Teacher ed goes online (and mostly for-profit)

Online teacher education is booming,reports USA Today, which has been crunching U.S. Education Department data.

Virtually unknown a decade ago, big online teacher education programs now dwarf their traditional competitors, outstripping even the largest state university teachers’ colleges.

. . .  four big universities, operating mostly online, have quickly become the largest education schools in the USA. Last year the four — three of which are for-profit — awarded one in 16 bachelor’s degrees and post-graduate awards and nearly one in 11 advanced education awards, including master’s degrees and doctorates.

A decade ago, in 2001, the for-profit University of Phoenix awarded 72 education degrees to teachers, administrators and other school personnel through its online program, according to federal data. Last year, it awarded nearly 6,000 degrees, more than any other university.

Most new teachers earn bachelor’s degrees in education at traditional colleges, such as Arizona State, the nation’s leader. “But online schools such as Phoenix and Walden University awarded thousands more master’s degrees than even the top traditional schools, all of which are pushing to offer online coursework.”

Of course, if districts stopped paying teachers more for master’s degrees, the master’s market would collapse.

For-profit colleges, hit hard by the Harkin report for high tuition and low graduation rates, do no worse than public colleges and universities that admit all applicants, a defender argues.

Quiet desperation

Using “white pine from the shores of Walden Pond and lumber salvaged from an old shack” Henry David Thoreau built a 10- by 15-foot cabin by the shores of Walden Pond. But Thoreau didn’t have to deal with the building codes, writes Michael Smith, a history and environmental studies professor at Ithaca College, on Inside Higher Ed.

Ithaca’s first-year students are reading Walden. The environmental studies department decided to build a model of Thoreau’s cabin, letting students, as the writer put it, “not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end.”

Students, faculty, alumni, and community members who learned about the project all expressed a desire, even a craving, to become involved, to be able to build with their own hands. Their answer to Thoreau’s question, “Shall we ever resign the pleasure of construction to the carpenter?” was loud and clear.

And so sketches were made. A crew of students and faculty spent a day and a half pulling hemlock boards and timbers from a collapsed 120-year-old barn. The campus site for the build was selected. We sent the hand-drawn sketches to an architect friend to be rendered as computer-designed drawings.

Then the town bureaucrats demanded that the cabin conform to the building codes, which require a sprinkler system. The project stopped, waiting for a permit that may be issued in the spring. Or never.  I suppose it’s educational.