Online Classes for K-12 Students: 10 Research Reports You Need to Know

From Advanced Placement courses offered by state-run virtual schools to credit recovery classes delivered via third-party software, supplemental online education courses have exploded in K-12 education.

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To help policymakers, administrators, educators, parents,and students make sense of it all, Education Week published an overview explaining the many varieties of online classes now available to K-12 students. It’s part of our new special report on the state of classroom technology, which you can read here.

For those who want to dig deeper, here are the reports and research studies that have shaped what we know about the still-murky field of K-12 …

 

How Lasell College Uses Online Programs to Lower Costs for Students

Getting a college education is hard enough as it is nowadays. Prices are high, acceptance rates are low, and the constant competition is hard. Thankfully, universities like Lasell College are trying to make getting a higher education easier, with a growing online education program. This college’s online curriculum lowers costs for students at a surprising rate.

This past month, we interviewed Michael B. Alexander, President of Lasell College, in Newton, MA. We discuss Lasell’s online services, which include an immense amount of purely online courses as well as hybrid online courses for students. Lasell even made the U.S. News and World Report list for the best online graduate business programs (non-MBA).

Wikimedia Commons

Lasell offers a variety of online courses, all led by educators in their designated fields. Some are specifically aimed at graduate certifications, while others are MBA programs. These courses range from programs on emergency crisis management, to public relations, and even hospitality and event management.

Alexander goes in depth into Lasell’s pricing for online courses, and discusses their newest pilot program. He hopes to grow the individual’s experience while at college, even when enrolled in online classes. Lasell College is part of a group of small colleges who are working to create lower cost models for independent colleges.

“There is no way to significantly lower the cost without changing the way we deliver the education,” Alexander noted.

But even with this, Lasell manages to shell out credits for around $600 a piece, significantly lower than other colleges around the Massachusetts area, and something the Lasell administration is immensely proud of. The college hopes these online courses can help students get ahead of their current academic plan. Lasell is able to create these interactive online courses with the help from Moodle, an online learning platform.

As more students turn away from the standard four year college experience, online programs like Lasell’s will continue to rise and bring in students who want a better shot at getting a higher education.

 

Vinay IAS Academy starts online classes

Jamshedpur, June 16: Vinay IAS Academy, preferred institution for Civil Services, Banking and other competition examination started online classes for students preparing for IAS and banking exam.

Director of the Academy Vinay Singh started the online classes at its Sakchi situated institute on Friday. This will help the students at the 18 centres of the academy for which the students will have to login to www.vinaysiasacademy.in and can also ask questions online.

The facility was started for eight different batches at the academy.

Director of the academy, Vinay Singh said, soon railway and SSC batches will also be made online. He further said that the academy has already started All India Test Series for which winners of first, second and third place will get cash prize of Rs 25000.

The award will be announced on July 3. On the other hand the successful students of civil services from Jamshedpur will be felicitated on July 19.

 

Is online education right for you?

As a student at the University of Delaware, Harrison Young had a lot on his plate. With a double major in economics, in addition to energy and environmental policy, Young was balancing a rigorous academic schedule against a busy life on campus.

To offset some of the pressure, Young enrolled in a banking class during a fall semester that counted toward his major. Visiting home one winter break, he took an African-American history class. And then, one summer, Young fit a philosophy course around his work as a golf caddie and an internship, satisfying a humanities requirement. All of the courses, it’s worth noting, were online.

A young man is shown studying for an online education course on his laptop

“Taking these remote courses gave me much greater flexibility in my schedule, and doing the work on my own forced me to sit down and figure it out,” says Young, who graduated from Delaware in 2016. Now, the 23-year-old works at the intersection of solar energy design and sales.

Young is not alone. As recently as 2014, more than five million students were enrolled in online or “distance learning” programs at post-secondary institutions that grant degrees, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. That’s nearly one-third of all such students.

