Wednesday, September 30, 2009

College Placement

Computer adaptive tests are coming to college placement testing. McCann has created a series to help 2 and 4 year universities place students in the right courses. It is a little sad that we cannot rely on high schools to ensure that all students are properly prepared to enter college. But we are getting the right fixes in place to make sure we get students up to speed faster.

The next step is to place these students in online courses that get them where the need to be in the most efficient and cost effective manner.

Which is why I am working with Scholarity to get their product into the market.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When will universities change?

Great article on online learning republished from the Chronicle of Higher Ed in Free Dominion on “Will Higher Ed be the Next Bubble to Burst?” by Cronin and Horton. The point I like best about this is it calls out the Phoenix’s of the world who have online institutions but no real cost savings for students over state schools. Shouldn’t there be efficiencies and cost savings from online classes or are they ignoring some of the gains technology can offer?

The story highlights Brigham Young which has lowered tuition! From the article:

Brigham Young University-Idaho charges only $3,000 in tuition a year, and $6,000 for room and board. Classes are held for three semesters, each 14 weeks, for 42 weeks a year. Faculty members teach three full semesters, which has helped to increase capacity from 25,000 students over two semesters to close to 38,000 over three, with everyone taking one month (August) off. The president, Kim B. Clark, is a former dean of the Harvard Business School and an authority on using technology to achieve efficiencies. By 2012 the university also plans to increase its online offerings to 20 percent of all courses, with 120 online courses that students can take to enrich or accelerate degree completion.”

There you have it. It can be done more efficiently and online courses can accelerate the timing of graduation. The final question: why aren’t more universities doing this?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Liberating Learning book review in Heartland's School Reform News

I was so impressed with the Politics of Blocking outlined in Chubb and Moe's book - Liberating Learning that Heartland asked me to do a book review. You can find it here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jay Matthews on Alternative Teacher Certification

Jay Matthews has a quick ABCTE plug in the Washington Post this morning. If you have not been following it, he told the story a few weeks back about a gifted teacher who was frustrated by the bureaucracy involved with becoming a licensed teacher. To be blunt, if Jay had not inquired, this man would still be battling the powers that be.

Today’s post mentions ABCTE as a way for more Maryland teachers to get into teaching. We came very close to applying in Maryland before but they had a 4-6 week internship that was not possible for the mid career professionals that come into our program. So we went to work with other states.

It is a sad part of state teacher certification rules. States try to become more innovative but always get in their own way. They end up creating more rules that make it impossible for anything but the current processes to be able to apply. Case in point is Louisiana which spent the last 16 months trying to craft new rules and this supposedly innovative process requires alternative certification programs to have 32 hours of course work. That is just 2 classes shy of a master’s. Wow – so innovative I can hardly stand it.

So we appreciate education reporters like Jay Matthews ensuring that the public take a good hard look at a process that just doesn’t make sense.

Monday, September 14, 2009

21st Century Skills - debunked yet again

Jay Greene does it again with a great link to Sandra Stotsky's review of the latest in the 21st Century Skills push. From Jay's Blog - -

"Sandra Stotsky has an excellent review in the current issue of The Weekly Standard of Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap.

Here’s the money quote:
It is disingenuous to imply that the development of analytical thinking and effective oral and written communication (goals of the lyceum in ancient Greece) are new to the 21st century. American education schools and their satellite networks of professional development providers heavily promoted such “21st-century skills” as critical thinking, problem solving, and small group work throughout the 20th century.

If our teaching corps hasn’t yet been able to figure out how to translate these buzzwords into effective classroom lessons, what does this tell us about the teaching skills of our very expensive standing army of teacher-educators, either to prepare teachers properly in the first place or to get them up to snuff after they’ve failed in the field?…

Evidence-free rhetoric in support of reducing academic content in the schools, diluting academic standards for K-12, and eliminating large-scale academic testing, has found a receptive audience across the country among those who don’t want any form of real accountability. Unfortunately, the valuable skills misidentified as 21st-century skills cannot be taught and assessed without a strong emphasis on academic substance, standards, and objective assessments–as academic researchers know.

