Friday, April 21, 2017

What Else is New?


A recent report headline read: “You can now go to college for free in two of the most expensive places in the US” – referring to California (San Francisco city in particular) and New York.  Our response was, “What else is new?”  Free university and college studies have been  in the news a lot in recent years but have also been followed by one sort of problem or another.  For those thinking of relocating to take advantage of the announced free education, you should be reminded that your yearly income has to be at least $86,000 or $100,000 to live comfortably in New York or San Francisco.

Last year, a BBC report questioned whether free university tuition would work in the U.S.  The report pointed out that other countries use taxes to fund free university education  and have far fewer students than the US. For example, 2013 statistics showed that Germany had 2.7 million students in higher education and Norway had 255,000 compared to the US’s 20 million.

In response to the recent report headline above, some potential students may find it more appropriate to ask, “Wouldn’t it be better to explore free online courses or programs?”


Pros of an Online Education
·         Flexible schedule, as students can log onto the course material at their convenience, making it possible for them to keep up with other responsibilities;
·         Increased availability of programs, as more schools are offering online programs, increasing the available options for studies and allowing students to search until they find one that meets their needs;
·         Access to courses 24/7, as online courses are available round-the-clock to any student with a computer and Internet access, unlike on-campus courses that require students to be in class at certain times;
·         No need for relocation or travelling, as online students can study right from their homes, saving time, gas, and vehicle wear and tear. It also eliminates having to drive in inclement weather;
·         Multi-media format allows online students to learn through a variety of ways, including Web cams, CD/DVDs, animation and virtual classrooms.  This can make courses more interesting and easier to understand;
·         A wide variety of courses/programs available and students can choose to study almost any program online;
·         Students can log into their programs at their convenience and learn at their own pace; and
·         Reputation of online education compared to on-campus programs has continually improved.

Cons of an Online Education
·         Lack of social interaction among students;
·         Less student/Instructor interaction and students may have to wait for hours for a reply to questions;
·         Technology problems can interfere with students’ progress;
·         Without a teacher’s push, online students, may have low motivation and may procrastinate;
·         Transferring credits can be problematic as some schools still do not acknowledge online schools in the same light as on-campus schools; and
·         Financial aid is not available for some online schools.

MOOC vs On Campus / Carey vs Muth
In his recent book, “The End of College,” Kevin Carey explained how he had taken Prof. Eric Lander’s MOOC (see in REFERENCES below) and earned a certificate for completing the same work as that of a first year students at MIT. Carey did all the online class activities, also took the time to visit the class in real time – and came away convinced that online  courses is better because it allows him to:
·         Hit the pause button during the lecture to write notes in a more complete way than trying to write down words as they stream out in real time;
·         Concentrate on the class in a quiet place, such as the comfort of their home, instead of being distracted by the student next to him who is focused far more on their phone than what is going on in class;
·         Hear Prof.  Lander clearer; and
·         Clearly see what Prof. Lander does through multiple camera angles, instead of a far away view of him from the back of a lecture hall.

Carey showed that this particular MOOC class teaches students the material in ways that are even better than if the students were on campus taking the class in person. In addition, Carey also underscores how the new technology, combined with the discoveries in the fields of neuroscience and education science about learning, can help to individualize the experience of taking MOOCs.

Carey tries to convince his readers that colleges and universities will be falling by the hundreds (or even thousands) in the next several decades.  Some research results seem to support Carey’s prediction. According to a 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning says there has been a 21% growth rate in online enrollment, compared to a 2% growth with higher education student population overall. However, Parke Muth points out that Carey has left out at least 5 things that will undercut any relatively fast transformation of the education landscape:

·         Despite what research data shows, many people still believe that on campus experiences make for a much deeper and fuller preparation for what will happen after graduation;
·         The schools will fight off their competitors and will not just wait around while being overtaken by MOOCs;
·         Some course activities are difficult to accomplish online, e.g. conducting labs, and other hands-on activities;
·         In the U.S., testing companies (e.g., Educational Testing Service (ETS)) also have a vested interest in trying to keep things as is and will fight off completion by MOOCs; and
·         Security is still a big challenge as it is still difficult to totally control online cheating.

·         First it should be noted that cheating also occurs in on-campus classes and improved technology will make it more difficult to cheat; and
·         The rate at which online/MOOC classes expand in comparison to on-campus classes can be debated. However, it seems obvious that we cannot deny the fact that online/MOOC classes will become more recognized and play a key role in future U.S. and international education.

·         Check out a free or low cost online/ MOOC course or program that could start the ball rolling for you;
·         For the U.S., the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) allows students to find/ filter programs based on distance learning options, education fields and geographic location.  To check them out, please click here;
·         To explore free online courses available from the “Open Education Consortium,” a worldwide community of 280+ higher education institutions and associated organizations, please click here.




Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi 

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