Global Freshman Academy: Online Gen Ed Courses

Arizona State University’s highly disruptive approach to revolutionize higher education

Rising tuition costs and admission requirements causes a lot of stress. Arizona State University decided to do something about it.

The innovation of massive open online courses, more commonly known as MOOCs, makes it possible for thousands of people to take a course at one time. For ASU, this was key.

ASU partnered with edX, a MOOC platform founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012. ASU President Michael Crow and edX CEO Anant Agarwal started what they believe will revolutionize higher education. They decided to offer freshman-level courses online, MOOC-style, which means open enrollment, no admission requirements, and no cost up front. This eliminates stress for thousands.

The Global Freshman Academy offers approximately twelve freshman-level credit courses in general studies including humanities, social behavioral sciences, natural sciences, arts and design, and mathematical studies. Learners can pay for the credit once they pass the course.

Is it working? They had over 300,000 page views and 20,000 enrollments in the first eight months. Thirty-one percent of enrollees are adults who see this as an opportunity to acquire the degree they have never started or haven’t completed. Arizona State University’s Global Freshman Academy stands as a strong model for revolutionizing education.

With more than 300,000 page views and 20,000 enrolled 8 months before the first course was to launch, the Global Freshman Academy appears to be an innovative approach that will be highly disruptive to traditional and private universities.

Revolutionizing Higher Education

Arizona State University President Michael Crow and edX CEO Anant Agarwal led a partnership that they believe will revolutionize higher education.

The Global Freshman Academy offers 12 freshman-level credit courses intended to fulfill general education requirements. General studies include humanities, social behavioral sciences, natural sciences, arts and design and Mathematical Studies. Courses include Math, English, Introduction to Solar Systems Astronomy, Human Origins, Western Civilizations: Ancient and Medieval Europe, and Introduction to Health and Wellness.

ASU markets the academy stating: “No Transcripts NeGlobal Freshman Academyeded · No Application Necessary · Try College Risk-Free · Begin College Today.” Among their target audience are those who are not on the standard path.

With open enrollment, no admission requirements and a no cost up-front style of MOOCs, learners feel no financial or academic stress as they attempt to complete general education courses. The Global Freshman Academy allows students to take courses for free and then pay to earn university credit from ASU after successfully completing the courses. Credit is awarded at a very reduced cost.

Online General Education Classes

This freedom is widely embraced by the traditional high school/freshman student seeking to get their first year out of the way. However ASU attracts the non-traditional student. They believe that 31% of enrollees are adults who see this as an opportunity to acquire the degree they never started or perhaps started and didn’t continue.

Hosted on the edX platform, the intention for these digital immersion courses is to offer academic credit transferable from ASU and not discernibly different from any other ASU credit.

Cutting-edge Technologies and Innovative Pedagogy

Crow and Agarwal knew their vision would only be successful if they got buy-in from faculty. As such, they carefully selected those who were passionate about the vision and would develop robust and rigorous online courses designed to be fully engaging.

Frank Timmes, an astrophysicist and professor who developed the first course, Introduction to Solar Systems Astronomy said; “I find it very exciting to engage GFA students who seek to transform themselves through rigorous college credit courses, cutting-edge technologies and innovative pedagogy.”

ASU and edX have a continuous improvement strategy in place. By analyzing student learning analytics, workflow patterns and experiences, ASU will use the data to determine difficulties and pain points that impede success. Adjustments and ongoing development will ensure strong learning outcomes and student success.

ASU is able to expand academy reach through unique partnerships. One such partner is Starbucks and their joint program called Starbucks College Achievement Plan which offers the courses to benefit to full-time and part-time Starbucks employees.

Not only is ASU finding great success with their Global Freshman Academy, but also with their new offering, the Online Master’s of Science in Business Analytics program.Arizona State University’s Global Freshman Academy exemplifies how online learning increases accessibility in a cost-effective and personalized manner.