The York Daily Record reported today that online courses offered by companies like Coursera could significantly decrease the debt crisis, but at a cost. Taking a “Massive Open Online Course” offers students across the world the opportunity to continue the education process, free of charge. Expanding horizons and taking courses of interest is always a good thing, but the article points out the prevailing need for an official degree. Taking classes online through Coursera or Stanford does not eventually earn a student a degree, which is still usually the ticket to a career.
There is also the issue of effective education. How can a meaningful dialogue exist between 54,000 students enrolled in a single class? How can a professor ensure students aren’t cheating on exams–and to what extent does it matter? If these grades don’t calculate into a GPA, and these schools don’t offer certification or degrees as a result of these courses, is cheating an issue? These sorts of questions need to be answered before online education can be considered a solution to student debt. “Official” higher education and the online enrichment offered by Coursera currently serve two distinct purposes, so the latter is hardly an answer to the student loan dilemma.