Online Courses for a New Generation of Students
Many politicians, for good reason, constantly bemoan the sad state of education in today’s public schools. Because brick and mortar education is failing to meet many student needs, today’s learners are migrating to the online classroom. Students can take advantage of both free and fee-based courses to meet their educational goals.
Free Online Courses
The number of free online courses represents nothing less than the democratization of education for learners around the globe. High-quality reading materials, teaching videos and supplemental offerings mean that a student can obtain a world-class education online at no charge. Through iTunes U, for instance, students can access a variety of courses remotely taught by professors from multiple universities. Additional free learning opportunities include Khan Academy and MIT OpenCourseware.
With over $15 million in funding from the Gates Foundation and Google, Khan Academy is a non-profit powerhouse that seeks to revolutionize the way that students learn. The Khan Academy, which was recently featured on 60 Minutes, delivers lessons in compact learning modules. Wiith a Khan module, problems or concepts are explained on a screen as though a teacher is writing on a virtual chalkboard. The feel of a Khan lesson mimics the feeling of sitting at a table with a tutor and working on problems. Khan Academy courses can be either found online or downloaded as apps from the iTunes store.
MIT Open Courseware
MIT OpenCourseware features free lecture notes, videos and exams produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to covering nearly every college-level academic subject covered on campus, MIT OpenCourseware operates a “Highlights for High School” section that provides supplementary learning materials to high school teachers. In fact, the initial purpose of OCW was to provide supplementary materials for teachers so that they could design more innovative curriculum for their own classroom. MIT is working to create a social aspect to the courses so that students can work in virtual study groups and share the experience of going through the classes.
Fee-Based Online Courses
Free online courses may provide a memorable learning experience, but these courses do not provide students with degrees or certificates upon completion. Most accredited colleges online still require tuition, but with the costs come the multiple advantages associated with an online education. At the end of the process, students are equipped not only with knowledge but also with a degree to take into the job market.
Penn State World Campus
Penn State’s World Campus is an accredited online college offering a variety of degrees at the associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s level. Through a central platform, students log into their courses, interact with peers and faculty, download content and post comments to online message boards. Courses are designed by professors to mimic the on-campus experience as closely as possible. Professors may also hold learning sessions via Skype for students who need extra assistance.
The Insight School
Online education isn’t limited to just college-level courses. Insight Schools enroll students in online elementary, middle school and high school courses. The accredited courses online are designed for homeschooled students, students pursuing a sports or entertainment career or students who are traveling and cannot attend brick and mortar schools. A recent Wall Street Journal article profiling K-12 students who learn online from home also pointed out that students with learning disabilities and students who are suffering from negative peer interactions can have a superior learning experience through an online curriculum.
Is Online Education Better?
For many students, an online education provides accelerated learning and instructional delivery at a lower cost. Additionally, online learning delivers flexibility, allowing students to work and raise families while still pursuing a rigorous education. Even brick and mortar classroom teachers are using a blended curriculum that pulls online materials into the traditional setting. The New York Times actually reported that, according to a study prepared for the Department of Education, students who learn online actually perform better than students who receive face-to-face instruction. With all of the advantages offered by online education, today’s students are going digital--and loving it.