Stanford ‘brands’ online high school

Stanford University is attaching its name and prestige to an online high school that will graduate 30 students in June, reports the New York Times. What’s been known as the Education Program for Gifted Youth will become Stanford  Online High School

Yes, that Stanford — the elite research university known for producing graduates who win Nobels and found Googles, not for teaching basic algebra to teenagers. Five years after the opening of the experimental program, some education experts consider Stanford’s decision to attach its name to the effort a milestone for online education

While other universities have sponsored virtual schools, Stanford’s cachet make this significant. Graduates will have no edge in admissions to the university, but graduation from a Stanford-sponsored program can’t hurt. The Times interviews a student with near-perfect SAT scores.

The program isn’t a roll-your-own affair.

In a typical class session, about 14 students simultaneously watch a live-streamed lecture, with video clips, diagrams and other animations to enliven the lesson. Instead of raising hands, students click into a queue when they have questions or comments; teachers call on them by choosing their audio stream, to be heard by all. An instant-messaging window allows for constant discussion among the students who, in conventional settings, might be chastised for talking in class.

. . . Students taking a full five-course load must be present for 10 seminars per week, each of them 60 to 90 minutes, with an additional 15 to 20 lectures of about 15 minutes that are recorded by the teachers and viewable at the students’ convenience. Fridays are reserved for activities like a student newspaper and an engineering team. Papers are submitted electronically, and students are required to find a Stanford-approved proctor to oversee exams.

Stanford should go beyond a “small, selective program for gifted students,” writes Bill Tucker of Education Sector. Stanford should expand to reach more students and study how it works, he writes on Education  Next.

Perhaps Stanford’s move will push other institutions to consider the real game-changer – offering elite quality education, at an affordable cost, on a more massive scale. When will the University of Michigan, UVA, UNC, Berkeley, or any of our other great public universities do this for an entire state?

My daughter did Education Program for Gifted Youth algebra in seventh grade to escape from a horrible pre-algebra class taught in “new new math” style. Ray Ravaglia, who still runs the program, told my ex-husband that students didn’t need to be gifted to handle the classes. He put “gifted” in the title so that schools wouldn’t be scared of losing too many students. I thought it worked for Allison because she was highly motivated, self-disciplined and could get math questions answered immediately by her father.  Without a parent’s help, it would have been very frustrating. Of course, this was nearly 20 years ago when the technology was practically at the smoke signals level.  But I think motivation and self-discipline are still important to make online learning work.

Larry Cuban graphs the hype cycle for online schools.