Online courses helped kick off a movement promising that your zipcode no longer had to determine the quality of education you received. People in rural Bhutan could take a computer science class from Harvard. Students at a community college could supplement their math class with lectures from MIT. A single mom in middle America could learn to code from Google instructor.
However, as more online learning companies raise their Series D funding rounds, and players from Duolingo to Coursera try to figure out sustainable business models, we’ve reached a juncture where we need to think about the issues of equity that come with chasing paying customers. Unless we carefully examine where we put the paywalls and how we cultivate diverse student bodies in our online learning experiences, we risk transposing the same patterns of inequity that have plagued in-person education into our digital classrooms.
The U.S. Department of Education today released model terms of service guidance and a training video aimed at helping schools and districts protect student privacy while using online educational services and applications.
The guidance offers examples of terms of service provisions to help school officials identify which online educational services and applications have strong privacy and data security policies and practices.
“Reading and understanding terms of service agreements is tough, even for lawyers. We hope this guidance will help school officials identify privacy-friendly apps and online services and avoid providers that might abuse student information,” said Kathleen Styles, the U.S. Department of Education’s chief privacy officer.
As part of the President and Vice President’s new actions to provide more Americans with the opportunity to acquire the skills they need for in-demand jobs, today, the Department is announcing a new round of “experimental sites” that will test certain innovative practices aimed at providing better, faster and more flexible paths to academic and career success.
“At a time when a college degree matters more than ever, we have to provide a flexible, innovative experience that can meet the needs of every American,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “This initiative will enable institutions to try some of their best ideas and most promising practices to provide more students with the opportunity to pursue a higher education and become equipped for success in today’s workforce.”
Using advanced technology to dramatically expand the quality and reach of education has long been a key priority for the Obama Administration.
In December 2013, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report exploring the potential of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to expand access to higher education opportunities. Last month, the President announced a $2B down payment, and another $750M in private-sector commitments to deliver on the President’s ConnectEd Innitiative, which will connect 99% of American K-12 students to broadband by 2017 at no cost to American taxpayers.
This week, we are happy to be joining with educators, students, and technologists worldwide to recognize and celebrate Open Education Week.
As colleges feel pressure to graduate more students for less money, professors worry that the value of an education may be diminished.
Universities in South Dakota, Nebraska, and other states have cut the number of credits students need to graduate. A proposal in Florida would let online courses forgo the usual higher-education accreditation process. A California legislator introduced a measure that would have substituted online courses for some of the brick-and-mortar kind at public universities.
Some campuses of the University of North Carolina system are mulling getting rid of history, political science, and various others of more than 20 “low productive” programs. The University of Southern Maine may drop physics. And governors in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin have questioned whether taxpayers should continue subsidizing public universities for teaching the humanities.
Under pressure to turn out more students, more quickly and for less money, and to tie graduates’ skills to workforce needs, higher-education institutions and policy makers have been busy reducing the number of required credits, giving credit for life experience, and cutting some courses, while putting others online.
Although the majority of Americans say the value and format of online education are equal to or better than traditional education, many still doubt its quality, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday.
Most of the adults surveyed appeared to recognize the flexibility of online education, saying it provided a format most students can succeed in and that it provides a wide range of options for curriculum. One-third of the more than 1,000 adults surveyed also said the value for the money students pay is better than traditional classroom-based education, and 34 percent said it is equal to the value of traditional education.
But despite the acceptance of online course formats and access, a report on the poll said Americans’ views are still “tepid at best.” Many still tend to think the quality of both the instruction and the instructors is far below that of classroom-based education. Additionally, nearly half said they believe online degrees are less accepted by employers.
A recent survey from the nonprofit organization Public Agenda supports that belief. The survey found that the majority of employers said they prefer applicants with traditional degrees from average universities over those with an online degree from a top university, despite the fact that nearly the same amount said online programs require more discipline on the student’s part.
Speaking in Providence, RI not too long ago, the post-speech conversation turned to college education. The word was that Brown University’s tuition alone had risen above $50,000 per year.
The above number is staggering. For the most part college students tune out during their four years on campus; that, or they memorize what’s needed to get As on the tests. Why then would any parent pay the sky-high tuition, and then barring parental help, what 18-year old would take on that kind of debt in order to be the recipient of lots of largely useless information?
Brown is course not alone in this regard. Whether at public or private schools, college tuition over the years has skyrocketed. One factor, though it’s certainly not as big as analysts presume, is the federal government’s growing role in the financing of education.
With the above entity increasingly the only market for college loans, and with that same entity rather generous with the money of others, colleges and universities have very little incentive to do anything but raise tuition. Since our federal government is price insensitive, tuition can keep rising.