Launched in 2008, for-profit online college course provider StraighterLine, Inc. is starting to capture media attention with its offer of general education courses for as low as $138 per month -- or $999 for a first-year course load.
According to the Baltimore Sun, StraighterLine differentiates itself from other internet-only institutions because it does not offer degrees -- rather, it sells courses that most universities require, and encourage students to transfer credits earned via its website to more traditional institutions.
Because it does not confer degrees, StraighterLine cannot become accredited, but its courses have been reviewed by the American Council on Education. Still, for some colleges, an ACE recommendation simply isn't enough -- in the words of University of Baltimore Provost Joseph S. Wood, "It's just easier to do transfers with other accrediting institutions. The accreditation is what gives me the assurance of the integrity of the academic program."
Students who choose to take a class through StraighterLine commit to self-directed, self-paced study, with the help of online tutors and course advisors. Those who enroll in StraighterLine courses can transfer credits to the 22 partnered institutions, or can petition a different university to accept StraighterLine class credits.
In a February interview with the Washington Post, StraighterLine Founder Burck Smith explained that the types of courses are a "commodity" at traditional colleges.
According to the Sun, the Smith affirms that StraighterLine can act as an academic scaffold for students who would like to pursue traditional degrees. "The academic validity of our courses is a kind of a moot point at this point. There's nothing that we're doing different from an academic perspective than what colleges are doing themselves," he said.
Would you take a course offered by StraighterLine, or a similar company? Have you?