Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Changing Face of Education

Opportunities in education today would have been impossible even a few decades back. With the popularity of the Internet, easy accessibility to computers and the World Wide Web, higher education has been transformed into a new dynamic entity. With technology progressing at a rapid pace and demands changing almost daily, our lives are only becoming busier. The world around us is left with no option but to change and move along with the times to accommodate to our new schedules and requirements. This is more than apparent in the field of education. As times change, fewer and fewer students rely on the traditional method of attending classes at a college campus. The 'brick and mortar' type of education still exists but now side by side with the option of graduating from an online degree program as well.
As the number of people who look for ways to complete their education or improve their skills becomes too large, it is inevitable that a large number of colleges and universities take the necessary steps towards filling that need. But jobs, childcare and other family obligations limit the amount of time people can devote to their education, and thus, alternative arrangements are created. Online education has started gaining popularity and has now completely changed the way we approach education today.
Online degrees are now widely accepted and recognized as authentic educational qualifications. As long as the institution offering the degree is accredited by an accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, there should be no problem in the degree being accepted and acknowledged anywhere. Fully accredited online degree programs are now available in nearly every field. From management to medicine, law to accounting, there is a wide variety of choices on offer. Even obscure subjects and fields of study have found their place on the Internet. With degrees such as healthcare, students are even given the option of combining the practical aspect of their training at local hospitals or clinics along with virtual classes and studying online.
The flexibility of online education has opened up the doors of education to people from all walks of life. Stay at home moms and dads can now study from their own houses and employees can complete their assignments around their work schedules. There is 24 hour accessibility to the study material allowing for all night study sessions as well as the possibility of returning to subject matter again and again if necessary. And as universities continue to expand their options, the flexibility of online education will only increase. Students will be offered more options with the possibility of a custom created curriculum that suits their individual requirements and interests.
Distance learning also allows people hundreds of miles away to graduate with degrees from the college of their choice. Without spending a penny on gas or transport, students can make the most of a world class education with resources and faculty from all over the world. Through pre-recorded lectures, worksheets, assignments, e-classes, online forums, and tests, students can view, interact, and study from the comfort of their own space.
With a more flexible attendance policy, students can choose to tackle their workload as quickly or as slowly as they need to (all within a larger pre-determined schedule, of program). While this freedom may prove to be a little daunting to a new student, after completing a few programs, it becomes easier to get used to this new way of studying. To be successful in an online program, a large amount of self discipline and motivation is imperative. Without which it is all too easy to take advantage of the flexibility of the program and not achieve much. And while online education is definitely less expensive than a traditional degree program, to spend time, money and effort on something that is not taken seriously will not accomplish anything in the long run.
Online education in short offers every individual the right information in the right format at the right time for the best chances of success. Once upon a time online schools were considered the next wave of education and that future is finally here - ready to change the way we look at education way beyond the boundaries of any classroom.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ten REALLY Bold Ways to Transform US Education

I'm not a reformer. It's not that things don't need to change-it's that they need to change in such massive ways that "reform" doesn't even begin to touch it. I'm not a policy wonk or researcher either, but I do admire those who focus on the stats and the details of what is working (and what isn't) and who write about what might be done to improve schools based on the evidence. I appreciate that we need to know some facts in order to make informed decisions.
So, I guess I'm approaching the education issue from a more practical and intuitive position. For years, I've been teaching people how to pay attention, and I follow my own advice about cultivating awareness and watching what's going on in the world around me.
Simply paying attention is what led my husband and me to sell everything a few years ago (at the top of the market), yank our kids out of their suburban US high school and give them a truly global education. (And trust me, we are not the slightest bit rabid about politics, economics or education-we just saw that there were some changes coming and we wanted to give our kids and ourselves an advantage.)
My four kids who have attended a total of ten public schools in the US, not to mention numerous colleges-both state and private, American and international. I've lived in several states and countries and witnessed other approaches to education, and while writing my book, I interviewed a lot of experts about their ideas for implementing change. And as the CEO of Education Design Partners and founder of the Education Design Institute, I'm committed to helping people think about education in new and innovative ways and I recognize our need to focus on a micro one-student-at-a-time model rather than propose sweeping changes that have no chance of being implemented anytime soon.
