A couple of online teaching articles in Inside Higher Ed

First, there’s “U.S. push for free online courses:”

WASHINGTON — Community colleges and high schools would receive federal funds to create free, online courses in a program that is in the final stages of being drafted by the Obama administration.

The program is part of a series of efforts to help community colleges reach more students and to link basic skills education to job training. The proposals are outlined in administration discussion drafts obtained by Inside Higher Ed. A formal announcement could come in the next few weeks. In addition to the free online courses, the plan would provide $9 billion over 10 years to help community colleges develop and improve programs related to preparing students for good jobs, and a $10 billion loan fund (at low or no interest) for community college facilities.

Fair enough, but there’s a difference between putting a bunch of stuff up online and offering an online course, and that difference is basically some kind of teacher. I mean, there’s plenty of things online right now to help people to get “good jobs;” making information available in and of itself doesn’t seem like that much of a move to me.

And then there’s this, “The evidence on online education.” Here’s a quote and a link:

Online learning has definite advantages over face-to-face instruction when it comes to teaching and learning, according to a new meta-analysis(PDF) released Friday by the U.S. Department of Education.

The study found that students who took all or part of their instruction online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through face-to-face instruction. Further, those who took “blended” courses — those that combine elements of online learning and face-to-face instruction — appeared to do best of all. That finding could be significant as many colleges report that blended instruction is among the fastest-growing types of enrollment.

But part of what this meta-analysis suggests is that at least some of this is the result of students spending more time with online classes and being more highly motivated– in other words, not so much about the teaching medium as the students themselves. And of course a lot of this depends on how you define some of these key terms: learning, instruction, better, etc., etc. Still, it’s interesting. In my own experiences, it’s hard for me to tell if students are doing better online, but I don’t think they are necessarily doing worse. Of course, a lot of online students don’t finish the courses, which means I guess the ones that finish do “better.”

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