Photo Source: U.S. Department of Education
By Lillian Williams
Welcome to a new year in the field of online teaching and learning!
As always, we learn lessons from experiments in the burgeoning online education community.
Here’s a capsule, posted at the NPR website:
One year ago, many were pointing to the growth of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, as the most important trend in higher education. Many saw the rapid expansion of MOOCs as a higher education revolution that would help address two long-vexing problems: access for underserved students and cost.
In theory, students saddled by rising debt and unable to tap into the best schools would be able to take free classes from rock star professors at elite schools via Udacity, edX, Coursera and other MOOC platforms.
But if 2012 was the “Year of the MOOC,” as The New York Timesfamously called it, 2013 might be dubbed the year that online education fell back to earth. Faculty at several institutions rebelled against the rapid expansion of online learning — and the nation’s largest MOOC providers are responding.
Earlier this year, San Jose State University partnered with Udacity to offer several types of for-credit MOOC classes at low cost. The partnership was announced in January with lots of enthusiastic publicity, including a plug from California Gov. Jerry Brown, who said MOOC experiments are central to democratizing education.
“We’ve got to invest in learning, in teaching, in education,” he said. “And we do that not by just the way we did it 100 years ago. We keep changing.”
But by all accounts, the San Jose experiment was a bust. Completion rates and grades were worse than for those who took traditional campus-style classes. And the students who did best weren’t the underserved students San Jose most wanted to reach.
It wasn’t really proving to be cheaper, either, says Peter Hadreas, the chairman of San Jose State’s philosophy department.
“The people that do well in these kind of courses are people who are already studious. Or … who are taking courses for their own enrichment after they’ve graduated,” he says.
“A year and a half ago … people thought this was going to solve the problems of higher education because people would be educated for less money. That’s not the way it’s worked out.”
Now, San Jose State is scaling back its relationship with Udacity, taking more direct control of the courses it offers through the company and rethinking its commitment to MOOCs.
It’s your turn. As the 2014 year opens, what are your thoughts on the progress of online education? Post your comments below.