Still, sweeping changes are fun to think about. Now, I know that for each suggestion I offer, there are probably ten reasons why it can't be done. We all have knee-jerk reactions to new ideas, so I invite you to pay attention to your own response and see if you might be missing a little nugget of hope buried in each suggestion. None of these ideas are mentioned in my book, by the way, and I wouldn't even say they are my most key ideas. But they happen to be the ones I'm thinking about this week as we look ahead to a new year and a new administration.
If you're really hungry for change, here are a few things to chew on....
1) Make kindergarten, first and second grades completely devoted to arts education.
This doesn't mean finger-painting all day-it means following an established and effective curriculum for arts education that incorporates all aspects of art in the teaching of traditional subjects. From five to seven years of age, kids are sponges just waiting to soak up ideas, and this is a perfect time to immerse them in a stimulating creative environment that encourages innovation and celebrates the natural artist within each of us. That may sound woo-woo, but it's not-arts education is a perfect foundation for higher level thinking, and rather than parcel it out an hour here and an hour there throughout elementary school, we need to give kids a chance to dive in when they are ripe to reap the benefits. Test (and present a portfolio) at the end of the second grade.
Note: the details matter. Have them wear artist smocks over their regular clothes. Creating the mindset of being an artist and approaching all subjects through the lens of art and creativity will provide a powerful mechanism for problem solving later in life.
2) Make third, fourth and fifth grades completely devoted to technology.
Again, this doesn't mean they are typing on a computer keyboard all day and mastering programming. It means that all subjects taught-math, language arts, science, social studies-incorporate technology, including laptops, Ipods, cell phones, digital cameras and more. Get them so comfortable with integrating tech tools into their studies that they see absolutely no barriers to the ways in which they can absorb, create and distribute their work. Teach them how to mix sedentary time with activity-these are the years to build good habits about health and exercise so they don't end up glued to a screen and neglecting their bodies. Test (and present a portfolio of multi-media work) at the end of the fifth grade.
NOTE: Have them wear uniforms that are essentially nice sweats. This helps them remember the need for movement and allows them to see themselves as individuals who can be active despite spending a lot of time using tech tools.
3) Where feasible, offer two-way language immersion programs in elementary schools.
We've got an increasing number of students who don't speak English as a native language, and we're packing them into ESL classes. Meanwhile, we recognize the need for more kids to learn a foreign language. Why are we separating the two? There are excellent models for two-way immersion-classrooms that include both a regular teacher and an ESL teacher and a mix of kids. When done right, two-way immersion gives ALL kids a chance to improve their language skills and results in both fluency and a deeper respect for different cultures and languages. Obviously, this would work best in districts/classrooms in which one foreign language is dominant-Spanish, for example. Why are we not giving our kids a chance to teach each other? The early years of elementary are the perfect time to start.
4) Make sixth, seventh and eighth grades completely devoted to science and math.
Other subjects will be incorporated, but the main focus should be on developing competency and fluidity in manipulating the most basic elements of math, biology, chemistry and physics. Since the kids have already learned how to ask questions from an artistic perspective and are very familiar with incorporating technology tools in their learning process, they're primed to leap into math and science and really develop a solid grasp of these subjects and how they enhance understanding in other areas. Test (and present research) at the end of the eighth grade.
NOTE: Make them wear white lab coats. (Yes, teachers, too.) This is done in numerous countries and it sets the tone and creates the mindset that science is studied, research is conducted, numbers are understood-and that every student has the ability to view the world through the lens of logic and data. Oh, and since these lab coats must be closed (buttoned or zipped) and go to the knees, those bare midriff/inappropriate t-shirt/designer logo issues disappear completely just when they're starting to cause problems. Whew!
5) Make ninth and tenth grades completely devoted to literature/writing and social sciences.
Students at this age should focus on the fundamentals of reading, critical thinking, and developing an understanding of the social, political and economic forces at work in the world. This should be a hard-core period of high expectations (not necessarily rigorous testing!) for each student and an emphasis on maximizing each student's ability to write clearly and express ideas. Their previous focus on science will serve them well as they will be familiar with presenting a hypothesis, testing a theory and sharing conclusions. Test (and present an in-depth report) at the end of the tenth grade.
NOTE: Make them wear school uniforms-typical preppy stuff. This is their time to see how they do in a very academic setting emphasizing liberal arts. Whether they are college-bound or not, it's very important that they see themselves as students who can understand the world and speak and write about it coherently.
