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Can online courses ease the college experience?

To keep up with the growing population of students in debt, Georgia State is now granting full credit for online courses.

Georgia State began accepting full credit for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) this past January and now all existing or new Georgia State MOOC courses can be taken online as supplemental (non-degree) classes.

President Mark Becker said MOOCs could help head Georgia State’s battle against student loan debt and increasing class sizes.

“The goal here is to keep students from going into academic bankruptcy,” Becker said at the New America Foundation forum last week. “We expect them all to graduate.”

But some of the disadvantages of MOOC-based learning, according to research by Dr. Ingo Farin in “MOOCs and The Future of Higher Education,” include the possibility of MOOC-based learning becoming a for-profit enterprise, as universities begin accepting credit from online courses offered by private institutions.

“The art of making money is quite a different skill from educating someone,” he said.

Other challenges facing online courses are student evaluations and academic assessments. How will the university judge student progress? Will it be based solely off online content?

“It depends on the class,” sophomore Ashley Russell said. “Technical classes should require more oversight.”

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She added that students could also be more susceptible to cheating on exams, or more prone to not turning in assignments.

Yet, due to a slow economic recovery, the federal government has cut the budget on education and healthcare, forcing universities to increase tuition fees and students to accumulate more debt.

As a result, the College of Education is now offering students five graduate online programs and one Master of Science degree in instructional technology for $404 a semester.

“I think [online degrees] can definitely help,” sophomore Daphne Toon said. “Especially in addition to traditional courses.”

Georgia state policy says MOOCs will also reduce commute times and increase the number of courses available to Georgia State students.

The move towards online education extends to Western Governors University who, partnered with the University of Indiana, increased the enrollments of 500 full-time students in 2003 to roughly 25,000 this past year.

At The Georgia institute of Technology, number seven in public universities in the country, students can receive a master’s degree in computer science – entirely online – for less than $7,000 in tuition.

But as Toon points out, “you’re paying $7,000 for an uninstructed class.”

Although students in online courses continue to increase, growth is slow. Students hope that the developing technology surrounding online education continues to improve.

In the meantime, Georgia universities will continue looking for ways to incorporate MOOCs into their curriculum.