If you’ve ever seen a Masterclass ad and wish you could do it for your degree, then it’s a great day to be you. Company co-founder Aaron Rasmussen launches Outlier, a masterclass-style site that covers academic topics you’d cover in real degrees. So instead of Deadmau5 giving you classes on EDM, you get lessons on calculus from Professor Hannah Fry (UCL), Professor Tim Chartier, and John Urschel, the former Baltimore Ravens guard turned educator at the MIT and doctoral student.
The big difference between Masterclass and Outlier is the offer of college credits for those who complete each course. The credits will be offered by the University of Pittsburgh and, according to company representatives, will be treated as legitimate credits by both Pitt and other colleges. So if another institution normally accepts Pitt credits, you can use your outliers in the same way.
Outlier is in a “pilot” phase and only offers two courses: Calculus 1 and Introduction to Psychology, both shot in the brilliant Masterclass style. The psychology course will be taught by a number of academics, including Paul Bloom of Yale, Marjorie Rhodes of NYU, and David Pizarro of Cornell. It is hoped that eventually the service will offer credit courses for the first two years of almost all degrees.
Each module will cost $ 400, and for that, potential participants will get the video portion of the course as well as assessments and one-on-one tutoring (via the chat app). Given the scarcity of most undergraduates to see and talk to their professors, this might actually provide more contact time, rather than less. And there will be assessments: multiple choice tests for introduction to psychology and algorithmic tests for calculus.
As the price of higher education continues to rise, it is harder for poorer students to have the opportunity to improve. Online education is seen as a silver bullet, allowing people to get a better education for much less money, although it is difficult to turn these courses into real degrees. The fact that Outlier managed to get a real top 100 college to provide credits might erode the last hurdle in making distance learning as good as the real thing.
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