Online students don’t fit any one particular profile: While many traditional 18- to 24-year-old college students enroll in distance-learning courses, there are plenty of adults with families and full-time careers also seeking to further their education online. Whatever the demographic, the freedom and flexibility of distance-learning is attractive to people from many walks of life.

students are studying

A modern take on an old higher-education model

Technology and changes in teaching philosophies have contributed to the rising popularity of online education, says Julie Uranis, vice president for online and strategic education at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association.

“We know that students need engaging and personalized learning experiences that move beyond the in-person pedagogical approaches that served as the framework for distance learning in the early days,” says Uranis. “There are many new technologies and opportunities available online that enhance the student learning experience.”

Today’s online educational experiences go far beyond simply watching recorded lectures on their computers. Distance learning students can choose between live-streamed and pre-recorded lectures. They can access assignments and course materials via increasingly sophisticated software. They can interact with professors and classmates by text, email or video chat. Home test-taking can even be proctored.

Students who live near the institution offering online classes frequently have the option to meet face-to-face with their instructors during normal office hours—just like their peers at brick-and-mortar schools. Online students can also often participate in campus activities including sports, clubs and Greek life.

An alternative route to a dream school

Riley DeLucas, 20, always wanted to go to the University of Florida at Gainesville (UF). When she didn’t get into the traditional program, DeLucas discovered another path to make her dream come true : she applied to and was accepted into the UF online program.

“It had everything I wanted,” says DeLucas. “And since I’d taken dual enrollment classes during high school, I already knew how to be successful.”

Now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health education and behavior, all of DeLucas’ classes have so far been online. She recently applied for a different major in health sciences. If accepted, the program will be a hybrid one of online and in-person classes.

Staying organized is key

For DeLucas, online coursework has been an ideal way for her to earn her degree and simultaneously maintain her job as a sales associate for a national fitness franchise.

“Flexibility is the main advantage,” DeLucas says. While DeLucas must meet the same deadlines and carry the same workload as traditional students, the way she fits it all into her busy schedule is completely up to her.

students looking at bulletin board

Staying motivated

Joe Obermaier, 50, can attest to how essential self-motivation and diligence is to the success of a distance-learning student. The married father of two teenagers not only works full-time, but is also earning his master’s degree in Information Design and Technology from the State University of New York, Polytechnic–completely online.

“Time is definitely a big problem, particularly for project deadlines,” says Obermaier. “The real world and your family don’t care. You can’t let things slide or you’ll get buried quickly.”

To keep ahead of the work, Obermaier regularly works on his classwork late at night or early in the morning.

The accreditation question

One of the first things Obermaier checked when evaluating potential programs was whether his online degree, once awarded, would be different from a traditional degree in any significant way.

Online degrees offered from traditional campuses are accredited through national and regional accreditors—exactly the same way on-campus programs are. Distance-only institutions are sometimes accredited differently.

“While some accreditors treat distance programs as a substantive change from on-campus programs, others do not and treat the programs—if taught by the same faculty and focused on the same curriculum—no differently than on-campus programs,” Uranis says.

For distance-only institutions, there are specialized accreditors who focus on just these schools, and federally recognized accreditors can be found here.

Before you sign up, do your homework

Students researching online programs should consider the following:

  • Be sure the institution is eligible for federal financial student aid. If not, the program may not have met certain standards under Title IV of the Higher Education Act.
  • If the coursework leads to a type of licensure or professional practice, such as nursing or accounting, the program must have professional accreditation for students to sit for the certification exam.
  • Before making any decisions, consider online degree options at local community colleges, public, regional and state universities and non-profit institutions for the most affordable options.

 

10 Online Bachelor’s Programs With Small Classes

The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matter to you in your college or graduate school search.

For online students, interaction with classmates can be challenging given their distance from campus – and each other.

But in synchronous, or live, online courses, students generally participate in real-time discussions through videoconferencing, which allows for regular communication and opportunities to build relationships. In those cases, some experts say, smaller class sizes help students feel more engaged.

