Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3? (4:54 E.R.T.)

The new SAT reinforces racial and income disparities.   The only surprising part of the article is the “new” part.  I’ll admit that I haven’t paid too much attention to the SAT since around 1990.  However, in grad school I read a lot about continuation of the status quo of racial and economic divides through standardized testing.  I guess the somewhat surprising part of this piece is that with all of the articles and books which have talked about this bias, that the College Board would, against recommendations by reviewers they paid, continue in this model.  So yes, this will effect groups of people from getting into their first or second choice schools.  However, there is another layer to this.  Community colleges which don’t use the SAT as part of their admissions policy may be using the SAT scores in placing students in certain classes.  So if you do attend the community college, and your problem solving in “rich and varied contexts” or reading extremely verbose math problems in your second language isn’t up to par, you may be placed in lower math classes.  And it may take you longer to graduate, or perhaps that extra semester or two will be the barrier which keeps you from graduating.  This does deserve more press, but deserves an added layer of consideration in using the SAT to place students in specific classes.

This article form Inside Higher Ed talks about a textbook program instituted at Indiana University.  Instead of having students buy new textbooks, used textbooks, and potentially not buy textbooks the school promises to buy e-texts in bulk so all the students have to buy them.  Professors currently have the option to opt out, but it sounds like it must be lucrative for the school and certainly for the publishers.  I find it interesting that students said they prefer e-texts as long as the instructor uses the book.  I remember several years ago using a videogame in my classes and students said they would prefer to buy a game they used than an expensive textbook they didn’t.  My big question would be, are the students learning more, just as much, or less?  I agree cost is a question, there are OERs for cost without parsing out content, course design, and potentially retention of student data to the publishers.

Can online higher education courses replace traditional college?  So what is traditional college anyway?  Is it Animal House?  Or PCU?  Perhaps more along the lines of prep school movies like School Ties, the Emperor’s Club, or Dead Poet’s Society?  Or is it more along the lines of a community college or a residential school where most students take at least one online class already?  I think what the article is really asking is will we get to a place where an entirely online degree from Walden counts the same as a residential degree from Harvard?  The answer is no.  And will someone with a doctoral degree from Walden be in the running for a position at a research I against someone with a doctoral degree from Harvard, again the answer is no.  So replace at that level, no.  But are there many jobs out there which require a bachelor’s degree, or for a promotion require an advanced degree for which an online degree can fill that need?  Yes.  And if we think in an international context, I read once that if India built a 4yr school a day for the next 20 years they would still not have enough colleges for the populace.  (That very hypothetical statement would put them near the number of US universities (4500) in 10 years and almost double the US number in 20 for a population three times that of the US)  So there is a need within the US and certainly around the world for education, and for degrees, and in order to fill that need we will have to get to a point where an online degree from an accredited online institution counts the same as that from a similarly accredited brick and mortar institution.  Though my guess is that line will blur dramatically.

I am not familiar with the platform discussed in this article.  Though I am familiar with other, similar products.  I want to share this, because there are discussions in ed tech circles and in different admin circles about the future of online learning.  This doesn’t refer to the article above about online degree program, but more the future form of how online learning is conducted.  Could I teach a history class online with only email?  Yes, I could send out lectures as text and require papers back and call it a day.  Could I offer a course on facebook?  Sure I could post lectures, allow for discussion and videos, and still have them email me papers.  So do I need an LMS?  Well I guess I just gave two examples in which I don’t.  But what about math, or surgical technology, or automotive?  When a school has to think about various departments we often come back to an LMS, which by the majority of people is considered, mostly useful or mostly harmless.  But there are those who are advocating using platforms like the one in the article, with perhaps some other specialized programs or software.  And when a school has to think about that LMS question, it is useful to think about what other people are using to meet a need and to think about what do I need, what do I want, and what could I potentially do if I thought ala carte about the products I use for teaching.

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