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To say that attending college is an expensive process is an understatement. In 2012, total student debt in the United States is believed to have exceeded $ 1 trillion. In 2011, the New York Times reported that average student debt was about $ 26,500 and online college courses aren’t much cheaper. However, the advent of free online college courses, others known as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), could change the face of education forever.

It started as an experiment, but all indications are that it will be a huge success with a large number of public universities willing to offer MOOCs to anyone who requests it in the hope that many of the participants will pass the course; Enroll in college and pay the normal tuition fees. In a country where a degree in religious and women’s studies from a prestigious university can cost up to $ 100,000, MOOCs could open up the world of education to students. Why are universities interested in offering these free trial courses? Many American universities are in debt and need some method to attract more students.

Growth of a phenomenon?

The University of Arkansas, the University of Cincinnati, and the State of Arizona are just three of the most respected universities participating in the plan. MOOC growth really skyrocketed in 2012 when startups like Udacity and edX came to light and offered hope to those who previously couldn’t afford education. These courses were founded by professors from top schools like Stanford and Harvard, and millions of people around the world accepted the professors’ offer.

At this stage, one wonders if MOOCs can one day replace college degrees. If this were the case, it would make a huge difference to an incredible number of potential students. One problem was that universities weren’t giving credit for MOOCs, but even this seems to be about to change. Several universities in Austria and Germany are giving credit for MOOCs and this could be extended to American educational institutions, as the state of Colorado has made noise about following the lead of its European counterparts. The University of Washington is also considering this course of action, although students at the university will have to pay a fee and do additional work with a professor from the institution if they go ahead with the plan.

The future of MOOCs

These free online courses are no longer a novelty and will continue to be used as a tool to encourage prospective students to enroll in a university. The University of Texas at Arlington has partnered with Academic Partnerships to offer free online college courses to prospective nursing students. To date, more than 80% of those who accepted the free offer returned and paid for the course on campus. At the very least, MOOCs offer students the option to “try before you buy,” a valuable resource when courses are so expensive. Free online college courses could pose a threat to traditional education, but if these institutions find a way to use MOOCs to their advantage, like the University of Texas, giving something for free could be very lucrative.

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