Sunday, December 30, 2012

A New, State-Run, Online University

By Sean Scarpiello

Recently in Florida, government officials have come up with revolutionary idea for education in their state. This goal is to create another university—Florida’s 13th overall. The idea at first sounds absurd, as the economy is still poor and universities cost millions of dollars to build and maintain. However, this new university will not cost millions of dollars, as it does not need new academic and administrative buildings, labs, a gym, or dorms. This is because this new university will be based solely on online learning.

This idea is great for a number of reasons. First, this will act as one of the main pilot programs which full online universities and education professionals will be able to draw from to improve online universities in the future. Furthermore, since this university is created and run by the state of Florida, we can expect that the credits gained by the students at the school will be recognized throughout the country. At the moment, programs such as Udacity are great for learning, but the courses students take do not count as college credit. Udacity and similar programs teach students that are looking to improve their own skills and knowledge. However, this new online university is state run, so it will need to go through an accreditation program that certifies the school. All other colleges in the United States must pass certain requirements to ensure that courses are detailed and rigorous enough to meet certain standards. This would in turn allow students to take a computer science course online, and then transfer to another college or university to have the credits transfer. Although programs like Udacity are led and taught by credible professors, the institutions themselves are not accredited, therefore courses through these programs do not count at other colleges. It will be interesting to see how this plays out because this is an entirely new realm in education.

This probably means that online courses would need to meet the same criteria as a traditional course. However, due to stark differences in the way education is delivered, a whole new system of accrediting an online university may be needed. This will hold especially true as more and more education professionals are pushing to bring education available to more people at lower costs. This may also mean that programs such as Udacity would also begin to try and become accredited under the same standards, thus leading to the creation of more privately owned and operated online colleges.

In light of all of the reduced costs to create this university, this does not mean it will be a simple feat. Government officials looking to create this online university will need to seek help from education professionals. This is because so much more than the course material goes into teaching a course. Teaching needs to be tailored to needs of individual students on a large scale. It is not enough to simply post lectures online or pages of notes online, then expect students to pass tests. In addition to all of this, professors and other education professionals need to be involved as well. Many college professors are not in a position to record themselves lecturing, post videos or notes, and determine grading requirements. This is made even more difficult when designing classes like biology, chemistry, or physics, where time in a lab is required for credits. Even in classes such as political science or English, professors need to find ways to access learning effectively and efficiently. For example, it would be extremely difficult for a professor or a group of educators to grade thousands of essays at a time, all based on the same criteria. So we really need to find ways to access students’ ability to write, but without them writing a lot-- which will be very difficult to do.

Overall, we can see that a new online university will lead to a number of changes in the education field. As the program is state run, it will probably need to meet accreditation requirements to be recognized by the academic world. This in turn will lead to other institutions looking to also enter this new market by meeting these same requirements. Although the low costs and other benefits to online education are appealing, this will not be a simple endeavor. Education professionals and professors need to be kept in the picture while designing and implementing the new online university. If not, the program is sure to fail.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Schools should move the lectures from a lecture hall
to the Internet.
Last spring, MIT offered an online course in circuit design,
called circuits and electronics.
It was free; anyone could take it.

According to a recent discussion of the course in Technology Review, 154,000 people enrolled.
Of those, 7,157 passed the course.
It is stunning.

It took traditional-classroom MIT 40 years to teach that many students circuits and electronics the old-fashioned way.
If one semester of online class can have the output of 40 years of traditional class,
you can bet big changes are coming.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Structuring Online Education for the Laziness in Us All

By Sean Scarpiello

When it comes to designing effective online education programs, there are many things that need to be taken into account. One piece of the puzzle in formulating the ideal learning program needs to be the intrinsic psychology of a student. Therefore, educators need to take into account the different motivations and mindsets of students. We need to identify these areas and ways we can avoid related problems. We also need to ensure that this education is not too specialized and appeals to more than one type of student. Online programs need to be versatile enough to include all types of learners with different mindsets. This is not an easy task, so it is best that educators look for similarities that all students share.

One of the first similarities has to do with the mindsets of students. I think to some extent, that all humans are innately lazy; however, their true potential is discovered when a lot is asked or expected of them. For example, given the choice between reading a book and watching television, most students will choose television, because it requires less thinking and is less work. Therefore, this means that educators need to find new ways to keep the course material engaging. Plus, since the program is based on the computer and internet, educators need to ensure that the material is much more interesting than distractions like video games, social networking, and more. For educators to make the material more interesting, students need to be actively participating, answering questions, solving problems, and applying principles all throughout their learning. This also needs to be formulated in a way that lets students understand and relate to the material. For younger students, things like silly cartoon characters or easily identifiable figures should be used. For older students, real world applications should be mentioned, as older students quickly begin to ask “when will I ever use this in life?” If these sorts of ideas are not put into place, students will be in a situation where they are alone with their computers and asked to read a book online while they have access to a vast array of distractions.

