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College online courses are costly, result in high drop-out rate, report says – Vallejo Times-Herald

By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer

Online education — considered by some a savior of sorts for cash-depleted universities and community colleges — actually costs more in the long run and does not deliver the goods, according to a series of reports.

The latest report concludes that efforts to expand online education into remedial and introductory classes is “misguided.”

The third in a series of reports by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education highlights the challenges underserved students face when taking online classes. It suggests the courses they might widen the academic achievement gap among various groups.

In total, the reports examines costs and consequences of students taking many of their courses through a computer screen rather than in a classroom.

“One of the things we noticed is that there is a lot of rhetoric and promises but when you look at the facts it’s not that clear,” campaign member Susan Meisenhelder said.

One major concern is a large percentage of students (in some cases up to 90 percent) never finish the online courses they take, Meisenhelder said.

Solano Community College Vice President of Academic Affairs Diane White said 12 percent of the school’s courses are offered online. She said they do have benefits in offering more flexibility, but post challenges, too.

“It’s not for every student. It takes a very high degree of motivation,” White said. “What we’ve found is the achievement gap for students is greater in online classes than in face-to-face” classroom settings, she added.

Students must be “highly motivated” and also possess good reading skills to complete the courses, White said, adding that a high percentage drop out of the online classes.

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White said it’s unclear if such courses actually save the college money, and added she is not surprised by various reports critical of them.

Napa Valley College Vice President of Instruction Faye Smyle shared similar concerns with White, according to a statement she e-mailed to the Times-Herald. She wrote online classes can be valuable for students who cannot get to the campus,.

But, she said students are more successful with these classes if they have some interaction with teachers.

Some pointed to online education as a way to solve the crisis of long waiting lists for many classes. At one time there were as many as 400,000 students on waiting lists to get into classes.

All three branches of the California system of higher education use online courses now.

Meisenhelder said the report examines online education across the country and was produced after educational advocates saw a “mad rush” of schools to implement such courses.

Such classes can cost more to produce than traditional classes where students go to a classroom and interact with an instructor, Meisenhelder said.

Another major concern the campaign has with the system are the partnerships schools form with for-profit companies to design and administer the courses, Meisenhelder said. Some firms take up to 50 percent of the fees or tuition, she said.

In expanding their own online degree programs, some public and for-profit colleges charge more for students to take these courses, she said.

The campaign also shares White and Smyle’s views that to be used most effectively, online courses should include some component for human interaction with an instructor, preferably on the campus.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.

Chicago Catholic schools offer online classes for middle and high schoolers – Chicago Sun-Times

The Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools is going digital.

As of Tuesday, the national largest private school system is offering online classes to middle and high school students through its new Virtual Academy as a complement to existing classes taught at its schools, the institution announced.

The move could one day pave the way for the school system to offer online diplomas, according to Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of the school system.

The new online curriculum covers all core middle school and high school subjects, including math, science, social studies and language arts. Students also will be able to choose from 45 elective courses, including computer programming, six languages, music and art appreciation.

Middle School tuition is $289 for each half-year course covering 18 weeks, and $399 for each full-year course covering 36 weeks.

At the high school level, tuition for a full-year course ranges from roughly $149 to $749 depending on the number and types of courses.

Tuition at the Archdiocese physical schools ranges from about $2,800 at the smallest elementary and middle schools to $18,000 at a high school for enrollment in six classes with extracurricular activities.

We are very excited to launch our Virtual Academy, said Sister McCaughey. We believe this is an opportunity to serve students, to be able to differentiate instruction. It another tool.

Students could ultimately have the option of graduating from an online archdiocesan school, although its premature to predict that with certainty, she suggested.

We are looking at that, she said. I think we want to get our feet wet, make sure that everything works, that [the courses] have the rigor that we need and that there great school communication. But I think down the line we can take a look to see if we want to be a literal virtual academy, to really engage home schoolers or others who want to get that kind of diploma online.

The Virtual Academy unveiled Tuesday is designed for accelerated learners, students who wish to take additional advanced placement courses, those who want to explore enrichment options and students who are training for competition or careers, including athletes and musicians. It also targets students who are unable to attend a traditional school due to travel, family situations, and illness; need more time than the standard classroom time to master concepts; and those who have learning challenges, the school system said.

Earlier this month, the city of Chicago announced it will provide free online tutoring seven days a week through the Chicago Public Library system for first-graders through high school seniors.

The Archdiocese of Chicago school system serves 84,000 students in 244 schools in Cook and Lake counties.

Email: Fknowles@suntimes.com

Twitter: @KnowlesFran

Archdiocese launches online classes for middle, high school students – Chicago Tribune

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago on Tuesday announced that it has begun offering online courses to its tens of thousands of middle and high school students as part of a partnership with a private firm.

Courses, many of which students can begin within days of enrollment, are designed to serve students in grades six through 12 who either require an accelerated pace or need more time to master concepts. Students can take summer school, learn languages, and enroll in additional advanced-placement courses or electives otherwise not available at their school.

According to Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Catholic Schools, teachers are employed by Keystone, the subsidiary of a firm that partnered with the Miami Archdiocese earlier this year.

We are aware of the evolving delivery systems and modes of digital learning and believe that the Virtual Academy will help our kids by expanding the definition of what is a great Catholic school, McCaughey said in a statement.

The online option is also available to students who can’t attend a traditional school because of travel, family situations or illness, and to musicians or athletes who are training for competitions or careers. To get credit in a Catholic school, students must be enrolled there. But home-schooling families seeking a similar curriculum can sign up directly with the firm.

Middle school courses cost $289 to $399, depending on the length of the course. High school courses cost $149 to $749, depending on the subject. Tuition goes directly to the firm, not the archdiocese.

McCaughey told the Tribune that the archdiocese conducted webinars for principals and looked at sample courses before signing up. She expects many students will take advantage of the language options. Keystone offers Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, German, Latin and French.

Email: mbrachear@tribune.com Twitter: @TribSeeker

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