Not all Starbucks baristas have a bachelor’s degree in film studies. Seventy percent want a degree, but haven’t completed college. Now, those who work at least 20 hours a week will be able to take online courses to complete a bachelor’s degree on the company’s dime. Starbucks has partnered with Arizona State’s online program, which offers 40 majors.
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.
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.
Employers and community college students are skeptical about online education, according to a Public Agenda survey. Students say online courses require self-discipline and often are harder to pass.
Job satisfaction is high for online adjunct instructors at Arizona’s Rio Salado College, despite low pay and no benefits, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Flexible work hours and effective training in online teaching are the key.
Online courses provided the flexibility Richard Bradbury needed to complete the first two years of college while working in Afghanistan as a contractor. Once he was “seven or eight questions” in to a timed test in macroeconomics when a rocket attack began. He grabbed his computer, ran to the bunker and finished the test.
To be a superprofessor (a MOOC prof) is an act of aggression, writes Jonathan Rees, a Colorado State history professor. Massive open online courses aren’t as educational as traditional courses, even if they’re cheaper, he argues.
Being a Luddite is an act of absurdity, responds Matthew Ladner, who believes in creative destruction.
Community colleges aren’t just “second-chance” institutions.
High school students could use MOOCS (massive open online courses) to earn college credits, Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller tells Anya Kamenetz on Hechinger Digital.
“There are so many studies that demonstrate the benefit to students in high school in having access to college-level material. It encourages them to go to college and complete college. But that opportunity has largely been available to the most advanced students at highly endowed school districts that have teachers that can teach college-level subjects. It’s been a very inequitable offering.”
With the help of a MOOC, a high school teacher who is “passionate and motivated, but not necessarily expert” can teach a college course, Knoller says.
Ohio is looking at MOOCs to prepare students for college and prevent the need for remediation.
The San Jose State Plus pilot, a partnership with Udacity, offers three remedial and entry-level math courses to high school, community college or university students. The for-credit courses cost only $150.
At the Oakland Military Institute, a charter school with predominantly low-income students, some students didn’t have the computers or Internet access at home needed for the college statistics course, reports the San Jose Mercury News. And “many needed personal attention to make it through.”
To make it work, the institute had to issue laptops to students, set aside class time for them to focus on the online course, and assign teachers to make sure they stayed on task.
. . . With more than 700 students in grades 6 through 12, the school had to devote much of its computer lab space, equipment and staffing to online courses for the roughly 45 students taking the Udacity courses. A donation paid for the course fees.
Answering questions and keeping students on task consumed much of his time, said Omar Solache, a computer teacher with two other job titles. A second teacher was assigned to help ease his load.
“They’re so used to having teachers right there with them,” Solache said.
Students watched short videos, chatted with online tutors available around the clock and moved at their own pace, reviewing what they didn’t understand. An evaluation of the pilot will be available in the fall.
Here’s a research report on San Jose State’s partnership with edX on an introductory engineering MOOC.
As online learning transforms higher ed, free courses by elite universities will provide content for lesser institutions’ core courses, predicts Jeffrey Selingo in College (Un)Bound. A community college dean disagrees: “Elite” professors on video may not be the best teachers, especially for introductory courses taken by non-elite students.