“We’re going to have 12 new courses, of which students will take eight,” Mr. Crow (President of ASU) said. “They have to be constructed at a fantastic level of digital immersion, not just talking heads. This is a general education freshman year, not a series of disconnected courses, so they have to be thought through together.”
All courses will be designed and taught by leading faculty at ASU. Whether the Department of Education bugaboo of competency based testing will be used is not clear from information I have seen.
This is truly an "open admissions" program, with no entrance requirements. Students pay nothing to take the courses, only paying after successful course completion if they desire to get ASU credit. Projected cost for the credit will be no more than $200 per credit hour. The combination of relatively low cost, online accessibility and convenience, and college credit from a major institution certainly make this a great experiment, and may well make this a very successful program.
ASU has a strong existing online program with focused and strong student support that has led to an astounding 89% retention rate. Should similar rates be obtained in the Global Freshman Academy, it would be a first for MOOC-like courses.
A few years ago, I thought a new age was dawning with the establishment of Semester Online - a consortium of almost a dozen highly ranked institutions that would be offering a number of credit bearing courses online.This, I thought, could be the beginning of an experiment to allow students to customize their own educations. Unfortunately, that consortium was rather short lived, in large part because of objections from faculty at the member institutions, and the experiment died. ASU and edX have restarted that experiment by offering students an alternative way to pick up the often-generic first year of college.
Another radical thing is happening in this program, if Crow's statement above is correct. The general education program is being thought of as a whole, rather than as a set of barely connected courses - an approach greatly encouraged by extensive educational research, but hardly ever seen in the actual world of higher education where "academic freedom" ensures that faculty teach what they will. This general education program could become a model of how general education should be done!.