Posts Tagged ‘Coursera’

Goodbye SAT

April 8, 2015

“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.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

More on the Excessive Costs of Higher Education

August 25, 2013

What has happened to the costs of a higher education is unconscionable, as are the ridiculous amounts of debt young people are saddled with as a result of pursuing a college education. Moreover, it is not only these unfortunate individuals who are the only ones to suffer. The country and the economy of the country benefits from college educations. In spite of the fact that the U.S government was burdened with massive amounts of debt from World War II, it passed the G.I Bill that allowed millions of veterans to pursue a higher education. Undoubtedly the booming economy that followed was largely the result of the G.I. Bill.

The unfortunate irony is that these costs rose at a ridiculous rate when they should have been decreasing. Technology is the reason that they should have decreased. Classes can be delivered online. Texts can be distributed as PDF documents at low or no cost. Similarly library materials could be annexed online. It is a bit ironic that professional societies, whose purpose is the dissemination of information, charge fees for accessing their articles. This might change as a result of the government requiring research funded by the government to be freely accessible.

Change is already occurring in massive open online courses (MOOCs). Edx is a non-profit MOOC founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is no a consortium of 28 institutions. Coursera is a MOOC that has formed partnerships with 83 universities.

This is an outstanding development for autodidacts as it has opened up an enormous resource of educational opportunities. The problem is how is the knowledge for completed courses documented and how can one get a college degree. Coursera has started charging to provide certificates for those who complete its courses.

So the technology exists, the problem is what is the business model. In other words, how to make a buck from this? I think it is important to realize that education is a public good, that all benefit from its ready availability, so costs should be kept to a minimum.

I think this can be accomplished by universities and testing organizations such as the Educational Testing Service (ETS) developing assessment tests. ETS has already done this for undergraduate content areas such as psychology, history, biology, and so forth. More specific tests could be developed for specific content areas such as educational psychology, neuropsychology, applied statistics, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. Moreover, there could be different levels of expertise associated with different tests.

Frankly, this would be more informative to me than conventional degrees. In my experience, I do not know what I’m getting when a new graduate shows up with a degree in x. One might think, that regardless of the major, that a student with a bachelor’s degree should be able to write. But I’ve known people with Master’s degrees who have terrible compositional skills.

So it will be interesting to see what develops. But I hope the development occurs quickly and that there is a general realization that higher education is good for both the individual and the country, and that costs should be minimal.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An Update on the Unnecessary Costs of Higher Education

January 16, 2013

Here is an update of these unnecessary costs from the Washington Post.1 Previous healthymemory blog posts (enter “Costs of a Higher Education” into the search block) have complained about the increasing increases in the costs of a college education at a time when technology should be bringing these costs down. It is especially ironic when prestigious universities are making some of their courses available online for free, the so-called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). Although this content is available for free, course credit is not offered, nor is there a prospect of a diploma being offered upon the completion of these courses. Now some universities are offering, for a fee, certificates for completing these courses. According to the article “For a fee of less than $100, a student who takes a class in genetics and evolution from Duke University on a MOOC platform called Coursera—and agrees to submit to identity-verification screening—could earn a “verified certificate” for passing the course.” “For $95, a student in an online circuits and electronics class affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology through the MOOC Platform edX will be able to take a proctored exam this month at one of thousands of test sites around the world and earn a certificate.” What is not clear is whether at some time in the future these certificates would lead to college credit and a degree. Technology provides manifold opportunities for the autodidact, but the degrees provide the desired end-states of these formal curricula.

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs on this topic is that I have met some people who have college degrees, but on the basis of their work, writing, and conversation, it is difficult to believe that they have these degrees. I have also met people with excellent, writing, work, and conversational skills, who do not have college degrees. I think we need to have an organization or organizations that provide tests and evaluations to determine the level of competence in different subject areas. Presumably, nominal fees would be involved, but this would allow the true autodidact to benefit fully from her self-educational efforts.

1Anderson, N. (2013). Online classes will grant credentials, for a fee.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Progress Making Higher Education More Affordable

July 22, 2012

I was heartened by a short piece in Newsweek1 that addressed some concerns I raised in the Healthymemory Blog Post, “A Solution to the Excessive Cost of a Higher Education.” According the the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, the costs of a higher education have skyrocketed 450 percent in the past 25 years. As I argued in my blog post, the proper use of technology should have decreased, not increased, the costs of a higher education.

Apparently, two professors of computer science at Stanford University, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng agree. They believe that the Internet should allow millions of people to receive first-class educations at little or no cost. They have launched Coursera, www.coursear.org, to make courses from first rate universities online at no charge to anyone. They offer full courses to include homework assignments, examinations, and grades. Go to the website to view the wide range of course offerings. It is worthwhile to note, that professors are not paid. So kudos to these professors who place education first and realize the potential of the Internet.

Ng and Koller made a class available at no cost online. The class in machine learning drew more than 100,00 enrolled students, 13,000 of whom completed the course. This result impressed not only Ng and Koller, but also such venture-capital firms as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates, which together have invested $16 million combined in Coursera.

Providing free education is one matter, but as was pointed out in the healthymemory blog post, the money comes from the granting of degrees. The following is taken from the Coursera Website.

“…This Letter of Completion, if provided to you, would be from Coursera and/or from the instructors. You acknowledge that the Letter of Completion, if provided to you, may not be affiliated with Coursera or any college or university. Further, Coursera offers the right to offer or not offer any such Letter of Completion for a class. You acknowledge that the Letter of Completion, and Coursera’s Online Courses, will not stand in the place of a course taken at an accredited institution, and do not convey academic credit. You acknowledge that neither the instructors of any Online Course nor the associated Participating Institutions will be involved in any attempts to get the course recognized by any educational or accredited institution. The format of the Letter of Completion will be determined at the discretion of Coursera and the instructors, and may vary by class in terms of formatting, e.g., whether or not it reports your detailed scores or grades in the class, and in other ways.”

In my view they are not addressing this issue in a satisfactory manner. Some ideas regarding how to do so are offered in the healthymemory blog post.

1Lyons, D/ (2012). Cheaper Than Harvard: An Ivy League Education Online—For Free. Newsweek, 14 May, p.13.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.