Khan offers self-paced, online remedial help

Self-paced online courses backed by data analytics could help community colleges get students up to speed, said Khan Academy founder Salman Khan at the San Francisco convention of the American Association of Community Colleges. “About six million people around the world watch Khan’s free online tutorials each month, writes Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed.

Khan thinks his nonprofit website can help community colleges, which he said are in the academy’s “sweet spot.” And he views community colleges as potential allies rather than competition.

“We’d love to work with any of you,” said Khan, apparently broaching the suggestion for the first time.

Free online courseware could help remedial students advance at their own pace, Khan said.

AACC leaders talked with Khan about collaborations, said Walter G. Bumphus, the association’s president. “It’s going to be good for community colleges and good for AACC,” Bumphus said.

Many conference sessions focused on using online courses — massive and otherwise — to serve more students, Fain writes. Some community colleges are creating their own online tutorials, often geared to remedial students.

In Louisiana, Bossier Parish Community College offers free, online study guides that teach grammar, skill by skill. Students can prepare for placement tests or brush up on the basics while taking college-level courses.

North Carolina’s Wake Tech Community College is using a Gates Foundation grant to create a massive open online course (MOOC) in remedial math. College instructors create the tutorials; Udacity provides the platform.

MOOC-ing the college cartel

Online learning will revolutionize higher education and liberate students from ever-rising college costs, predicts Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, in an interview with MIT Technology Review.

Here’s what I think it could look like in five years: the learning side will be free, but if and when you want to prove what you know, and get a credential, you would go to a proctoring center [for an exam]. And that would cost something. Let’s say it costs $100 to administer that exam. I could see charging $150 for it. And then you have a $50 margin that you can reinvest on the free-learning side.

 Khan has a book out called The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined,

What’s a credit worth? Moves to give credits to students for taking massive open online courses (MOOCS) or demonstrating competency are threatening the college cartel, writes Jeff Selingo on The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The American Council on Education will review some free online courses offered by elite universities through Coursera and may recommend that other colleges accept credit for them.

Right now, it is easy for most institutions to deny students who ask to transfer credits from their local community college or a for-profit provider, such as StraighterLine. They just say the quality is not up their standards.

But what happens when students arrive at the registrars’ office with credit-bearing courses from professors at Stanford, Penn, and Princeton? What will the excuse be then to reject the credits—that the courses were free? Such an excuse might finally expose the true reason many colleges refuse to accept transfer credits: They want students to pay them tuition for a class, not another institution.

In addition, Southern New Hampshire University’s accreditor has approved its new competency-based associate degree, which is based on students’ knowledge rather than time in class. Students will pay no more than $2,500 a year. The university is working with local employers to design the curriculum.

Western Governors University pioneered the idea. Now, “Southern New Hampshire is about to show whether the idea can work within the walls of a traditional university,” Selingo writes. Northern Arizona University and the University of Wisconsin system also are developing competency-based degrees.

UW’s Flexible Option will let adult students “earn college credit by demonstrating knowledge they have acquired through coursework, military training, on-the-job training, and other learning experiences.”

College brands: A lot of Bologna?

College brands may fade in value, predicts Education Sector’s Kevin Carey. A college’s overall reputation doesn’t guarantee that specific classes, professors or departments will be strong. Students are expected to “buy” all or nearly all their credits from one institution, taking it on faith that they’ll get what they need.

That could be changing, however. Carey is a fan of Europe’s Bologna Process, which is “creating a great deal more transparency with respect to what, exactly, students who have earned credits from a given program or university have actually learned.”

With Lumina Foundation funding, physics and history professors from two- and four-year colleges in Utah are applying a Bologna-style “tuning” method to their courses.

Led by William Evenson, a former professor of physics at Brigham Young University, faculty members developed a comprehensive account of what physics students need to know and be able to do at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.

. . . The group also created “employability maps” by surveying employers of recent physics graduates—including General Electric, Simco Electronics, and the Air Force—to find out what knowledge and skills are needed for successful science careers.

“The process builds in accountability,” Evenson told me. “Once you’ve defined the outcomes, you can ask, ‘Are the programs really doing that?’ If a student finishes and can’t do what’s advertised, they’ll say, ‘I’ve been shortchanged.’

Defined goals and transparency will show that students are overpaying for institutional brands, Carey writes.

The best teaching might be at Salt Lake Community College, or Weber State, or somewhere else entirely. It might even be from a place that’s not an institution at all, but rather a provider of individual, à la carte courses. Openness will let us know.

. . . The irony of institutions dedicated to knowledge creation creating little information about what their own students learn will eventually be history.

Note the success of Khan Academy‘s free YouTube videos, which started as a hobby in 2006, writes the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The most popular educator on YouTube does not have a Ph.D. He has never taught at a college or university. And he delivers all of his lectures from a bedroom closet.

This upstart is Salman Khan, a 33-year-old who quit his job as a financial analyst to spend more time making homemade lecture videos in his home studio. His unusual teaching materials started as a way to tutor his faraway cousins, but his lectures have grown into an online phenomenon—and a kind of protest against what he sees as a flawed educational system.

Khan’s low-tech video lectures, usually 10 minutes long,  get rave reviews from students. He started with math and engineering, but has added history and biology.

Several Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are donating money, allowing Khan to create a nonprofit, pay himself a salary and cut down on his consulting work.