Boston colleges will ‘blend’ with edX

Two Boston community colleges will partner with edX, Harvard and MIT’s online learning venture, on a “blended” class, reports the Harvard Crimson.

Beginning in spring, Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown and MassBay Community College’s greater Boston campuses will offer a modified version of edX’s “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming,” an online class based on MIT’s introductory computer science course.

Community college professors will provide classroom instruction and support, while three MIT professors will teach the online course.

The Gates Foundation is supporting the collaboration with a million-dollar grant.

“At the end of the day, the purely online experience doesn’t capture the in-person interaction that we all care about,” said Anant Agarwal, edX president and an MIT professor.

EdX currently offers nine online courses open to hundreds of thousands of students around the world.  Agarwal plans to offer more blended courses, particularly at community colleges.

Harvard or community college?

Where should collegebound students go in the fall: Harvard or their local community college? Consider community college over a high-priced university, advises John Hrabe, a graduate fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, on the Huffington Post.

Community colleges are the best value in higher education, he argues. Two-year colleges offer instruction that’s just as good as what four-year insitutions provide, but without the massive debt.

College debt is supposed to be “good debt,” but a degree no longer guarantees a middle-class job that generates enough income to pay off loans, Hrabe writes. Graduates can’t discharge their loans through bankruptcy

By 2012, the nation will hold more than $1 trillion of this inescapable debt, with the average graduate’s burden at $24,000.

In a depressed economy, many more college graduates are taking jobs that don’t require a degree, writes Hrabe.

Some may try to start their own businesses, but debt saps the entrepreneurial spirit. Debt-ridden graduates can’t take the risk or get loans to try a new idea.

Community college is a low-cost alternative, Hrabe writes.

A decade ago, for just $12 per unit, I completed my general education requirements at a Los Angeles-area community college. At Moorpark College, I learned public speaking from one of the nation’s most accomplished speech programs, which has won nine national championships in 40 years. Had I taken the same class down the street at UCLA, I would have been taught by a second-year graduate assistant with no teaching experience.

Or worse, I might have been taught by a tenured university professor. Just as price doesn’t correlate to value, academic publications are not the best bellwether of quality instruction. The most accomplished academics are often the worst teachers. Without the pressure to publish, community college professors have more time to invest in their students.

Will young people keep mortgaging their futures to go to elite colleges?  Jane Shaw envisions a future in which the smart kids apply to Ha-Ya (Harvard and Yale have merged) for the honor of admission, then go to community college or virtual college or sign up with freelance professors to get an education.

It all started, Shaw writes, on May 28, 2010, when “Your Money” columnist Ron Lieber wrote about  Cortney Munna, a graduate of New York University who owed $97,000 in student loans and works for a photographer earning $22 an hour.