The Working Learner Goes Online

Are web-based classes the solutions for both working students and struggling schools?

Are web-based classes the solutions for both working students and struggling schools?

College classrooms might be a little quieter these days, thanks to the economy. Higher education is being strangled by budget cuts and shrunken endowments. But there is one area that has been, perhaps not surprisningly, a growth industry for higher ed: the internet.

In the past five years, enrollment in online courses has boomed, delivering on the promise that the internet might truly change the way students think about higher education. In 2007, more than 20 percent of all college and university students in the United States were taking at least one course online, and while traditional college enrollment is growing at a rate of 1.2 percent, online learning shows consistent double-digit growth. And it's not only changing the face of higher education, it's also impacting the kinds of students that enroll.

Suddenly, a different kind of student is going to college: young adults who need to join the job market directly following high school; students who can't afford long commutes or relocation costs of going to a school far from home; new moms. As it stands, more than half of college students work while earning their degrees, but at community colleges, according to CALPIRG, a California-based public interest research group, the average working student logs a whopping 23 hours a week. Without the restriction of an on-campus class schedule, schools can more readily accommodate employment schedules and other commitments.

Kerrin McMahan, the dean of academics at East Los Angeles College, who runs their online program and teaches web-based classes, says that growth in enrollment for these types of courses has been huge. From 2006 to 2007, it jumped 46 percent and then another 33 percent the following year. While budget cuts have since slowed growth, McMahan is confident that it's not an indication of demand. "About ten percent of our students are now taking classes online," she says, adding, "And I've had many tell me that it's the only way that they can be in school."

Another trend if afoot with online learners: Some schools are starting to angle for more non-resident students as well. While Baghdad-based girls aren't earning online law degrees from Harvard just yet, it may happen sooner than we think. In March, the University of California Commission on the Future presented a round of proposals to counter some of the fiscal challenges they're facing-California's state college system has been plagued with budget woes for years-and many ideas focused on how to grow the non-resident student population through Internet courses..

There is concern, of course, as to whether an online education can provide the same quality of instruction as compared to in-class learning. But at ELAC, it doesn't seem to be a problem: When teachers reviewed in-class test scores versus those from web-based classes, students rated more or less on par. The question inevitably arises: Are these virtual learners cheating? McMahan says it's something teachers have to consider when building their curricula, adding "but if they were cheating, their scores would be higher, not the same."

There's a human element to the college experience that might be lost, as well. The traditional college experience-where teenagers leave home to see the world and figure out who they are, and where the impact of a professor standing in front of you can be transformational-cannot be replicated online. That can be hard on teachers, too: Direct, face-to-face contact with students can be a difficult thing for some educators to give up, says McMahan.

But for educators, and for students, there are all kinds of new benefits associated with going virtual: Teachers starting families can opt to spend more time at home, or plan class work from an internet cafe in Italy. And while overseas, they can even sneak a video of the David on their iPhone and post it for their first-year art history students to see. There is a new room to be creative, likely opening the door for fresh and innovative approaches to learning.

Besides, there doesn't appear to be much choice. This ship is already sailing, no matter what rough shores lay ahead. "I've seen predictions that this will become the majority of higher education in the next decade," say McMahan. For the most part, she thinks that's a good thing. As for the students who couldn't even be at college without the online option? The answer isn't surprising: "They're incredibly grateful for the opportunity."

Illustration by Parliament of Owls.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.