This sort of laziness is even found in schools today. In one of my college English courses, the professor described in the beginning of the semester that our assignment for the entire year is to read three certain books and then write a 5 page paper for each. She also described that all three papers were due by the last day of class, but you could turn any of them in as they were completed. We were not required to go to class unless we wanted to share our ideas from the readings, which we assigned ourselves. Although we didn’t have homework every day, we really had a lot of homework every day -- it was only up to us to assign it. For many of my classmates, this ended in a disaster as everyone struggled to turn in 15 pages of well written material on highly analyzed topics in each book during the last two weeks of class. In light of this, we can see that all students would procrastinate and do only the work assigned as it is due. Therefore, an effective online learning program would also take this into account. One way to carry this out is make assignments due daily or putting time limits on the assignment. It is, however, important to make sure the time limit is not too short, so slower learners are not cut short. One other novel way around this would be to have online programs designed with a sort of placement test. This would allow the program to judge the strengths and weaknesses of each learner. The program could then take this information about the learner and apply it so students have customizable degrees of challenges facing them as they learn. Therefore, slower learners would not be rushed along by the faster-learning students, as in the many of the traditional education structures.

One final way educators can avoid the innate laziness of all students is encouraging learning to occur in a controlled environment. For instance, when I need to do work, my house or my college dorm room is the last place any work gets done. This is because we associate these places with relaxation and fun; plus, they are full of distractions. However, in an environment such as a library or café, students are surrounded by others who are working, so they feel obligated to as well. It would even be possible for students to continue to go to school and extract the benefits of the school’s controlled atmosphere and social settings. Many educators feel that the future of education will be without physical schools where students learn each day. This is the exact opposite of what students need. Although it is expensive and time consuming to transport students to school every day, students still need to learn with their peers and interact with each other socially. If not, society would be setting up future generations to be extremely antisocial.

In all, we can now identify where the natural degree of laziness in all humans could affect the learning process of students. As online educators are now beginning to construct the framework for the future of education, it is important that we understand these traits in humans and find ways to avoid flaws in the system. When these traits are taken into consideration by education professionals, online programs will be much more effective for both students and teachers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Online Education: Not a "One-Size-Fits-All" Approach

By Sean Scarpiello

As education moves online via programs like Khan Academy and Udacity, we are seeing many changes to the process of educating. Using online resources, both teachers and students are experiencing this huge shift in the conventional education process. For Stanley Thrun, the Stanford professor who started Udacity, this online jump has caused increased accomplishment in his Intro to Artificial Intelligence class. In 2011, he offered this class for free and many of his students in Stanford took the course. Surprisingly, 170 out of the 200 students in the course preferred the online version of the class. Most importantly, Thrun found that students taking the online course had significantly higher grades in the course than those students taking the class in the traditional method. So what does this mean for the future of education? To many, this sounds like schools and online programs will soon be pumping students through the education system like a factory. Others feel that everyone will receive a “one-size–fits-all” education that doesn’t take into account students' innate differences.

Although education appears to be moving in this direction, there are still many benefits education has in the online medium. First off, online education allows students to learn on their own terms and at their own pace. With online education, students won’t be forced to wake up at 6:00 in the morning and stumble into math class half asleep and hardly retain the material. More importantly, it allows students to learn the material at whichever pace they feel most comfortable, whether this be fast or slow. This holds true for classes like math and science where information is given to students, then they need to apply principles and concepts quickly. Currently in my physics class, we spend the first 20 minutes of class reviewing concepts, then the last 30 minutes going over a handful of problems. Many students feel we are moving at a fast pace. They are struggling to remember or understand the concepts, and then get further behind as the rest of the class moves forward solving the problems. Once these students begin to understand the concepts in class, it is too late, as the problems are already solved by the professor. Online education allows students to stop and start the lecture whenever they want. It also allows them to view the lectures multiple times so they can be sure to fully understand what is going on in class.

Also, with online education there is an abundance of videos and tutorials on class material available everywhere. For classes from English and Social Studies to Science and Math, websites like Khan Academy and, students can learn and solve problems at their own pace. One other benefit from these websites is that they are very diverse. This helps students out even more when it comes to learning because everyone thinks differently. In Math for example, a student can watch five (5) different videos on solving a long division problem and find three (3) different ways to solve them. Students are then able to pick and choose their favorite method or the easiest method for them to understand.

Probably the most important quality of most of these online education sites is that they are free. This is great because students can use them when they want and multiple times. There are no confusing accounts or passwords to deal with. Furthermore, when students are struggling with material the night before a big test, they can simply go online and get help instantly.

In all, it may seem that online education is inherently taking the differences of individual students out of the process of education. However, with closer examination, we see that is not all true. There are several benefits to online learning, as it allows students to learn at their own pace and get different perspectives, all at no cost. As education continues to advance in the online medium, we can expect even more changes, but as these changes come, we can still expect that the component of student individuality remains part of the learning process.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Journalist are Teachers, and MOST would Flunk the Teaching test.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A GREAT copyrighted AP story about -
American Federation of Teachers union calls for teacher certification exam”
Read more: 

“The American Federation of Teachers called for a tough new written test to be

by stricter entrance requirements for teacher training programs, such as a minimum grade point average.”
Is that how you spell -