The exorbitant cost of higher education is a recurrent topic of conversation, concern, and discontent these days. Against that backdrop, an announcement from edX and Arizona State University caught my attention last week. ASU and edX announced a program called Global Freshman Academy:
The Global Freshman Academy (GFA) will give learners anywhere in the world the opportunity to earn freshman-level university credit after successfully completing a series of digital immersion courses hosted on edX, designed and taught by leading scholars from ASU. By allowing students to learn, explore and complete courses before applying or paying for credit, the Global Freshman Academy reimagines the freshman year and reduces academic and monetary stress while opening a new path to a college degree for many students.
The program differs from other digital immersion undergraduate programs in the following ways:
- Course Credit for Open Online Courses – By completing the full series of eight Global Freshman Academy courses, students earn full college credit for freshman year; students will also be able to opt for taking individual courses for credit if they prefer
- Cost Effective – Freshman year credit earned through GFA is a fraction of the cost students typically pay
- Learning Before Payment – Students may decide to take a course for credit at the beginning or after coursework has been completed – reducing financial risk while opening a pathway for exploration and preparation for qualified students who may not otherwise seek a degree.
- Unlimited Reach – Because of the open course format, learning takes place while scaling completely – there are no limits to how many learners can take the courses online
- Innovative Admissions Option – GFA’s approach is different from the traditional admissions process of other credit-bearing courses, eliminating such barriers to entry as standardized tests and transcripts that are part of the traditional application process.
- Track Record of Success – This partnership brings together a globally recognized online educational platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a university whose innovative online degree programs boast an 89 percent retention rate.
Warren is the CTO of Smart Technologies, a $500 million provider of virtual classroom solutions. He offers a window into trends in the space and ideas for new entrepreneurs to focus on.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing yourself as well as SMART Technologies. What do you do?
Warren Barkley: I’m the CTO for SMART Technologies. I joined about two years ago from Microsoft. I was at Microsoft for about 16 years. I did a whole bunch of interesting things there. I worked on WiFi, networking, and a lot of other cool projects over the years. Before that, I was a teacher and a principal. If I reach far enough back, I was a musician at one point. I didn’t get a Computer Science degree but I somehow figured my way out into technology.
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Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to you as well as to your company.
Sari Factor: After a short career in teaching back in 1980, I joined a company to explore technology in education. It was the first electronic publishing division of a major US publisher. I thought technology was going to change the world. I was this young green thing right out of teaching. Here I am many years later and I’m still trying to get technology to change K-12 education.
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Sramana Mitra: Kurt, let’s start with introducing our audience to yourself as well as to what you’re doing at City University of Seattle.
Kurt Kirstein: I am currently the Dean in the School of Management at the City University of Seattle. The School of Management is in control of all of our business programs, all of the business related programs, and we also incorporate the technology programs with the Technology Institute at the University. I have been at City University of Seattle for about eight years of which I have been the Dean for seven years.
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Sean Brown: I’m the Senior Vice President of Sonic Foundry. I’ve worked for Apple, IBM, and Oracle over the last 20 years. I came to Sonic Foundry about 13 years ago to help roll out our flagship product called Mediasite, which is a system which when introduced, started a new trend in converting your average classroom into an online video studio. >>>