 Old Main academic building on campus of Utah State University Logan Utah

Still, experts are divided on how heavily to weigh class size when it comes to asynchronous, or self-paced, online classes, where students complete coursework around their own schedule. Many online classes are a combination of both.

Among the 211 ranked online bachelor’s programs that submitted these data to U.S. News in an annual survey, the average proportion of courses with just two to nine students between July 2015 and June 2016 was 25.2 percent. But among the 10 online colleges where classes of that size were the most common, the proportion was significantly higher: 83.5 percent.

Two schools on the list – Toccoa Falls College in Georgia and Georgia College & State University – reported to U.S. News that 100 percent of online courses had two to nine students.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the online bachelor’s programs at the University of Central Florida, where 48.1 percent of courses have 100 or more students, and the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, where 45.4 percent of classes had at least 100 students.

Among all the online colleges that submitted class size data, the average number of students per online course in 2015-2016 was 20.8. Of the 10 schools on this list, the average was slightly lower, at 14.5.

Below is a list of the 10 online bachelor’s programs where the greatest percentage of classes during the 2015-2016 school year had two to nine students. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be ranked, were not considered for this report.

School (state) Percentage of classes with two to nine students U.S. News rank
Georgia College & State University 100% 28 (tie)
Toccoa Falls College (GA) 100% 193 (tie)
Logan University (MO) 86.1% 205 (tie)
University of West Alabama 85.1% RNP*
City University of Seattle 80.4% 45 (tie)
Utah State University 80.1% 14
Dominican College (NY) 77.1% 193 (tie)
Tabor College (KS) 75.9% 220 (tie)
Kentucky Wesleyan College 75% 205 (tie)
University of Denver 75% 48 (tie)

*RNP denotes an institution that is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its rankings category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.

School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.

U.S. News surveyed more than 300 colleges and universities for our 2017 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs rankings. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data come from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The class size data above are correct as of June 13, 2017.

 

Students can opt for fully online degree courses soon

Students and working professionals will soon be able to obtain a degree online and it will be recognised by higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission. The human resource development ministry has decided to allow universities to offer such degrees and is drafting rules, official sources told HT.

Once the rules are in place, institutes will be able to offer online degrees in all fields, except engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture and physiotherapy.

Online education

At present, the commission does not recognise any course offered solely through the online mode. A student can get a degree by enrolling in a university and attending classes or through a distancing-learning module. From this year, the government has allowed universities to offer 20% of their course material through the Massive Open

Online Courses (MOOCs) platform called Swayam. But if a student gets a degree through any online course, it’s not recognised. A number of private universities offer online degrees but not many students opt for them as they are not recognised by the UGC.

The ministry has now started preparing draft regulations for online programmes that will allow universities and higher educational institutes to offer degrees by conducting exams online; students will not have to attend classes physically. The draft came up for discussion before the UGC and the HRD ministry recently.

“World over online degrees and courses are offered by institutes and they have gained respectability. Students will not be required to attend classes but will take e-tutorials to help them understand the concepts. Institutes will have to apply to the UGC for approval and degrees by such institutes will be recognised,” said a senior official.

To qualify, a university would have to be NAAC-accredited with a minimum score of 3.25 on a four-point scale to ensure quality.

According to the official, the online platform will be integrated with Aadhaar to verify the identity of learners at the time of application as well as through the duration of the programme, including examinations. “The programmes can be designed for conventional learners, as well as working professionals depending on what the institute is looking for,” the official said.

Apart from the actual programme delivery, components such as the counselling process, online application processing and fee payment will also be provide online.

 

Students can opt for fully online degree courses soon

Students and working professionals will soon be able to obtain a degree online and it will be recognised by higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission. The human resource development ministry has decided to allow universities to offer such degrees and is drafting rules, official sources told HT.

