The University of Minnesota has announced that it will create its own free online courses, joining an ever-growing group of universities in a grand experiment that some expect to remake higher education.
University officials said late Wednesday night that the U is partnering with Coursera to produce massive open online courses, or MOOCs, available to anyone in the world for free. It's part of a new wave of 29 universities to sign on with the California-based company, which is already working with 33 others.
You can practically hear Howard Hughes musing: "Way of the future."
The courses' ability to attract huge numbers of students - tens of thousands, in some cases - has ignited the imagination of some officials and pundits, who believe they could help make a quality college education more affordable. (But let's face it: No four-year college education is affordable.) Others argue that the courses' efficacy is still untested and point to their high dropout rates.
Like other universities offering MOOCs, the U will not award students credit for completing them. "But professors will reuse and refine the material for courses that U students pay for and take for credit," said Karen Hanson, the university's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
"The relation between completion of a MOOC and credit at a university like this is an issue which is going to require a lot more faculty attention," she said. "We are proceeding cautiously here." Cautiously? C'mon, that's not the U of M I know.
And that, my friends, puts a cap on my 100th and final article. The impetus for me to continue writing this column is no longer there. What began as a hobby has gradually grown into a chore so it's time for me to step away. I thank you for reading my articles for the last 3 years - we've come a long way, baby! - and, if for some odd reason you can't get enough of my writing I urge you to check out my ebooks on amazon.com. (And keep your eyes open for my latest novel: Killer Bee, coming out soon.)
I know: That's enough self-aggrandizement to last a lifetime.
Thanks again, reader for making this experience soo worth it!