The American Council on Education (ACE) offered a significant boost to the reputation of a handful of free online courses today, recommending that 5 massive open online courses (MOOCs) be made eligible for college credit. Of course, whether -- and when -- schools will take up that recommendation remains to be seen, but even the principle is good news for people looking for ways to make college cheaper for students -- and thus available to more of them.
As you may recall, Minnesota took a bold stance against free online education last week. The gist of the situation was that the state wanted to somehow curtail free online education outlets because they hadn't been given permission to operate within Minnesota's borders. This reasoning traced back to a decades-old law that was meant to apply to degree-granting institutions. After a day worth of Internet backlash, Minnesota's Office of Higher Education performed a quick 180 and now supports the use of websites like Coursera.
One might think that free online education is one of the very few things that's looking positive in the entire education scene. The quality varies wildly, but even the basics being entirely free to peruse is a relatively new, and helpful, concept. Allowing folks the ability to educate themselves is a basic tenet of progress. That's not how Minnesota sees it, however. The state is enforcing a law mainly meant to apply degree-granting institutions to try and curtail free online courses, because they never got permission to operate in Minnesota. Seriously.