Colleges Resist Free Online Courses, Undercutting Promise

Tim Goral's picture

U.S. colleges are resisting adding free online courses because academic leaders say the much- publicized approach is unlikely to make money and could confuse the public about their degrees, a study says.

Only 2.6 percent of U.S. institutions offer such courses and an additional 9.4 percent plan to, according to a survey to be released today by Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.Harvard University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among institutions participating in MOOCS, or massive open online courses.

Colleges, teaming up with online educational providers such as Coursera Inc. and EdX, say the free courses have the potential to revolutionize higher education by lowering costs and providing access to top U.S. professors. While institutions explore how to charge fees and grant course credit, Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group, says the report shows there is skepticism among some academics.

“It’s clearly not ready for prime time,” Seaman said in a telephone interview. “People are saying this could make a real difference, but they’re not convinced there’s a sustainable business model.”

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