Once the rules are in place, institutes will be able to offer online degrees in all fields, except engineering, medicine, dental, pharmacy, nursing, architecture and physiotherapy.

At present, the commission does not recognise any course offered solely through the online mode. A student can get a degree by enrolling in a university and attending classes or through a distancing-learning module. From this year, the government has allowed universities to offer 20% of their course material through the Massive Open

Online education

Online Courses (MOOCs) platform called Swayam. But if a student gets a degree through any online course, it’s not recognised. A number of private universities offer online degrees but not many students opt for them as they are not recognised by the UGC.

The ministry has now started preparing draft regulations for online programmes that will allow universities and higher educational institutes to offer degrees by conducting exams online; students will not have to attend classes physically. The draft came up for discussion before the UGC and the HRD ministry recently.

“World over online degrees and courses are offered by institutes and they have gained respectability. Students will not be required to attend classes but will take e-tutorials to help them understand the concepts. Institutes will have to apply to the UGC for approval and degrees by such institutes will be recognised,” said a senior official.

To qualify, a university would have to be NAAC-accredited with a minimum score of 3.25 on a four-point scale to ensure quality.

According to the official, the online platform will be integrated with Aadhaar to verify the identity of learners at the time of application as well as through the duration of the programme, including examinations. “The programmes can be designed for conventional learners, as well as working professionals depending on what the institute is looking for,” the official said.

Apart from the actual programme delivery, components such as the counselling process, online application processing and fee payment will also be provide online.

 

Giving Online Learning a Try With a Crash Course in Robot Ethics

It’s 6 a.m. in Los Angeles, but I have a fresh pot of coffee beside me, and I’m ready for class to begin.

Class, in this case, is being conducted through my computer. I’m enrolled in a massive open online course (MOOC) through FutureLearn, and for the past three weeks, my Philosophy of Technology and Design class has studied the challenges (and opportunities) between humans and our emerging silicon cousins (robots, automated transportation, and other things as yet uninvented).

Our professor, Dr. Peter-Paul Verbeek, is from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, while my classmates include AI researchers, industrial engineers from Indonesia, a civil engineer from South Korea, system designer from India, quite a few educators from Western Europe, and at least nine PhDs from Denmark, Italy, UK, and the US.

We’re not alone. According to stats from Class Central, at least 23 million people registered for a MOOC for the first time in 2016; overall, 58 million students at 700+ universities took 6,850 online courses worldwide last year.

A Crash Course in ‘PhilTech’

In my Philosophy of Technology class, we started with a primer in—new jargon alert!—PhilTech concepts, from the “classical” approaches of Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers up to the current instrumentalism view, where tech is an instrument of human desires and goals, versus determinism (tech evolution changes society itself).

Then we looked at tech devices, specifically robots, as “mediating” between us and the world, particularly when used in teaching and health care as assistants. These so-called social robots are designed to recognize and interpret human behavior, then respond appropriately.

Softbank Pepper Robot

One example the professor provided was a security robot in a shopping mall that needs to know whether people are inciting a riot or merely dancing merrily in a flash mob. Most human-robot interaction designers do this by embedding socio-emotive A.I. (like Affectiva) so robots can examine facial cues. So beware if you’re glowering to goth music, as robots could misinterpret your dance moves as nefarious activity.

Week three focused on ethics, morals, and behavior-influencing technology. Are there ethics in things? The short answer, our professor explained, is no. Things don’t possess intent; only humans do. But, Dr. Verbeek continued, technologies can be seen as moral agents.

“Ethical actions and decisions are not taken in a vacuum, but within a context in which technologies inevitably play a role. Technologies mediate ethics, mediate morality,” he said. “They inform our ethical choices, our ethical behavior and therefore, we need to deal with mediations in a responsible way, when we use design or implement technologies.”

Dr. Verbeek then asked, “So, can we design moral technologies?”—a concept which, I admit, I’d never really considered.

