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ASU, edX partnership: Transforming the landscape of higher education

Crow, Agarwal, Mariani

ASU president Michael M. Crow, center, with Anant Agarwal, the CEO of edX, left, and moderator Tyra Mariani. Crow announced the Global Freshman Academy with Agarwal at a New America conference in Washington, D.C., April 23.
Photo by: Logan Clark

April 23, 2015

With the announcement of the Global Freshman Academy, ASU becomes a charter member of edX, joining universities like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Georgetown and others in a shared commitment to excellence in teaching, learning and access to education.

As part of this partnership, ASU will be providing world-class courses for the online education platform, including at least 12 courses for the Global Freshman Academy, which are courses that can be taken for credit, as well as traditional Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that do not offer credit.

This partnership creates potential to project the talents of ASU faculty to a global audience, and to further ASU’s mission of increasing access to a quality education.

The first of the MOOCs separate from the Global Freshman Academy will be Mass Communication, taught by Dan Gillmor of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, internationally recognized author and leader in new media and citizen-based journalism.

In announcing the partnership April 23, university president Michael M. Crow said the effort was intended to create new opportunities for educational attainment.

"What we’re interested in is every tool and every technique that alters pathway success," Crow said at a New America conference in Washington, D.C. "How can the student transit from any family and any family income into a post-secondary learning experience."

ASU and edX are natural partners, according to Phil Regier, University Dean for Educational Initiatives and CEO of EdPlus at ASU.

“We have fundamentally similar objectives around helping students succeed and providing unprecedented access to college-level courses,” he said. “We are taking content from a public research university and giving it to the world.”

Regier says that by using edX as a platform, ASU will provide students additional options for online learning, providing high-quality content to students around the world regardless of their educational goals.

“Ultimately,” says Regier, “ASU will be enhancing the edX experience by incorporating technology that makes taking a MOOC a more collaborative experience.”

ASU is already a leader in online education, or digital immersion, including more than 90 graduate and undergraduate degree programs. Its undergraduate digital immersion programs are ranked eighth in the nation, and several graduate programs are individually ranked.

ASU brings this expertise to edX, sharing what works for students in primarily digital programs and helping students learn and ultimately succeed.

This success is highlighted in an 89 percent average retention rate in online programs at ASU, according to ASU Online.

The Global Freshman Academy is a unique addition to edX. ASU is the only school to offer an entire freshman year worth of credits in this format. The university grants those credits and a student may request a transcript for application to undergraduate programs. The credits will be available at a lower cost than regular online coursework.

The first course offered in the Global Freshman Academy will be Introduction to Astronomy, taught by Dr. Frank Timmes, an astrophysicist who focuses on nuclear astrophysics, supernovae and cosmic chemical evolution.

While crafting the list of courses to add to edX’s already impressive roster, Regier said the university wanted to focus on some of ASU’s specialties to complement the high percentage of science and technology courses edX already offers. Some of the course topics ASU intends to include are in business, health solutions, sustainability and public policy.

“Our professors are reaching audiences they couldn’t before,” said Regier. “Dan Gillmor can now reach students around the world with a mass communications course that is widely available and free.”

This is just one example of the opportunities ASU will have to expand access to education through the partnership with edX.

“We are planning on launching at least a dozen courses in our first year and to provide 30 courses in the next two years,” said Regier. “This is only the beginning.”