Wagner is the latest in a long line of educational pied pipers leading an uncritical and growing mass of school administrators and teachers into a curricular wilderness. And this latest book is just the current manifestation of the goal driving most of our education schools and professional development providers–how to reduce the academic content of the curriculum while claiming to enhance it–this time in the name of closing the “gap,” or providing worker bees for this century’s employers."

So very true.

Virtual Revolution

There was an interesting article in the Sunday Washington Post about the virtual education revolution. It is interesting because the revolution is getting a huge boost from the economy and it is puzzling to me that bricks and mortar institutions are not figuring this out at all.

Students have less money to go to school so institutions have to find efficiencies in their system or they will lose customers. At the same time, institutions are getting significantly less money from the state and feds. But we have more kids wanting to go to college. The result is more crowded classrooms and kids having to stay in school longer because the classes they need are full.

My own daughter had significant problems putting together her schedule at JMU this semester. And all I could think of was why don’t they offer more online courses so the timing wouldn’t be so difficult and it would save everyone some money?? The article makes the great point that many of the classes taught today are “commodities” that can be accomplished with high volume, low cost methods that virtual classes can easily provide.

The university systems need to wake up or they will be left behind.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Online learning scores again

Excellent piece by Matt Ladner who is becoming increasingly convinced that the only way to save education is through virtual schooling. He has a great summary of some of the data points that support the argument that education is really in the midst of a disruptive innovation. We could not agree more.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Finally Digital?

In an earlier post I reviewed the book, Liberating Learning by Terry Moe and John Chubb and pulled this quote from their predictions on the future:

Textbooks and other print resources will be free but online companion courses and tutoring will earn the money

And now we have McGraw-Hill Connect doing just that. They are producing online textbooks for college students with a host of add-ons including lecture capture, non-linear options for reading the material, instant grading and more. And the best part is that it is less than half the price.

We pay over $500 per semester for books so if every college professor provided this option it would save each college student $2,000. That is HUGE!!

So you save money, get more features, more customized learning and when the new edition comes out we don’t waste millions of trees making it far more environmentally friendly options.

Can we please get this nationwide now????

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Top 10 Annoying Travel Issues

Top 10 annoyances while traveling:

  1. Amateur hours: any busy travel time brings the people who last took a plane trip on Pan Am and have no clue what to do totally clogging up the lines
  2. United’s hub in Chicago – worst weather and the most annoying issue ever: the ongoing announcement every 10 minutes telling me what I cant bring through security – I AM ALREADY THROUGH SECURITY YOU MORONS
  3. When I say thank you in a voice obviously ending the call and you ask me if there is anything else they can do for me – yeah – end the damn call you just wasted more of my life
  4. The idiots with humongous bags trying to jam them in the overhead – check the damn bag you cheap bastard
  5. The women who cannot lift their bag into the overhead and look around helpless for someone else to put it up there for them setting women’s equality back another ten years and further delaying the boarding process
  6. People who can’t read the large number 5 on their ticket and get in line with all their bags jamming things up when they are told they cannot get on the plane with the number 1’s
  7. Thanking me for my patience – anyone that knows me knows I have know patience and assuming I am going to give it to morons who don’t know how to run an airline is dead wrong – apologize for the delay and ask me to be patient. Never assume
  8. Why do the maids leave the stupid tub plugged?
  9. The now constant announcements during the flight – really – do we really care or do we want to sleep because the walls of our hotel are paper thin??
  10. Pikes Place in airport Starbucks – why do you think only that serving this 7-11 crap Maxwell house blend is somehow going to gain you market share by appealing to more coffee drinkers? All you do is annoy your base and I, for one am switching to water in protest.

Because obviously the Pikes Piss coffee made me cranky this morning.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Virtual Education Making the News

The economy is driving business to online schools. Nothing surprising here but it is great to see CNBC covering it. It is not just happening in higher ed – it is a phenomenon in K-12 as well. The only amazing thing is that it has not happened faster.