Gates: Flip MOOCs to help students

gatesCommunity colleges should experiment with “flipped” MOOCS (massive open online courses), Bill Gates told the Association of Community College Trustees’ leadership meeting in Seattle.

In a flipped classroom, students watch videotaped lectures at home and work on problems in class. Soon, the quality of MOOC lectures “will be extremely good,” Gates said.

“Of course it’s quite controversial, what software can take over, but once you get a great pool of lectures out there that incorporate problem solving and drill practice, this frees up time” for more-personalized instruction in the classroom, Mr. Gates said.

Flipped MOOCs could remake remedial math, Gates said. Currently, failure rates are very high for remedial math students.

 Computer systems can generate an infinite number of worksheets with embedded quizzes, as well as with tips that instructors could then review to determine what students are struggling with, he said. In online lectures, questions pop up every three to five minutes, to keep students alert and to make sure they are ready to move on to the next section.

They can work at their own pace, focusing on specific topics rather than having to move in lock step through a remedial-math sequence with students who might be having trouble with other parts.

The Gates Foundation has invested heavily in boosting completion rates.

Shanna Smith Jaggars, assistant director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said poor and minority students often struggle in online courses. However, she said the flipped MOOC model could prove effective.

Gates: It’s completion, not costs

Completion is a bigger problem than rising college costs, argued Bill Gates at an Aspen Institute forum. Or as Jordan Weissmann puts it in The Atlantic:  The World’s Richest College Dropout Urges Colleges to Stop Dropouts.

. . . for most students — the ones who don’t go to schools covered in ivy — the real problem isn’t necessarily cost; it’s completion. It’s our country’s abysmal graduation rates – less than sixty percent of undergraduates finish a bachelor’s degree within six years; less than 30 percent finish two-year programs on time – which have fallen well behind much of the industrialized world. We’re on pace to produce millions fewer college graduates than our economy will need in the coming decades, Gates argued, and a big part of that is our inability to get students already enrolled in college to graduation day.

Instead of ranking colleges based on their students’ SAT scores,  we should  reward schools that “take people with the low SAT and actually educate them well,” Gates said.

That begins with getting better data and making it public, Gates argues. The government has attempted to hold for-profit universities accountable for the graduation and employment outcomes of their students. Non-profit schools should be subjected to similar scrutiny, Gates said. . . . he believes the peer pressure will force more institutions to focus on teaching quality, and getting them across the finish line.

“It’s no exaggeration to say whether it’s about income equity, racial equity, the key is to make this overall education system work for everybody in the country,” Gates said.

A $10,000 bachelor’s? Texas CCs say ‘yes’

In his State of the State address, Texas Gov. Rick Perry challenged the state’s universities to create a $10,000 no-frills bachelor’s degree with the help of online and AP credits. Perry says he was inspired by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

University leaders say it can’t be done without heavy state subsidies. Online classes aren’t cheaper, if done well, for example.

Some community colleges are doing it now and could do more, reports Melissa Ludwig in the San Antonio News-Express. “It is an idea that is long overdue,” said Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College in McAllen.

At South Texas College, bachelor’s degrees in technology management and computer and information technology cost about $10,000. The cheapest bachelor’s degree at a four-year state university is $18,000 at Texas A&M University in Texarkana.

Brazosport College and Midland College also offer bachelor’s of applied technology degrees. The Alamo Colleges hopes to add a four-year fire science degree. However, the Texas House’s proposed budget eliminates funding for all bachelor’s degree programs at community colleges and closes Brazosport and three other community colleges altogether.

Community colleges can offer alternatives, but universities also need to control costs, said Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes. “If we keep going the way we are, a baccalaureate degree at a public university will cost $100,000 at some institutions in five years. We can’t go there.”

Community colleges keep costs low because they pay faculty and staff less money and they hire adjunct professors, who are cheaper than tenured faculty. They don’t do research, they don’t field NCAA football teams and they don’t build dormitories and recreation centers.

Those things are what make up the “college experience,” and there will always be young students who want that and will pay for it, Paredes said. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest a growing demand from students who are older, who work, who have families and who simply want a degree as fast and cheaply as possible, he said.

A “low-cost, no-frills degree” should be an alternative, Paredes said.

Community colleges in 17 states offer bachelor’s programs. In Florida, 19 of 28 community colleges offer four-year degrees in high-demand fields such as nursing, education and applies sciences.

Update: Khan Academy is expanding its no-cost online courses by partnering with Bittorrent. What Khan needs is an independent agency to test students’ learning and award a credential employers will recognize, writes Instapundit. Why not Texas?

Gates: Colleges’ future is on the web

In five years, self-motivated learners seeking a college degree will be learning online for free, said Bill Gates last week at the Techonomy conference. The “best lectures in the world” will be on the web, Gates predicted, saying a university education that costs $200,000 over four years could be delivered online for as little as $2,000.

College needs to be “place-based” only for parties, joked the Harvard drop-out.

Students will need a way to get credit for what they’ve learned, adds Geek.com. That should be doable.

Update:  Gates doesn’t envision web-based K-12 education. Why not? asks Andrew Coulson.