How the Freshman Year for Free Program Produced 34 Major Online Courses in a Year




During times of unease about the affordability and accessibility of American higher education, philanthropic programs have stepped in to qualm some aspects of the plethora of student debt anxieties. Most notably, as reported in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, Steve Klinsky founded Modern States Education Alliance and introduced the “Freshman Year for Free” initiative.

The United States is dealing with a major student loan debt issue—over 44 million Americans have accumulated 1.48 trillion in student loan debt. With little action from the federal government, both states and the private sector have attempted to tackle this issue. With the aspiration of offering high-quality education to anyone—and anywhere— The Freshman Year for Free initiative has garnered praise from many big names.

Partnering with the College Board, Modern States funded the development of 30+ courses taught by professors at top institutions, along with an advanced educational platform, based on Open edX software. These courses prepare students to take the Advanced Placement (AP) or College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests, which allows the students who pass to gain college credit—therefore, to obtain a degree from an institution, that potential student would have to take less courses which translates to paying a lower total tuition. Although Modern States only launched last year, there are roughly 50,000 students already on their way to earning college credit.

IBL Studios was hired to produce the courses from scratch in their New York-based studios, with a requirement to produce one major MOOC per month. During the pre-production phase, top-tier educational consultants worked in partnership with professors to produce curricula that would ensure learners mastery of the many CLEP and AP topics, documented by The City Journal in their Winter 2018 edition.

IBL Studios functions on the premise that high-quality educational videos need not be time consuming nor expensive. Using the live-production technique, IBL Studios produces real-time educational videos that do not necessitate any post-production stress. Not only does this technique engage learners to a higher degree, since the professors can speak naturally and directly to their students, but it also saves months’ worth of post-production time needed in traditional forms of filming. As a testament to their time-saving techniques, IBL Studios has produced over 40 high-quality courses in the last year alone.

While real-time production is ideal in itself, IBL offers other reasons. Not only is there a three-sided white cyclorama where professors can lecture next to their pre-designed course slides, but there are many other options: a light board, best for writing or drawing complex examples, an audio recording room, green screen, and a 4k control room.



* ZOE MACKAY is the Lead Learning Strategist at IBL