6) Make 11th grade completely devoted to teaching students how to learn outside the classroom.
Get them OUT. Send them abroad (much more in my book about why this is the very best time to do this) on an exchange. Get them working or volunteering. Connect them with mentors in the community. Give them unpaid internships. Make them take several writing classes online (in which they are analyzing what they are experiencing and learning) and come to the high school two days a week (if they're in the area) for class discussions and group work. The goal here is to challenge them in ways that ensure they will develop confidence in their ability to learn wherever they are and the responsibility to balance freedom with high expectations. This is outstanding training for the global workplace.
7) Make them take community college classes during what would be their senior year of high school.
High school is too long. Students are being kept in a juvenile setting that stunts their growth and limits their thinking. At 17, they need to be learning in a more adult environment (that is, a mix of students their age plus adults) and they should be focusing on an area that interests them based on their experiences the previous year. By 18, they should have at least a year's worth of college credits (two if they've been motivated to take additional classes on their own) and can transfer to a four-year university as a sophomore or junior or continue a little longer to earn an associate's degree or study in their area of interest.
One of the biggest reasons we have such a low college graduation rate is that it takes too long. Universities encourage the four-or-five-year plan when it would be better for most students to finish in three years. Students who are encouraged to dive into higher ed at a younger age (from 16) can see the end in sight and are more likely to complete a degree than those who spend their junior and senior years of high school prepping for college and still have four more years to go. This leads to the next idea....
8) Eliminate the long summer vacation at all levels.
Seriously, it's time to get rid of this archaic idea of taking ten or twelve weeks off in the summer. It breaks up learning, eliminates gains, and results in an extended education period that is clearly defeating students from elementary school through college. If we no longer have summer breaks and shift to a set of three or four two-week vacations per year, and if we focus on presenting clear learning blocks (arts, technology, science, language arts/social sciences, experiential learning/mentoring), we can get kids immersed, keep them engaged and allow them to finish up by the age of 16. After that, they move into higher level learning in their areas of interest and get a head start on courses that allow them to develop the skills they need.
9) Eliminate high school sports and activities.
Hoo-boy, I can hear the crowd already! But we've got to get rid of this outdated model and stop viewing high school as a Disney musical or teen movie. Get them learning like crazy in ninth and tenth grades and excited to blast out into the world! Which leads to....
10) Turn high schools into community centers.
We'll have the space if the juniors and seniors are spending more time on experiential learning, internships, online courses and college-level classes. Use the fields for mixed-age intramural-type sports and other activities. Use the classrooms for adult education (community college partnerships could work beautifully here) in academic and vocational courses as well as recreational non-credit classes.
With more boomers and retirees shifting to second (or third or fourth) careers in social entrepreneurship, these new community centers could become laboratories for creative collaboration as well as providing students with great opportunities for internships in a range of organizations. Bring them all together in the school and give kids an opportunity to find mentors at an age when they need to forge relationships with adults who can inspire them. Keeping sixteen-year-olds surrounded by sixteen-year-olds in a juvenile setting is a recipe for arrested development, and it's being played out in the form of 25-year-olds who just can't quite get it together. They need opportunities to spend time with adults and get a sense of their possibilities early on, and our efforts to shove them into the college-prep system is resulting in boredom and burn out just when they should be on fire about their future!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why is the Shift Toward Online Education Happening?

This paper deals with the question: Why is the shift toward online education happening? This is a complex issue that involves questions of educational access, paradigms for teaching and learning, competition and globalization among universities, the development of new and better online technologies, and the financial pressures facing higher education. A huge transition is underway.
The same networking and computing technology that has revolutionized global commerce, and many other facets of modern life, is now being targeted at education. Partnering the Internet with modern course management systems makes it possible for universities to offer online coursework on a global basis. The critical task that lies ahead is to create and disseminate curricula of high quality that students can embrace and educators can sustain. For more details visit to []. The overall objective of José's Online Education Forum is to examine the realities of college and university online teaching, and the processes of education using today's information technologies. Collectively, the authors of this paper have taught over a hundred different university-level courses online, both graduate and undergraduate, mostly using the Internet. The issues and insights discussed in this Forum will provide educators with important tools and the understanding needed to effectively embrace the world of online education.
