“Goodbye SAT: How online courses will change college admissions,” is an opinion piece by Kevin Carey in the March 19th Washington Post. He makes a good case for the SAT either becoming absolute or a rather minor factor in college admissions decisions. He cites research by economist Jesse Rothstein who found that, after controlling for student’s background characteristics, SAT scores predict only 2.7 percent of the variation in students’ college grades.
Through a nonprofit consortium called edX, Harvard, MIT, the University of Texas, the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Caltech, the Sorbonne and dozens of other elite universities offer complete online versions of their classes, free, to anyone with an Internet connection. Topics include computer science, matrix algebra, poetry and Chinese History from Harvard; engineering, mathematics and jazz appreciation from UT;principles of economics and data analysis from Caltech. edX is not alone, there are other online education platforms such as Coursera, that offer thousands of additional courses from elite universities, free. These can be the same courses offered in college courses, to include lectures, homework assignments, midterms and final exams. Although the courses are free, the degrees are not, but more about that later.
Prospective students can build an impressive transcript before they formally enter college This also provides a good opportunity to learn how much they like and how well they fit into different subjects. Success in these Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are much more likely to predict success in college classes than SAT scores, because they are courses in college.
Here are some outstanding examples cited in Carey’s article. In 2012 when he was 15, living in Bator, Mongolia taking online course from MIT was one of only 340 students out of 150,000 worldwide to earn a perfect score in a rigorous online Circuits and Electronics course. He’s currently enrolled at MIT. Another student from the same class, Amol Bhave from Jabalpur, India, enjoyed the class so much that he created his own online follow-up course in signals and systems. He was also admitted to the 2013 MIT freshman class.
If they are not already, colleges are likely to charge for certificates of completion as well as transcripts. And it is likely that universities will recognize these courses in satisfying the requirements ford different degrees. It is also likely that some residency requirement will be required by many schools. Nevertheless, MOOCS offer welcome degrees of freedom in earning degrees. And this definitely should have a positive impact on reducing the current ridiculous costs of degrees.
MOOCS are already ideal for autodidacts. They are also ideal for older individuals who want to keep sharp and grow cognitively. sYou can become an expert in a field, start on the road to fulfillment and simply bypass formal degrees. In my personal experience, I’ve found degrees to be an unreliable indication of a knowledgeable individual. I remain incredulous that many people I know who have college degrees actually have college degrees. I know of people with graduate degrees who don’t seem to be able to write coherently. Seeing a transcript with courses and grades would be much more informative than a degree.
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