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Global Freshman Academy will expand reach of ASU online

ASU students study inside the Computing Commons, which is located in the heart of the Tempe campus, on Jan. 21. ASU has been recognized for its innovation in online classes.

ASU students study inside the Computing Commons, which is located in the heart of the Tempe campus, on Jan. 21. ASU has been recognized for its innovation in online classes.

The Global Freshman Academy, an integration of online education offered by ASU and edX, will take its first batch of students this fall and add ASU to the small list of low-cost and low-risk education programs.

The program, which will be completely separate from ASU’s existing online education, touts its lack of entry requirements and low costs — only $200 a course. The structure makes GFA the most accessible arm of ASU, reaching out to international students, students returning to college and students without the financial means to attend ASU on-ground or online.

Nancy Moss, communications director for edX, said GFA will increase access to education, much like the way MOOCs, or online free of charge courses offered to a large number of people, do.

“By opening up the college learning experience to a broader global audience of learners, and enabling low risk exploration of college courses, we are helping to increase the number of potential college and university students and increase access to education,” she said.

The courses are offered on the edX platform but are created and taught by ASU professors. Moss said these courses will not replace universities but rather “enhance the quality of education by incorporating blended learning and offering nontraditional pathways into higher education.”

However, students like speech and hearing science freshman Jenny Philp wanted to come to ASU and experience everything that a campus has to offer in person.

"I don't know that I personally would have taken (the opportunity) just because I really wanted the college experience," she said. "Being able to get the personalized one on one and interpersonal skills that you get from being on campus." 

The key difference between Global Freshman Academy and other education services such as Khan Academy, an online nonprofit service that allows users to work on different subjects to improve their skills, is the option to earn credit that can be applied to ASU or any other university.

“Until relatively recently, high-quality education has been available to only a few. By democratizing and reimagining, we aim to create a culture of continuous, lifelong learning for students around the world,” said Moss.

The difference between Global Freshman Academy and a community college is less obvious for students in the U.S., but, said Moss, “More students around the world who ordinarily would not have the option to enroll in a traditional community college or state university will be able to find a pathway to education and credit.”

An added benefit to students already at ASU would be the ability to take classes similar to GFA, but to fill in missing spots. At least, that's how non-profit leadership and management freshman Molly Findlay would like to use the courses. 

"I would take advantage of it to complement this experience," she said. "I am just a few credits short of graduating in three years instead of four years so it would have been really cool to take some of the not so important classes online or over the summer, so that way, you are spending $200 a class and saving on a years worth of tuition." 

ASU is attempting to expand its reach and grab up students from all over the world, through all kinds of partnerships. In the fall ASU partnered with Starbucks to offer baristas the opportunity to earn an ASU online education. Now, they can reach anyone, anywhere with GFA.

Carrie Lingenfelter, communications specialist for ASU Online, said the online program at ASU has 13,000 students with a semester-over-semester retention rate of 90 percent. 

She also said online students receive the same world-class education that ASU students who take classes in person receive.  

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