NanoDegree promises fast track to workforce

For $200 a month, anyone who’s mastered high school math can earn an online NanoDegree in programming in six to 12 months and qualify for an entry-level job at AT&T.  The company created the new credential with Udacity, which is working on more industry-linked NanoDegrees.

Online, competency degree is aimed at adults

Washington state community colleges plan to offer an online, competency-based associate degree in business designed for working adults. Students should be able to complete a degree in 18 months or less for $2,666 per six-month semester.

With college costs rising, competency-based degree programs are expanding.

Online learning is hard, but helpful

California community college students are taking more courses online, but completion rates are lower in online courses, according to a new report. Online learning appears to help stronger students complete their degrees.

Choose your education story

Course choice lets students learn from providers that might range from universities or community colleges to local employers, labs or hospitals. In Expanding the Education Universe, Fordham’s Michael Brickman looks at the policy questions, including student eligibility, course providers, funding, quality control, and accountability.

Course choice is coming to higher education too as new accrediting groups consider quality reviews of online courses. The proposed HERO Act would extend federal aid to students who choose postsecondary courses from a variety of providers.

Credit recovery goes online

As high schools struggle to raise graduation rates, many have turned to online credit recovery programs, writes Hechinger’s Sarah Carr on Education Next. Are students learning — or just being moved along? It’s not clear, but many are dubious.

“There’s a political motivation,” says David Bloomfield, professor of educational leadership, law, and policy at Brooklyn College. “It’s an end run around higher standards.”

Oceanside Unified in California improved graduation rates after opening three centers that offer online credit recovery. Superintendent Larry Perondi believes “the centers have improved the life prospects of students who would have dropped out otherwise, including young parents and teens battling drug addiction.”

Perondi “encourages the district’s best teachers to work” in the centers and assigns extra counselors and social workers to support students.

Three New Orleans charters enroll only students who’ve fallen behind in coursework.

Their supporters argue that the schools provide a much-needed safety valve for students who don’t work well in conventional settings and prefer to move through courses at their own pace; critics worry about the quality of the online courses and fear they take the onus off of traditional high schools to meet the needs of all students.

At the Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy, the average student is an 18-year-old sophomore. “Some of the students failed the same classes multiple times; others dropped out for a period of months, or years,” writes Carr. “The school supplements the online courses with in-person tutorials and small-group instruction.”

The NET, another charter for high-risk students, combines online courses with traditional in-person classes and “advisories.”

Students and teachers say the online courses have some universal benefits: the teenagers can move at their own pace and get instant feedback on how they are doing.

. . . The biggest drawback, however, is that many of the courses are either too easy or too hard. . . . stronger schools and teachers are increasingly figuring out how to use the online courses as a jumping-off point to address individual students’ needs, supplementing easy courses with more challenging material, for instance, or harder courses with extra in-person tutorials.

But some schools rely exclusively on the online courses.

Online ed’s success gap narrows

Online enrollment is growing at community colleges, even as traditional enrollment declines, reports the Instructional Technology Council. “The retention gap” between online and traditional students  ”has narrowed dramatically” in the past nine years, according to ITC.

Instead of snow days . . .


Students, say goodbye to snow days, reports CNN. If you can’t go to school, it will come to you. With a series of blizzards closing schools, virtual schooling is catching on.

Pascack Valley High School (New Jersey) English teacher Matt Morone was maybe a quarter of the way through his morning coffee when students began to respond to The Autobiography of Malcolm X on Twitter.

. . . For students, it was a lesson in time management and self-driven learning, one he’s sure they’ll take to college. For teachers, it was a chance to try ideas they’ve only pondered before. For everyone else? Proof.

“We are in a fortunate position here … but you don’t need a whole lot of infrastructure to do some of the stuff we’re doing,” Morone said. “There are means by which to do this. A lot of Twitter discussion is through iPads, cell phones — whichever glowing rectangle you want to use, that’s fine.”

Sophomore Zak Terzini contributed concisely to the Malcom X discussion. He had 140 characters to make his point. He listened to the tweeted views of classmates whodon’t speak up in class. Later, “he listened to a teacher explain some algebra concepts, completed some history work and forced himself to figure out some stoichiometry problems that he might’ve given up on if he’d been in the same room as the chemistry teacher.”

Going into Pascack Valley Regional’s virtual school day, teachers feared some students wouldn’t log in, despite warnings that the day’s assignments would count toward their grades. It wasn’t a problem: The virtual school day had higher attendance than they expect on a normal school day, the superintendent said.

“It was energizing, invigorating,” said social studies teacher Karen Kosch, who has taught in Pascack Valley schools for 28 years. “I don’t mean to sound corny, but we were all in it together.”

Knowing that snow was in the forecast, the high school sent home laptops with students who needed them. That works if most students already have digital access at home. And it helps if the power doesn’t go out all day.

Students: ‘Us deserve respect’

At an F-rated New York City high school, failing students earn quick credits through online courses, the New York Post reported.

While it’s called “blended learning,” the credit-recovery “courses” don’t include interaction with a teacher. One teacher is assigned to 475 students trying to earn credits in a wide variety of subjects. Murry Bergtraum High for Business Careers specializes in overage or held-back students who lack credits.

After the Post story ran, students wrote to defend the program. Nearly all the letters were filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, reports the Post.  

A junior wrote: “What do you get of giving false accusations im one of the students that has blended learning I had a course of English and I passed and and it helped a lot you’re a reported your support to get truth information other than starting rumors?.?.?.”

Another wrote: “To deeply criticize a program that has helped many students especially seniors to graduate I should not see no complaints.”

One student said the online system beats the classroom because “you can digest in the information at your own paste.”

“Us as New York City Students deserve respect and encouragement,” one letter read. “We are the future of New York City and for some students, The future of the country.”

I doubt if that future will include business careers.

The path of Khan

Khan Academy founder Sal Khan started by creating online math tutorials for his cousins’ children, he said at the Hoover Institution conference on blended learning. Ten years later, his nonprofit reaches 10 million people a month around the world. Lessons are offered in a multitude of languages, including — with help from a 15-year-old orphan — Mongolian. 

Regulators threaten coding academies

“Coding academies,” which offer intensive, short-term training in programming skills, don’t rely on state or federal financial aid. Job placement rates are sky-high. But California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education is threatening to shut down coding schools unless they apply for licenses.

BPPE regulations require schools to get curriculum changes by the agency, which may take up to six months. “We change our curriculum every three weeks, and we can’t teach technology that’s six months old,” Shereef Bishay, founder of Dev BootCamp, said.

Will online learning deMOOCratize higher education? Poorly prepared students need face-to-face support to succeed.