Dazzled by the potential of free online college classes, educators are now turning to the gritty task of harnessing online materials to meet the toughest challenges in American higher education: giving more students access to college, and helping them graduate on time, The New York Times reports. Nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States arrive on campus needing remedial work before they can begin regular credit-bearing classes. That early detour can be costly, leading many to drop out, often in heavy debt and with diminished prospects of finding a job. Meanwhile, shrinking state budgets have taken a heavy toll at public institutions, reducing the number of seats available in classes students must take to graduate. In California alone, higher education cuts have left hundreds of thousands of college students without access to classes they need. To address both problems and keep students on track to graduation, universities are beginning to experiment with adding the new “massive open online courses,” created to deliver elite college instruction to anyone with an Internet connection, to their offerings. While the courses, known as MOOCs, have enrolled millions of students around the world, most who enroll never start a single assignment, and very few complete the courses.
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