I’ve received a number of questions, both in the comments section and through the Contact form, and while it’s still manageable to do so, I’m going to try to reserve time on Fridays to answer as many of these as I can.
The first one came from commenter Steve who wondered if I will be trying to get an actual degree at the end of this whole process, a question which taps into the broader conversation of how MOOCs and other free courses should be treated with regard to obtaining actual college credit.
Some MOOC providers are trying to credentialize their courses through the Credit program offered by the American Council on Education (ACE) which reviews independent learning material (including online courses) for college equivalency. (As an aside, I actually put an educational program I created in an earlier life through the ACE Credit program, and can attest to its rigor.)
Many schools are willing to allow courses that have been through this process count for degree requirements, which makes ACE one of the key mechanisms for turning the various certificates from companies like Coursera, EdX and Udacity into credits towards graduation at traditional brick-and-mortar institutions.
As of now, only a fraction of the courses I am enrolling in are likely to have gotten far enough in this process to provide a pathway to turn my One Year BA into an actual sheepskin. But I will be exploring alternatives for turning online learning experiences into actual college credit (or the equivalent) later in the year as Degree of Freedom explores every avenue of the new learning models.
C. O. Lam asked the highly relevant question of just how realistic this entire endeavor is, given that students looking towards MOOCs as an alternative to a traditional (and expensive) college experience are likely to be younger than I am, will be spreading their work out over several years (not just one), and will not be repeating a BA program (as I’m doing), but will rather be entering higher education for the first time.
While each and every observation C.O made is 100% correct, keep in mind that this Degree of Freedom project is as much about asking and answering questions regarding all aspects of these new forms of learning (which means my previous experience at a traditional university should actually be a source of perspective).
I fully concede that the compressed timeline for this project adds a level of artificiality to it. But I think that success in fitting this volume of learning into twelve months will demonstrate that people following a more traditional trajectory can accomplish the same thing in a more reasonable timeframe of 3-4+ years.
Finally, keep in mind that the people taking advantage of these new educational options are not just 18-year-old American kids looking for an alternative to shelling out a half-million dollars to an Ivy League institution. While there is a growing cohort in this age group looking for a non-traditional “Uncollege” experience, within any MOOC course you will find a large percentage of international students as well as students my age and older who are taking these classes for reasons other than as a substitute for a traditional degree.
I should also note that the notion of traditional college as being primarily a place for 18-22 year old American kids is also changing as older students, international students and other “non-traditionals” make up more and more of the student body. So we may actually see more of a convergence between the makeup of a brick-and-mortar college class and the demographics of a MOOC over the coming years.
Finally, more than one person asked if this is a project anyone can participate in. And while there’s nothing stopping anyone from following a similar pathway by creating their own accelerated learning program, for now the Degree of Freedom project is going to be based on documenting my own personal experience and developing and communicating insights derived from trying to use MOOCs and other sources to deliver the learning equivalent to a four year liberal arts degree.
(That said, anyone who decides to do something similar should let me know so I can add your stories to the mix.)
Finally, a couple notes about communication. Starting next week, I’ll be dissecting each component of a course (lectures, homework, reading, assessment, etc.) and seeing how MOOCs and other free educational resources stack up when compared to learning delivered in more traditional environments.
Since this blog will focus on these types of observations, I’ve reserved the weekly newsletter (which you can sign up for by simply submitting your e-mail address on the form to the right) for other information, such as reviews of individual courses and links to further reading materials.
In addition, the social media attached to this project (including a Facebook page, Google+ page and Twitter feeds) are places where you can find links to other sources of information, as well as follow daily progress and observations towards the completion of my One Year BA.