THE BLOG
03/15/2013 12:25 pm ET Updated May 15, 2013

Degree of Freedom Freshman Year Lineup

This week, I introduced people to the nuts and bolts behind Degree of Freedom - my one-year effort to learn everything I would from being enrolled in a liberal arts BA program in just twelve months using only free educational resources - with an emphasis on the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that have been all the rage these last few months.

Since the goal is to make this experience (which will ultimately involve taking 32 courses over the course of 2013) parallel the course load of a traditional liberal arts program, I began by specifying distribution requirements for my Freshman and Sophomore "years" (which will run from January through March and April through June respectively).

These distribution goals follow the 4:4:2 model used when I originally attended college, a formula which says that of the 16 courses taken during the first half of college, ten must be spread across the following three categories (four in two of the categories, two in the other):

• Science and Mathematics
• Social Sciences
• Humanities

And since I'm ultimately planning to major in philosophy, I need to keep in mind major requirements in my chosen discipline, which means that by the end of 2013 I will need to have taken ten courses within this field (including at least two intermediate and two advanced level classes).

With those constraints in mind, here's the Freshman year lineup:

Course: Think Again - How to Reason and Argue
Institution: University of North Carolina and Duke University
Provider: Coursera
Category: Social Sciences
Credits: 1

Course: The Modern and the Post Modern
Institution: Wesleyan University
Provider: Coursera
Category: Social Sciences
Credits: 1

Course: Property and Liability
Institution: Wesleyan University
Provider: Coursera
Category: Social Sciences
Credits: 1

Course: Statistics
Institution: San Jose State University
Provider: Udacity
Category: Science and Mathematics
Credits: 1

Course: World War II History
Institution: Harvard University
Provider: EdX
Category: Social Sciences
Credits: 1

Course: Life in the Universe
Institution: Ohio State University
Provider: iTunes
Category: Science and Mathematics
Credits: 1

Course: The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida
Institution: College of the Holy Cross
Provider: Great Courses
Category: Social Sciences
Credits: 1

Course: How to Build a Startup
Institution: Business Class
Provider: Udacity
Category: Special
Credits: .5

Course: The World of George Orwell
Institution: Indiana State University
Provider: Modern Scholar
Category: Humanities
Credits: .5

Now this lineup raises some questions regarding how credits are being assigned and why I might be treating course like those from Coursera, EdX and Udacity (the big three MOOC providers) with lecture-only courses from places like iTunes, Great Courses and Modern Scholar.

The rationale I'm using is described in detail here, but the ultimate measure is whether or not one of these courses (regardless of the source or format) provide the same amount of learning you would expect to get from a full-semester course delivered in a traditional brick-and-mortar undergraduate program.

Currently, the biggest obstacle I see ahead (beyond the possibility that I might crack up before the end of the year) is a lack of higher-level courses offered by free education providers. But the MOOC world moves fast, which is why I'm gambling that someone will come through by the time I need to make my Senior year course selection this Fall.

Next time: What makes a course a course?

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