Matthew Filner, head of the social science department at Metropolitan State University, cautions in MinnPost that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) might very well be far from free — at least under recently passed Minnesota legislation:
The language defining “tuition-free” is telling. According to the bill, tuition-free means that “required fees and other required charges paid by the student for the course do not exceed two percent of the most recent average undergraduate tuition” [according to] the U.S. Department of Education (lines 30.34-31.5). Because the current “average undergraduate tuition” is $22,000, for-profit companies may charge up to $440 per course in the form of fees. While that may not seem very much for a semester-long course, the bill did not define what a “course” is. These MOOCs could include hourly, daily, or weekly short-courses, and a full semester might require numerous “courses.” The law therefore allows these fees to add up to thousands of dollars per course.
He’s also skeptical of the “passive” lecture-style nature of MOOC learning.