Higher education is due for some creative destruction. Professors will resist, but online education will transform postsecondary ed, leaving only the most elite colleges and universities relatively untouched.
Can “novice learners” succeed in all-online courses? San Jose State is working with Udacity on three basic math courses — all online — with round-the-clock online tutors to answer questions.
“Flipping” and “blending” a San Jose State engineering class raised pass rates dramatically. The university partnered with edX on the pilot.
Eighty randomly selected students in an entry-level engineering course watched online lectures from MIT (the flip), while solving problems in class, with the professor’s help (the blend). Ninety-one percent of the flipped students passed the class. Only 55 and 59 percent of non-flipped students passed.
All-online classes tend to have low pass rates. Community college students say they feel “on their own” in all-online courses.
The Minerva Project, which promises an elite, rigorous, all-online college education, is drawing attention. Ben Nelson, who founded the Snapfish photo web site, sees Minerva as an alternative to the Ivy League. Larry Summers, a former president of Harvard, will chair the advisory board, which will include Bob Kerrey, a former senator and head of the New School in New York, and Pat Harker, president of the University of Delaware and a former dean of the Wharton School.
“I don’t want or need to disrupt Harvard. I care about the kid who should have got into Harvard but didn’t,” says Nelson. Minerva is aiming at the “children of a Wipro middle manager from India, or a Foxconn line operator from China,” says Nelson.
The curriculum will focus on skills rather than traditional academic studies and be based on four pillars: critical thinking, use of data, understanding complex systems and leading through effective communication. The course content will be outsourced, drawing from what is readily available online and through a “Minerva Prize” competition to get leading educators to design classes. It will be delivered via the internet to classes of 25 students and a professor will then engage them in debate. Students will be located in several cities around the world, and be expected to move to a different location each year.
Nelson says it will be harder to get into Minerva than the Ivy League, but that assumes lots of people will be willing to pay $20,000 a year to watch videos, chat online and hang out with fellow Minervans. (If that $20,000 doesn’t cover room and board, Minerva will be no bargain.) The venture is for profit.
It sounds a bit squishy, writes Dan Willingham, but courses will be demanding, and “students who do not perform well will (gasp) fail the course.”
California college students could bypass wait lists and earn credits online under a bill introduced by a Democratic legislative leader. State colleges and universities would be required to accept credits from faculty-approved online courses for about 50 high-demand, lower-level classes with long wait lists.
Nearly two-thirds of community college students place into remedial math. Half of students in Statway — Carnegie’s intensive, yearlong developmental math pilot –passed a college statistics course in the second semester. By contrast, only 5.9 percent of non-Statway remedial students at the same community colleges earned college math credit in their first year; that rose to 15.1 percent in two years.
Don’t sneer at the low-cost online degree, writes a correspondence-school graduate who went on to earn a PhD, work as a professor and run a think tank. For many people, the choice is cost-effective higher education or none at all.
The hot way to earn low-cost college credits: Take a free online course and pass a “challenge exam.”
For $150 per online course, California students will be able to earn college credit in remedial algebra, college algebra and introductory statistics. The San Jose State-Udacity pilot will be limited to 300 university, community college and high school students. Udacity will provide support services, such as online mentors.
Once called “democracy’s college,” community colleges are becoming job training centers to supply workers for local employers, writes an English professor. Within the next 20 years, 80 percent of classes will be taught online, predicts Keith Kroll. Ninety percent of instructors will be part-timers who may never meet their students or each other.