Online, virtual courses work for some self-motivated, technically savvy students with good study habits. But the Los Angeles Times has published two recent articles about high failure rates in online courses at both the community college and university level.
Times reporter Carla Rivera reported Thursday, July 18, that San Jose State was suspending a much publicized collaboration with online provider Udacity to offer low-cost, for-credit online courses after more than half of the students failed the math classes.
Pass rates were 20 percent to 44 percent in remedial math, college-level algebra and elementary statistics courses. The university expanded the program this summer with two new courses in computer science and psychology. The classes cost $150 each.
Rivera also reported July 6 about arguments that students who need the most personal attention end up getting the least in online classes. Only 15 of 45 students at Pierce College in Woodland Hills who started an online remedial algebra class completed and passed the class.
Colleges and universities say they spend way too much on remedial education, covering concepts students should have learned and remembered from high school. The problem is that existing high school graduation requirements, based on workforce requirements from previous decades, fall short of college expectations. The requirements are due to change in 2014.
Online courses have been touted as a more cost-effective way to teach the remedial classes.
Some students are highly motivated and may succeed. I suspect they’re not the ones taking remedial classes unless they are confident, mature adults returning from the workforce. More typical students need lots of oversight, guidance from an inspiring teacher and frequent regular deadlines.
School districts have been offering optional online classes for gifted students who want to get ahead. The students must have good study habits.
I remember one of my son’s high school classmates sitting on our sofa with a laptop computer a couple of years ago. The friend was frantically trying to catch up for a midterm in an online American History class. The friend apparently had neglected the online course most of the semester until that day. My son’s friend was a very smart kid, but he was still a teenage kid. Kids tend to procrastinate.
I never thought an online class would be good for my own son. His high school study habits could not be described as self-motivated and he’s what some educators used to call a “social learner,” who thrives in group work where he refuses to let down his peers.
It turns out, online classes don’t work for less-advanced students at 19 or 20 any better than for 16- or 17-year-olds.