I have a post over at RedefinED making the case that as horizontal drilling was to hydraulic fracturing, and Rick Astley was to Nirvana, so too is distance learning to project-based micro-schooling. A full commitment to innovation is what I’m thinking of, you know wouldn’t get this from any other wonk.
It remains to be seen whether a Georgia Tech online students learn as much as their in person peers or how the market views these sort of degrees. On the learning side, it is not terribly hard to teach students more than what they would have learned in their other program (i.e. nothing)and the amount of knowledge gained per tuition dollar will run laps around the in-person program. The in-person program btw only can accomodate 300 students at a time, while the online program has 4,000.
Much more research to be done. Just as the vast legions of the University of Texas at Austin film school eventually lapped the accomplishments of back east finishing schools for global technocrat film schools (albeit some get to claim scoreboard due to a black swan) just maybe…
It’s about numbers boys and girls and they have more!
The bottom line is that Florida students taking Algebra and English I online tended to do at least as well as those who took those courses in traditional classrooms, controlling for prior achievement and demographic characteristics. To strengthen the causal identification the authors focus on comparing students who took at least one online course so they would be more alike in the unobserved characteristics that might motivate a student to take courses online.
Faring equally well is a positive outcome for online education because delivering education virtually has the extra benefits of expanding access to students at schools that do not offer those classes. Delivering courses online is also considerably cheaper.
Of course, this is one study and we are in the early days of developing virtual education, so these findings may not apply to future circumstances. But they are certainly encouraging enough to continue expanding virtual education and collecting information on the results.
Read all about it here. After reading the article, let me know if you find it as amusing as I do that the same people that complain about a 13% MOOC completion rate are the same crowd that would like to deny granting credit to the 13% who made it through the course and demonstrated their mastery of the material in a third-party administered end of course exam. Let’s see what happens with completion rates once we give people an incentive to complete courses eh? Those who have demonstrated mastery deserve credit regardless of the percentage of people who choose to watch some coursework rather than Baywatch.
The case for denying credit died with the third party administration of exams. The day is soon coming if it has not already arrived where students in other states and other countries can receive college credit for courses provided online by Texas universities, but Texas students students taking these same courses cannot receive credit in Texas universities for course developed using Texas tax dollars. Good luck trying to justify that higher-ed reactionary guy.
Don’t worry admin bloated and underperforming higher ed establishment- I’ll save you!
Attorney General (and soon to be Governor if the polls are to be believed) Abbott is wise to put this on his to-do list, and while he is at it, someone should certify successfully completed MOOCs for high-school credit, as it does not make the least bit of sense for a 16 year old who successfully navigates a Stanford calculus class for college credit to have to sit through a similar high-school course.
Mike McShane hosted an event last week at the American Enterprise Institute, and I had the opportunity to serve on a panel with Mike, Andy Smarick and Kara Kerwin. During the discussion, Andy confessed that what he found the “disaggregation” of K-12 unsettling. This came up in the context of a discussion of Arizona’s ESA program and students like Jordan Visser:
“How do you assign a teacher of record?” I recall Andy asking. For Jordan, such a question is already antiquated. Should his tutor be classified as the teacher of record? Or the physical therapists? Mr. or Mrs. Visser? What if Jordan is taking a MOOC from Stanford is a few years? Should the state of Arizona attempt to hold Stanford “accountable” for what Jordan learns?
Personally I choose “none of the above.”
The trend towards disaggregation in K-12 predates Arizona’s still tiny ESA program. The ESA program can in fact simply be viewed as the best vehicle for managing a customization trend as a quasi-market mechanism that gets us as close as possible to realizing the benefits of markets while preserving the public funding of K-12. The disaggregation trend however has been moving out into the bloodstream for decades. Consider the following program data from Florida:
This is a snapshot of traditional “school choice as you knew it at the end of the 20th Century.” Most but not all of these choices are mutually exclusive such that they are something any one student does to the exclusion of others. You don’t expect to find many students for instance enrolled in a private school full-time and doing full-time virtual instruction, for instance. Most of these options are either/or propositions you are either sitting in this type of seat, or that type of seat. Major avenues of part-time education, such as dual college enrollment and virtual education, are not included, so we are just getting warmed up.
Let’s take virtual education on next:
The Florida Virtual School is not the only supplier of accredited virtual courses in Florida, so the 148,000 or so courses they provided in 2011-12 underestimates the strength of the trend. Nevertheless FLVS long ago begged the question: if a child takes an online Mandarin course from an approved online provider, just what, if anything, does this have to do with the results on the host schools’ accountability scores?
“I’ll take ‘Absolutely Nothing at All’ for a Thousand, Trebek!
Needless to say, FLVS found it necessary to develop alternative methods for measuring student achievement related directly to course content. High-school students have been taking classes at community colleges for decades with what appears to be an entirely understandable disinterest in sorting through just how much responsibility, if any, the Community College holds for what happens on the high-school students minimal skills accountability exam.
So what happens when we mix dual enrollment with virtual education?
Since we live in an age of wonders, we have over a thousand Massive Open Online Courses provided by some of the finest universities in the world available for free. Oh and the number of courses keeps growing. Did I mention that it has already been worked out for MOOC students to take third-party proctored final exams and receive college credit for them? Yes, right, that too. Has anyone thought through the fact that the $89 cost for a third-party end of course exam may prove incredibly attractive for both families but also to schools who don’t enjoy having a portion of their budget sent off to an online provider?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves Trebek! I’ll take ‘Months that begin with Oct’ for five hundred…
So, let us imagine a 15-year-old taking a Calculus class from, say, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He or she successfully completes a third-party end of course exam, he or she either is or in the near future will be eligible for college credit from a large number of universities around the world. Obviously provision for this student to receive high-school calculus credit will need to be made as well if we are to maintain any semblance of sanity. Should authorities in Arizona disallow this because MIT’s Calculus course doesn’t precisely fit the state of Arizona’s state standards?
I’ll take “Seriously, you have got to be kidding me!” for a thousand Alex.
In short, the disaggregation genie is out of the bottle, and the trend looks set to accelerate in the coming years. As our system of education evolves it will be necessary to update our thinking regarding transparency and accountability: they are already out of date and will be increasingly so moving forward. It would be absurd to require Jordan Visser to take the AIMS test. The AIMS has nearly played itself out for the 19th Century factory model school system in Jordan’s home state and has nothing to do with Jordan. Regarding the ESA program, the public’s interest in transparency would be better served by collecting national norm reference exam data and having them analyzed by a qualified academic researcher. Regarding the broader education system, Texas has already moved to replace minimal skills tests with subject specific end of course exams at the high school level. If a student takes a Physics class, shouldn’t we be curious as to whether or not they learned any “Physics”?
Creative destruction usually kills outdated ideas before outdated organizations. Our notions about how to provide transparency in a changing K-12 world have been running behind schedule.
What happens when a small, struggling university puts Clay Christensen on their board? Slate provides the answer: you go from almost folding to an online learning juggernaut. We should keep an eye on the Open America project in particular. I imagine that this and similar projects might be especially attractive to home-school students, especially given the likelihood that Associates Degree > High School Diploma in the eyes of both the job market and college admissions officials.
Will the success of SNHU and similar ventures prompt one or more of the complacent players with a serious academic brand to move into this space? The Slate article links to a report that says that a third of American universities have declining financial situations, so stay tuned…