Traditionally, students attend college on campusand in a classroom setting.  In recent years, however, online education has surged in popularity.  This option provides access to college level work to adult students with busy lives, students wishing to save on college costs (i.e. housing) and just about anyone in between.  So many of these schools are up and running and are indeed eligible to distribute financial aid to students.  There is, however, yet another class of college-level learning: MOOCs.  MOOCs, short for massive open online courses, are college-level classes which cater to up to thousands of students in one course.  These correspondence courses, unlike traditional classes or other online courses, aren't credit-based and primarily serve students wanting to gain new skills or who simply love to learn.  Such courses are free to take and therefore do not currently qualify for financial aid...but that could change soon.  Let's take more about how and why.

Just this month, President Obama talked about giving higher education a facelift.  With this plan, MOOCs could potentially become accredited courses that would accept tuition and therefore would allow students to get aid.  Right now, though, the question is whether or not this sect of online learning is ready for the big time.  Some are concerned that MOOCs are still in their infancy and that the government should wait and see how the courses hold up before bringing them into the pool of regular college classes (and financial aid).  Indeed, MOOCs have really only been around for a few years, coming into being sometime in 2008.

MOOCs can cover topics ranging from biology to computer and database education and more.  They are available from major universities like the University of California, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan and others who have partnered with online services like Coursera and edX.  However, given the large nature of the classes, the downside of MOOCs is that true feedback from teachers is hard to come by, as there is just too much material and too many students to keep straight.  These classes are best for those who do not need much from the instructor.

A good reason to accredit MOOCs is to give a wider range of options to students in terms of online education and to also add more competition between the various sponsoring schools.  It's too soon to tell for sure how these courses are going to stand the test of time, and as of now no decision has been made about attributing tuition and financial aid to them.  Time will tell.  What do you think about online education and the growth of MOOCs?  With such a large class size, how much do you think you would correspond with other classmates and help one another (as of now, the majority work independently)?  Would you rather these classes remain separate entities or become part of the tuition-based educationa sphere?

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Categories: College Planning | Financial Aid
Tags: financial aid mooc online education

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