“In the same way that automatic turnstiles are designed to prevent people from entering the metro without a ticket, technologies can be designed that stimulate environmentally friendly behavior and discourage environmentally unfriendly behaviour, such as speed limiters in automobiles or water-saving showerheads,” Dr. Verbeek said

If you’re curious, here’s a TedX speech he gave on this:

A MOOC Convert?

So, having finished the three week MOOC, how did I fare?

It was certainly different to my student days at the University of London many (many) years ago. The MOOC had an appealingly clean UI, and it was simple to navigate through the various tasks; a progress bar let you know where you were in the allotted steps.

FutureLearnI enjoyed being able to watch videos, read the transcript, go to discussions to review what my fellow students thought, complete textual responses to the professor’s questions (without fighting for attention in a lecture hall or sitting through a boring response from the teacher’s pet), and then mark as complete—all from the comforts of my Life/Work space in Los Angeles.

I didn’t pay to be “graded,” though. For how I currently earn my living, I don’t feel I need any more qualifications. But I’m open to the idea, and that is part of the FutureLearn business model, after all.

Of course participating in a MOOC is a great way for educational establishments to source bright international students. Professor Verbeek has open enrollment to his Master’s program—Philosophy of Science Technology and Society—and, judging from the conversation in the threaded discussions after each week’s assignments, at least some of my fellow students are considering it.

In an email, Dr. Verbeek said he sees the MOOC as an ideal new way to bring the latest academic insights to those outside a traditional college campus.

“For me, offering a MOOC on our current work is an important way to connect academia and society. I regard it as our social responsibility to bring philosophical insights to social contexts where they can be helpful and meaningful,” he said. “It’s very inspiring to me that people with so many different backgrounds participated in the MOOC. I really hope that it gave them refreshing new views and insights, and helps them to think more critically and perhaps even responsibly about technology in their daily life and work.”

The best aspect, for me, was access to truly interesting thinkers—over 5,600 miles away—and taking the time to ponder subjects that intrigue me, without committing to expensive travel. Through the MOOC, I obtained a clearer understanding of the design issues inherent in human-robot interaction, and know it will inform my future reporting for PCMag on this emerging field.

 

Why Take Online Courses Over the Summer

After all the exams, essays, class projects, and lectures, the last thing you want to be concerned with is taking a class over the summer. Seriously! Summer is for sunny weather, sandy beaches, top-down car drives, and rocked out concerts. But before you leave all the summer classes to the nerds and bookworms, think again.

Free time is always in high demand but giving up a few minutes each day over the summercould translate into being ahead of the class when the fall semester rolls in.

When I was an undergraduate student and even as a graduate student, I initially considered taking a break over the summer each year. But after taking my first summer classes as a freshman, I made sure to take summer classes each year because doing so has a couple more perks than it does pains.

If you’re curious as to what online summer school is all about and whether it is a good idea for you, here are some things to consider.

Flexibility

Unlike the fall and spring semesters where you have to be on campus each week, taking summer classes allows you a range of options. One of those options is online learning. You can choose to take classes online at your convenience and study at your own time and pace. Be sure to check with your school to make sure your credits will be accepted toward your degree program.

Get ahead

Online summer classes offer a great opportunity to get ahead of your peers. This doesn’t mean you should go and rub it in their faces. But you can get all of the general education classes or a particularly difficult class (e.g., algebra or earth science) out of the way so you can focus on your core major courses during the regular school term. Being ahead of the game never looked so good.

Freedom

Online courses are typically structured in a cooler, more relaxed manner than on-campus courses. This should not be mistaken to think that you don’t have to work just as hard or that you can skip out on doing an assignment. The same level of focus and dedication applies. But you’ll experience more freedom in terms of attendance, what you wear, and in-class interaction and group study meetings.

Workload

I cannot say that the workload is easier in an online class than in an on-campus class. But if you can carry a similar level of willingness to work hard and commitment to completing the assignments, you will do just fine. Don’t get upset if a teacher doesn’t respond to your questions immediately; they’re also trying to enjoy their summer. Some courses have less writing while others have more writing. It all depends on what you choose to take.

