Semester Online is the first-of-its-kind program to offer rigorous, online, for-credit undergraduate courses through a consortium of top-tier colleges and universities. The program will be delivered through a virtual classroom environment and interactive platform developed by 2U, formerly known as 2tor.
Semester Online courses will feature primarily the same faculty and curricula as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Students will experience a state-of-the-art virtual classroom, including live class sessions that connect students and renowned professors; compelling, richly produced, self-paced course materials; and a strong social network that allows students to collaborate and build relationships online.
Students will have the chance to take advantage of unique course offerings from some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, courses they would not otherwise have access to. They will be able to work, travel, participate in off-campus research programs or manage personal commitments that in the past would have meant putting their studies on hold.
Credit will be awarded by the consortium member that provides the course, which will also determine admissions requirements for the course.
The reason that I found this announcement exciting is tied to an article I wrote long ago and far away.
Some students will continue to find the traditional residential college experience to be most desirable, while others may find they can create more desirable options by "unbundling" the roles of the college through DL. For example, a student might want to take a junior year through DL while traveling, or she might want to take a minimal load while in residence at her university and take most of her courses from a variety of other institutions through DL. While we all have rules regarding transfer credits for matriculated students, the competitive pressures to relax those rules could become quite intense as DL increases in demonstrated quality and effectiveness. One important aspect of DL may be, therefore, that the increased options it provides will give students more opportunity to create a more customized approach to higher education.
It has taken 12 years for an experiment to occur, but the Semester Online consortium finally will begin to test what happens when we offer students the ability to customize their education utilizing high quality, credit-bearing online courses from major, high brand institutions. This is the beginning of a lovely experiment in disruption!