1.1 The Sloan Consortium
In a Sloan-C survey of 1170 Provosts and Academic VPs, more than half indicated a belief that online education would be 'critical for the long-term' in higher education. Surprisingly perhaps, the same percentage said that they believe success in achieving learning outcomes is already equivalent between online and traditional teaching methods. And there was also a consensus of opinion among these respondents that the quality of online courses would continue to improve, with a third of them believing that online teaching quality will soon surpass the quality typical of conventional teaching. These opinions may be surprising for many of us in the teaching profession, coming as they do from such high level and influential administrators. They signal a fundamental change in perceptions about the potential of online education in the immediate future.
1.2 Overview
The objective in this paper is to investigate and assess why this shift to online education is happening. Several factors can be cited beginning with improvements in access to educational services using online technologies and changing paradigms for teaching and learning that integrate well with these technologies. Other factors include heightened educational competition and globalization, the ongoing and often dramatic improvements in online systems capabilities, and the underlying economics of providing online education versus conventional means. The following sections of this paper explore each of these factors individually.
2.1 Access for the Masses
The ability to use information technologies effectively is one aspect of achieving success in today's society, both for individuals and for organizations as a whole. The current job market requires educated workers who are capable of changing and adapting as business and cultural realities shift and evolve in today's fast-paced, global economy (Kantar, 2001). Information technology is enabling the development of this kind of economic world structure. For more information logon to []. It is also making possible the education of the workforce that this new economy requires by providing new capabilities for teaching and learning online.
Online education offers the promise of increased access to high quality education for the masses. Exactly how this is going to occur is not clear yet, but there is no doubt that online education is rapidly becoming an established modality. The development of the modern world economy demands an educated workforce. Places like the three It's (India, Indonesia, and Ireland) and more recently China, are finding that the need for an educated workforce is overwhelming the capabilities of their traditional educational systems. In America and Western Europe, the same economic and political pressures associated with 'equality of opportunity' contribute to demands for equal access to a quality education for all who seek it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Education in India - New IITs

When prominent alumni of the existing seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) were drawing up a blueprint to set up a new IIT, the government itself had announced plans for new IITs in the coming years to bridge existing gaps in technical education. Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh in August this year unveiled a plan to set up eight IITs for a revolution in the field of present education system. The IIT mission would therefore be in line with that long-term objective of central government.
Higher education in India got a big boost with eight new IITs to be set up at a total cost of Rs.60.80 billion ($1.5 billion). New IITs had been approved in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, and Rajasthan. Among them, six IITs have already started their academic sessions this year, while the other two - approved in Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh - are expected to start operations from the 2009-10 academic years. To ensure that the IITs function properly, the government has sanctioned 30 faculty posts per year for each new IIT. It has also specifically approved the post of a Director in each of these IITs in the grade of Rs. 26,000 (fixed) and a post of Registrar in the grade of Rs.16,400 -22,400 for each new IIT. The Cabinet has also decided to raise the grade of all existing seven IIT Directors from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 26,000 (fixed).
Three existing IITs - Guwahati, Madras and Delhi - have been made mentor institutions for the education institutes at Patna, Medak and Rajasthan respectively. Technical faculty from the Guwahati and Madras IITs are deployed to teach at makeshift campuses at Patna and Medak. IIT Rajasthan doesn't even have a makeshift campus, and has started functioning from its mentor's campus at IIT Delhi.
With 6 new IITs functioning this year, overseas expansion of IITs is put on hold. The HRD ministry has said that Syria's vision of an IIT in its capital will have to wait for some time. There are mixed responses from experts on these new IITs. Prime Minister's initiative to establish eight new IITs has drawn flak from his scientific adviser CNR Rao, who said that the opening of so many IITs is going to be a disaster. Even prominent alumni of IITs are concerned about IIT brand value. They raise questions about operations of new IITs. The one problem which bothers all new IIT directors is that of finding quality teaching staff.
As per the government, the creation of new IITs will enable provision of high quality Indian education for more students. It would also address state and region specific technology related problems of states and UTs situated in the IITs' Zones. Prominent IIT Prof. Joshi said the new IITs have created opportunities. Recently in a meeting at Patna he said, a number of brilliant students who might have not made it due to limited number of seats will now be able to join in IITs. Putting aside initial problems and operational difficulties, these institutes are expected to address high quality manpower requirements of Indian industry.