Filed Under:

Stanford's Next Lesson: Free Online Courses For Credit And Degrees?

Play associated audio

As Stanford, Harvard and other top American universities digitize more courses for free public consumption, will students one day be able to get an actual degree online from these institutions without having to pay for it?

John Hennessy, president of Stanford University, says his school "can see moving in that direction."

Currently, Stanford offers online courses on subjects such as cryptography and human-computer interaction — all free, but without credit. (Students do get a "certificate of completion" signed by the instructor for successfully completing the coursework.)

One major challenge to offering actual credit, according to Hennessy, will be how to assess the performance of a degree-seeking student in an online course.

"The requirement to assess student performance is significantly higher than it is if you're offering students the opportunity to be exposed to a course and do their own assessment," Hennessy tells All Things Considered's Robert Siegel. "And that's going to demand, at least for the foreseeable future, significantly more effort on behalf of faculty and support staff in order to ensure that students have really mastered the material."

Hennessy says Stanford's online course program is "still very much in the infancy [stage]" and the university's small seminars and more interactive courses are difficult to duplicate digitally. But he says the new program is meeting the needs of some students.

"I think we'll be serving, at least initially, a community for whom coming to Stanford is probably not practical," Hennessy says.

As you can hear in the above audio of the full interview, Stanford's president also speaks about how the school, well-known as an incubator for successful Silicon Valley startups, tries to balance against an overemphasis of career-focused tracks for students, as well as his concerns about declining financial support for public universities.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

On Television, More Transgender Characters Come Into Focus

Now that it's more common to see gay characters on TV, is the medium turning to transgender people for fresh stories? NPR's Neda Ulaby looks at TV's crop of transgender and "gender fluid" characters.
NPR

Obama Gets A Taste Of Jiro's 'Dream' Sushi In Name Of Diplomacy

On the first leg of his Asian tour, the president stopped by the iconic sushi restaurant. David Gelb, who directed a documentary about the restaurant, says eating there is amazing and nerve-wracking.
NPR

Pennsylvania Congresswoman Goes All In For Obamacare

Does Rep. Allyson Schwartz's pro-Affordable Care Act television ad signal a new thinking among Democrats running in statewide races?
NPR

FCC To Propose Change To Net Neutrality Rules, Media Report

The FCC is expected to put out new Internet traffic rules that would let content providers negotiate for better service. NPR's Melissa Block talks with Wall Street Journal reporter Gautham Nagesh.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.