Why online classes won’t replace the classroom

When Stanford president John Hennessey told the New Yorker in April 2012, “There’s a tsunami coming,” he wasn’t forecasting the next undersea earthquake, The Fiscal Times reports. Rather, he predicted a seismic collision between academia’s cost and availability. After David Brooks borrowed the metaphor for a New York Times op-ed, “tsunami” became synonymous with the rise of the MOOC (massive open online courses). These massive open online courses gained celebrity as hundreds of thousands of students joined and credibility as dozens of big name schools agreed to offer online adaptations of their classes free, though without credit. So last fall, when Colorado State University’s Global Campus became the first American university to announce plans to grant credit for MOOCs, the earthquake threatened to rumble and the tsunami looked set to roll. Students could take an introductory computer programming course hosted by the MOOC platform Udacity and pay for a proctored exam at one of Pearson VUE’s testing centers.

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Online classes can be enlightening, edifying, and engaging — but they’re not college

The future of higher education online is, at present, clear as mud, The Verge reports. Do Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs — college-level classes offered online through a number of corporate providers — offer students better tools for study, increased opportunities at lower cost? Can they provide access to higher education to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it? Or do these canned classes portend the selling out of American education to Silicon Valley profiteers? I took the best MOOC I could find over the last several weeks in order to try to answer these questions, as well as the one perhaps too seldom asked: Are even the best of these classes any good, or not? Are the best ones now, or could they one day be, as rewarding, informative and useful as a real class? … It’s not even remotely like a real class. In no way did the rudimentary quizzes and forum discussions substitute for having to write papers, participate in class discussions or sections, swap information and notes with fellow students, talk with profs and / or TAs — all of the things that amount to supplying concrete proof, to teachers and to yourself, that you’ve learned something specific from your studies. Furthermore, humanities classes wherein we’re made to write essays have the more advanced goal (again, for those who can and wish to flex a bit more muscle) of getting students to generate their own new ideas from what they’ve learned — say by relating the lessons of history or literature to other books or ideas or periods of history, or to their own lives, societies, or circumstances.

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Students rush to web classes, but profits may be much later

In August, four months after Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng started the online education company Coursera, its free college courses had drawn in a million users, a faster launching than either Facebook or Twitter, the New York Times reports. The co-founders, computer science professors at Stanford University, watched with amazement as enrollment passed two million last month, with 70,000 new students a week signing up for over 200 courses, including Human-Computer Interaction, Songwriting and Gamification, taught by faculty members at the company’s partners, 33 elite universities. In less than a year, Coursera has attracted $22 million in venture capital and has created so much buzz that some universities sound a bit defensive about not leaping onto the bandwagon. Other approaches to online courses are emerging as well. Universities nationwide are increasing their online offerings, hoping to attract students around the world. New ventures like Udemy help individual professors put their courses online. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have each provided $30 million to create edX. Another Stanford spinoff, Udacity, has attracted more than a million students to its menu of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, along with $15 million in financing…

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Unpopular federal rules still might have life

HEA talks could involved state authorization rules.

Online education policy analysts say a set of federal regulations aimed at web-based college programs, struck down by a U.S. Court of Appeals, could re-emerge in Congress’s debate over the next Higher Education Act (HEA) renewal.

“State authorization” regulations would have required colleges with online programs to register courses in every state in which they operate—a hugely expensive undertaking for many colleges. Before the court ruling against the rules, many colleges and universities said they no longer would offer online classes in states with the most arduous regulatory standards.

Failure to abide by state authorization rules would have cut off federal aid to non-compliant colleges.…Read More

USC: 4-year degrees online?

Local lawmakers support USC's online initiative.

Students at the University of South Carolina’s two-year regional campuses would be able to get a bachelor’s degree through online coursework under a plan the university is developing.

USC President Harris Pastides discussed the plan Tuesday, when he met with journalists at The State to highlight an overall vision for the university that he hopes people will embrace as it moves ahead with its $1 billion fundraising campaign, called “Carolina’s Promise.”

Pastides, USC’s president since 2008, is linking that fundraising campaign to his administration’s new vision for the university, which he says will make USC a worthy investment for donors and a critical part of moving the state forward.…Read More

Several Texas colleges are using private recruiters for online classes

More than 100,000 students have been recruited to online classes in Texas since 2007.

Several Texas public universities have turned to private companies to help enroll thousands more students — not for classes on campus, but online.

Some state leaders want to explore expanding that model. They see potential to educate more Texans at lower cost.

But others worry a massive online expansion could hurt academic quality, while sending millions of tuition dollars to for-profit ventures.…Read More

Online education ‘convert’ honored for excellence in distance ed

Schafer said she has learned 'lots of little tricks' to capture her students' attention online.
Schafer said she has learned 'lots of little tricks' to capture her students' attention online.

Ruth Schafer thought she would miss the look of understanding register on a student’s face during her move from the traditional to the online classroom. But after being recognized as Missouri’s top distance educator, Schafer said the virtual setting made her find new ways to explain lessons in unmistakable detail.

Schafer, an adjunct English instructor at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., was awarded the Missouri Distance Learning Association’s (MoDLA) Educator of the Year award July 27 after five years of teaching composition fundamentals, expository writing, and business communications at the 3,500-student school.

Web-based teaching wasn’t Schafer’s first choice, but Drury officials told her that online courses were the only available position when she applied to the university in 2005.…Read More

New service helps students pinpoint search for open online courses

Einztein's library includes more than 2,000 complete online courses.
Einztein's library includes more than 2,000 complete online courses.

Sifting through archives of open online course material could soon become easier. A new public beta version of a web-based college course library aims to help students find open curriculum with a search function designed to narrow their hunt for video and audio lectures.

Einztein, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., launched the beta version of a library with more than 2,000 complete online courses grouped into more than 30 categories, according to a May 25 company announcement.

Einztein’s library, approved of and curated by scholars and educational experts, features a search engine that helps students and educators drill down to exactly the course they’re searching for, doing the “heavy lifting of cataloguing and indexing the courses into a searchable library,” according to the announcement.…Read More

Online college for union members in the works

Education experts say more web-based colleges are needed to meet growing demand.
Education experts say more web-based colleges are needed to meet growing demand.

The National Labor College will make about 20 online courses available for the AFL-CIO’s 11.5 million members next fall in an effort to help workers adapt to a job market that increasingly requires higher education.

The online school, tentatively named the College for Working Families, will be built with resources from the Princeton Review, a national educational support services provider, said William Scheuerman, president of the Silver Spring, Md.-based National Labor College.

The Labor College and the AFL-CIO will distribute a questionnaire in the coming weeks that will gauge members’ interest in which classes will be available in the fall.…Read More

Has Google developed the next wave of online education?

Google Wave marks the next step in collaboration capabilities for group projects, some in education say.
Google Wave marks the next step in collaboration capabilities for group projects, some in education say.

Combining text, audio, and video chat with features like drag-and-drop documents and interactive polls, Google Wave is a free web program that could add unprecedented depth to student interaction, many educators say.

Programmers who designed Google Wave, a tool still in development and only available through limited invites, started with a question: What would eMail look like if it were invented today?

The answer is a format that merges social networking with multimedia in an online meeting space where students and instructors can see each other type in real time, conduct private conversations, and edit documents simultaneously.…Read More