Cost

The cost of college is already increasingly expensive. The last thing you need is more college debt to think about. Even though you will likely pay several hundred dollars for an online class, you will be having the cost of commuting back and forth to campus, paying for lunch and snacks, and eliminating additional costs like new outfits every other week. On top of that, it is often cheaper to take courses during the summer than the regular school year.

Anywhere, everywhere

You can still hit the beach, go on that road trip, head overseas, and hang out with friends for a weekend because you can keep up with assignments with your laptop. We often talk about the downside to living in the digital age but learning on the go, anywhere and everywhere, is one upside, making learning more versatile.

Transfer credits

This is a pretty cool part about taking online classes during the summer. Credits are typically easily transferrable to your primary learning institution. Be sure to check with your educational institution to ensure credits from the online classes you plan on taking will be accepted especially if you’re taking them at another college.

Learn something new

If you want to try something that is not part of your core learning program, taking an extra class outside of your field may be the answer. For example, this summer, I am taking programming classes, completely different from my major in psychology but I’m sure it is going to be both fun and challenging.

Get to graduation faster

Taking classes each summer during your school year may allow you to graduate early while your peers have a semester or two left in their academic career. After you walk across that stage, you can take some time off to prepare for a job or do some of the things you love.

There is always a way to advance your education, consistently grow so you can be a better student and a better employee, and stay ahead of the curve. Once you consider all the great benefits of online summer classes, you may find yourself rethinking spending three months on vacation and heading to your computer for a class in art history or sociology.

Sundaram Finance backs online education loans marketplace GyanDhan

GyanDhan, an online marketplace for education loans operated by Delhi-based Senbonzakura Consultancy Pvt. Ltd, has secured an undisclosed amount from Sundaram Finance Holdings, a subsidiary of Chennai-based Sundaram Finance Ltd, it said in a statement.

GyanDhan, which was founded by IIT Kanpur alumnus Ankit Mehra and IIT Delhi graduate Jainesh Sinha in May 2016, facilitates loans for students aspiring to pursue studies abroad. It has tied up with Axis Bank and State Bank of India to offer loans, and takes a commission from the lenders. The company claims to have helped more than 250 students get education loans worth Rs 60 crore.

The platform had raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs and Harvard Angels in July last year .

It had earlier received angel funding from Satyen Kothari, founder of Cube and Citrus Pay.

Sundaram Finance deals in retail finance with a presence in vehicle finance, home finance, mutual funds, general insurance and financial services distribution.

“We are already engaging with multiple startups with various types of engagement models – operational, financing and equity investments,” said Harsha Viji, deputy managing director, Sundaram Finance.

The group is looking to buy minority stakes in early-stage ventures for $1 million or less, though larger investments will be made where they are needed, it said.

The group is also planning to co-invest with venture capitalists and angel investors in this space.

In the same space, Chennai-based school financing company Shiksha Financial Services India Pvt. Ltd had received about Rs 6.7 crore ($1 million) from The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation along with Aspada Investment Company last year in November.

Other players in the segment are Delhi-based Indian School Finance Company Pvt. Ltd (ISFC) and Bangalore-based Thirumeni Finance Pvt. Ltd, which operates under the banner of Varthana.

While ISFC caters to private unaided schools, vocational colleges, coaching and tuition centres, Shiksha provides loans for asset creation, working capital and school fee in the education sector. Varthana offers loans to private schools that cater to the poor and the emerging middle class.

In September 2016, ISFC raised Rs 10 crore ($1.5 million) in funding from US-based impact investment firm Gray Matters Capital and its associate fund GrayGhost Ventures.

In April 2016, Varthana raised Rs 93 crore ($14 million) in its Series B round of financing led by Kaizen Private Equity and Zephyr Peacock India.