site rather than simply buried in videos.

    I also noticed that most of the people posting on the message boards were clearly either advanced grad students or working people. I think Coursera could make a killing if they went after the corporate training market, but it seems that the people who run it are not familiar enough with corporate settings to know how to do it. Maybe I should get into the business of MOOCified corporate training. It would make so much sense. When your dev group needs to learn C# and .NET for a new project, instead of paying travel and overpriced registration to send them to a training workshop, contract with a MOOC provider for a fraction of the cost. Corporate employees tend to be the types who would succeed at a MOOC, since they are motivated.


  5. Grace wrote “Except that in most cases, AP courses are free to students, with perhaps a nominal testing fee.”

    AP courses are far from free at private schools—the cost is usually much higher than community colleges. Whether they are available at local public high schools is highly variable, and students often can’t take them except at the one one high school they are permitted to enroll in.

    There are some online courses that offer AP-level content, at a wide range of prices (for example, Aventa learning courses are $350/semester, or $700 a course—much more expensive than equivalent community college courses in California).


  6. kcab — I also question the qualify of instruction. Undoubtedly there are plenty of courses that suffer from the problems you and CSProfMom describe, although that’s not to say that traditional courses at many colleges across the country don’t have their own problems.

    One of the things that I seriously question is the flagrant cheating opportunities presented by many of these MOOSs. At the very least, if they don’t require proctored exams I am very skeptical that these course certificates mean much of anything.


  7. CSProfMom – MOOCifed corporate training sounds like a sure thing, and I wouldn’t doubt that that field will become big and crowded quickly so you better hurry up!


  8. CSProfMom – I’m doing the Machine Learning one with Ng. The lectures are perky and fun-ish for that course too, at least at 1.5x speed. Actually, some of the things that I think are good are: short lectures, PDF available of the slides for each lecture series (about 5 lectures per topic series), in-video questions, ability to speed up the video, programming assignments typically contain all the information needed to complete the assignment without referring back to video, and overall it’s not a big time commitment. The message boards look much like those in the courses you took with the addition of a group of students who are lacking technical background that would help – at least, I think that is what is going on. I should note that I didn’t realize how relevant my background was when I signed up for the course; I was coming across the term “machine learning” in jobs turned up by my job search filters and decided to find out what was meant. Found out that I should just apply for jobs already.

    Aren’t there companies doing on-line corporate training? DH had access at previous employer to courses offered by a company called Lynda. I think his current company contracts with them as well. I haven’t done anything through them but DH found it useful for getting up and running with some new tool – can’t recall what.


  9. Grace – re cheating: The course TA’s, or whatever they are called, do seem to patrol the discussion boards and keep down the trading of actual code. (In this course, the programming assignments are more relevant than the short quizzes.) I’m sure that people could find a way to cheat outside of the message boards though – that would definitely be a problem in a course for actual college credit. I don’t think it’s so much of a problem when the course is serving a corporate training purpose.


  10. Cheating is a huge problem even with traditional courses, but can be policed if the class sizes are small. For example, my students endlessly try to submit code written by someone else as their own, but I almost always catch it because I actually read all their programs. I can do that because I only have 25 students. In a larger course such as the one I TA’ed for when I was a grad student, we would meet and discuss student solutions, but I am sure cheating existed that we couldn’t catch. Nowadays there are automated programs that you can run that look for structural similarity. I don’t know if those would scale up to MOOC levels, though.



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