The emergence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) precipitated the development of the OpenBUCS initiative. But what makes the ETSU program unique is a path to actual college credit.
“Higher education is changing rapidly, and (MOOCs) are having a phenomenal impact,” explained Dr. Karen King, ETSU vice provost for eLearning. “These free courses are created so that enrollment is open. Students move at their own pace, interact with each other online, and interact with the content. There are a lot of different models out there – some run for a full semester, while others are shorter.
“When we began looking at this, and at all that is happening in online education, I started asking how this could apply to ETSU,” she continued. “How can we take what they’ve done and make our own unique model that can help ETSU students and students throughout our region?”
After months of planning and brainstorming involving the Committee for 125 – the group formed and tasked by ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland with exploring and developing ideas to help guide the university into its second century – as well as the ETSU Office of eLearning and various academic and administrative groups, OpenBUCS was formed.
OpenBUCS offers s an opportunity for anyone to take free online courses, but also provides an optional path to earning college credit at a substantial discount from full college course tuition.
This has a number of advantages for students, according to King.
“OpenBUCS will help students by increasing access to education, reducing cost, and potentially reducing the time it takes to graduate,” she said. “With this model’s path to credit, it really has the potential to reduce the total cost of an education.
“I think this will help a lot of people who might not have been to school in a while, or perhaps students in high school who aren’t really sure if they’re prepared for college, to ‘test the water’ before they come. They can take a course for free and see how they do. It could be a good barometer for them.”
Participating students taking a free OpenBUCS course will earn a certificate of completion. If they decide they want to go further and earn three hours of academic credit for the course, they may elect to pay a “pre-credit assessment fee” of $150 so that they may take tests on the coursework. Upon successful completion of the tests, they may pay an additional $150 fee to obtain the actual academic credit via an evaluation of learning outcomes. In the current, 2012-13 academic year, the cost of three credit hours is $912, so the cost of obtaining credit through an OpenBUCS course would be roughly one-third that of a regular course.
Two pilot courses will be offered through OpenBUCS this fall: “U.S. History Since 1877” (History 2020) and “Introduction to Music” (Music 1030). Both courses are general education courses and will satisfy Tennessee General Education Core Requirements if the student elects to receive credit. Credit hours received are also transferable to colleges and universities nationwide.
For more information, visit www.etsu.edu/