Virtual quality

We need better ways to ensure quality virtual learning, writes Bill Tucker on The Quick and the Ed.

Accreditation has proven to be too weak, he writes. His solution is to give public funding only to education providers that show results.

Let new providers into the system — at the course level — but pay them on a performance basis, instead of attendance (this is how publicly-run Florida Virtual School, the country’s largest program, is funded). You only get public funds when a student succeeds and passes the course. As an incentive to serve all students, funding is weighted for disadvantaged and special needs students. And, since providers are putting their funds at risk and no longer getting a guaranteed amount of funding based on enrollment, the amount offered is slightly larger.

To stop providers from passing students who haven’t learned anything, Tucker suggests end-of-course tests offered frequently and using online formats. “Where possible, especially in math, use data systems to track how students do in the next course sequence.”

If there’s no exam or course sequence, require providers to “digitally capture and store student work, discussions, products, and actual test performances. Providers would be subject to periodic audits, with severe penalties imposed if there was a mismatch between student work/performance and course passage.”

Finally, here’s my favorite idea, and it hits on one of the most pressing barriers to college completion: remediation. If higher education wants to play, start in the bridge and transition courses, particularly in math, that are the gateways out of remediation. If a student passes your courses, then that means something — the school or ideally, system, must certify him/her eligible for credit-bearing work. Moreover, the higher education institution must keep data and demonstrate that those students perform on par in the next credit-bearing course sequence.

Community College Dean calls for an end to granting credits based on seat time. He also writes about the mutability of pass rates.