Applying MOOC thinking to traditional passing rates

mischievous-studentrecent article in The Atlantic discussed the ways in which instructors of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) present their data, such as passing rates.  These courses are clearly a new frontier for education.  While some would argue that they represent the future of education (at least, higher education), a recent backlash and disappointing return on investment are causing some big players to rethink their role.

The author, a MOOC instructor, used some great graphics to show the relative numbers of students who enroll in the course, visit at least one page, watch at least one seminar, etc.  Her message was this: the sheer size of the course and the low barrier to entry make it unfair to count most students as being “in the class”.

Her point is a valid one.  It is clear that the extremely low cost and easy access of MOOCs lead many students to enroll who have neither the time nor the motivation to actually take the courses.  But couldn’t something similar be said for public school classes? Continue reading


Will It Blend?

It seems that the Educational “Meme of the Month” is blended learning.  Thanks to plugs from NBC’s Education Nation event and high-profile articles in the Huffington Post, Grand Rapids Press, and other news outlets, blended education is seriously “trending”.

As an educator, I see great promise in an education system that mixes self-paced online education with classroom instruction.  I recognize the potential for loosening the chains on our high-performing students, giving them the freedom to learn in an accelerated way.  I see the opportunity for more attention to be placed on the lowest achieving students as a teacher’s workload is diminished (by those advanced students “teaching themselves”).

I witness all of this and I wonder: Will this change ever really come to public education?

I have every right to be skeptical.  I’ve seen my share of doomed initiatives and watered-down reforms fail miserably.  I’ve gotten excited about upcoming changes, only to see those changes derailed and postponed and eventually cancelled due to lack of funding.  It’s ridiculously depressing and it has led me to be uncharacteristically jaded about new ideas in education.

And, that’s why–for now–I’m going to keep my head down, keep my feet on the ground, and avoid gazing up at those sparkly lights in the sky.  I’ll just have to wait and see.

Am I being too cynical?