When undergraduate students at Southern Methodist University peruse their course catalogs this fall, several listings may strike them as odd.
First, the courses will be taught entirely online—an option that Southern Methodist has never before offered to undergraduates.
Second, the courses will be taught by professors at other universities—including Emory University, the University of Notre Dame, and Washington University in St. Louis, among others.
Southern Methodist, along with Baylor University and Temple University, plans to announce on Tuesday that it will allow undergraduate students to take online courses from other colleges for credit.
The courses, offered through the online-education company 2U, will come from a consortium of colleges participating in 2U’s Semester Online program, which is focused on undergraduate education at selective institutions.
Southern Methodist, Baylor, and Temple will be “affiliates” of the program, meaning they will not produce courses but will list certain courses developed by other members of the consortium and will grant “elective credit”—that is, general-education credit—to students who pass.
Participating in the 2U consortium as an affiliate will allow Southern Methodist to see how well online courses work for its students without committing resources to building its own, said Stephanie Dupaul, associate vice president for enrollment management at the university.
“It’s a chance for us to study this and see how it operates,” said Ms. Dupaul.
Paul W. Ludden, the provost, has appointed a faculty committee to study the experiences of students and faculty members with Semester Online courses, she said, adding that the courses have already passed through a faculty review.
To prevent cannibalizing enrollment from its own courses, Southern Methodist will allow each student to take only one Semester Online course this fall. If the university decides to stick with the pilot, students will be allowed to take a maximum of four courses through 2U during their time at Southern Methodist.
As massive open online courses have dominated conversation about online education over the past two years, 2U has increasingly pitched itself as the anti-MOOC online provider. Professors teach the courses live, via Webcam, to virtual classrooms of no more than 20 students. Tuition is $4,200 per student per course.
And the courses are purposefully exclusive. Southern Methodist, Baylor, and Temple were permitted to join the consortium as affiliates by invitation of the seven “teaching” institutions in the consortium, said Chance Patterson, senior vice president for communications at 2U. The consortium is set up so that the teaching institutions supply high-quality courses, while the affiliates supply high-quality students.