We’re finally starting to see real, viable solutions materialize for getting college credit for free online classes. It’s happening slowly considering that the demand for free classes online is so high, but you can’t really fault the brick and mortar institutions for the lack of pace. Many of the universities that are participating in the effort to go digital are also some of the world’s oldest and most prestigious organizations. We can’t forget that they’re businesses too, and you can’t expect them to upend the industry they’re leading all at once without a rigorous approach to testing and measuring what happens when you give hundreds of thousands of people instant free access to what used to be reserved for a privileged few. That said, one big answer to how students may start to get credit for free online courses are starting to emerge – Proctored tests.
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As people transition through various stages of education into the workforce, they face increasing hurdles to secure employment and career opportunities. There’s been a lot of public criticism about how the education system here in the U.S. is broken and, not surprisingly, it has a lot to do with cost. Across many industries and trades the price of buying an education has risen so high in the last 20 years that the cost of earning a degree eclipses what you can earn post-degree. Naturally, a lot of young people are rethinking their need to seek formal education as a direct result. Rightfully so. Most importantly, we’re starting to see broader negative consequences materializing across the country – skills across the population in important categories like math and science are declining in the aggregate, for instance. Not good. Clearly something’s got to give.
Currently about seventy-five million young people are unemployed globally and are looking for work. I don’t know the statistics in the US, but in the UK there are apparently around 1 million people between 16 and 24 who are unemployed. As I’m typing this, OpenIDEO, Barclays and The Work Foundation are supporting an open challenge to crowdsource solutions to help young people move into employment. They’ve framed the problem as one that applies mostly to the young, but I’d argue that it applies to anyone in the workforce who’s been laid off or would like to make a career switch that forces them to start over. The OpenIDEO challange is currently in the ‘refinement’ stage, so it’s a great time to start following along and joining the conversation. This is just my take, but I found that fewer solutions than I would have expected focused on different ways to get training cheaply, and more than I expected focused on helping students find a path through job discovery and trying out new careers before committing to a plan of action. Hat tip to Vishal Shah – I thought his solution in particular “The Uninternship” had a good mix of novelty, utility and promise.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time learning on the web. I’ve temporarily put blogging and all the social stuff on hold in the name of focusing on teaching myself things I’ve always wanted to learn, as well as essential skills that, as a freelancer, help me deliver value to clients and broaden my skill set.
John Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist, wrote a piece for the Globe this week titled The Truth About Grit. The article highlights some important findings of studies done by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University.The findings suggest that personality traits like grit, rather than standardized measurements of intelligence, are far more likely to predict real world achievement. The studies further suggest that when teaching a growth mindset (effort and persistence) is emphasized in the classroom, students perform far better than when when they are simply praised for their intelligence and abilities…
While researchers have long focused on measurements of intelligence, such as the IQ test, as the crucial marker of future success, these scientists point out that most of the variation in individual achievement – what makes one person successful, while another might struggle – has nothing to do with being smart. Instead, it largely depends on personality traits such as grit and conscientiousness. It’s not that intelligence isn’t really important – Newton was clearly a genius – but that having a high IQ is not nearly enough…
In recent decades, the American educational system has had a single-minded focus on raising student test scores on everything from the IQ to the MCAS. The problem with this approach, researchers say, is that these academic scores are often of limited real world relevance. However, the newfound importance of personality traits such as grit raises an obvious question: Can grit be learned?…
While Duckworth and others are quick to point out that there is no secret recipe for increasing grit – “We’ve only started to study this, so it’s too soon to begin planning interventions,” she cautions – there’s a growing consensus on what successful interventions might look like.
One of the most important elements is teaching kids that talent takes time to develop, and requires continuous effort. Carol S. Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, refers to this as a “growth mindset.” She compares this view with the “fixed mindset,” the belief that achievement results from abilities we are born with. “A child with the fixed mindset is much more likely to give up when they encounter a challenging obstacle, like algebra, since they assume that they’re just not up to the task,” says Dweck.
In a recent paper, Dweck and colleagues demonstrated that teaching at-risk seventh-graders about the growth mindset – this included lessons about the importance of effort – led to significantly improved grades for the rest of middle school. Interestingly, it also appears that praising children for their intelligence can make them less likely to persist in the face of challenges, a crucial element of grit.
The Internet Archive (the one that brought us the Wayback Machine) wants to provide free access to a comprehensive selection of books online through a project called the Open Library. Right now the library’s collection is far from extensive, but the idea is promising, and the Internet Archive is a determined archiver, so here’s hoping the project continues to improve (their new demo site looks cool).
If I had one wish, it would be that I could learn at an incredible rate. The fulfillment of that one wish would solve so much, so fast. It would be incredibly gratifying to be able to fly through a dense book in 5 to 10 minutes and retain it all — or consume an entire section of Barnes & Noble in less than a day. I’ve found myself wishing that more and more since I left school. Nowadays, a lot of projects that I take on for fun in my free time — coding a website using a new programming language or learning a new software platform, for example — can literally take months of reading and research just to get to the point where I’m technically proficient or knowledgeable enough to make any headway. Metaphorically speaking, it can be frustrating sometimes to have to crawl before you can run – but it can be so rewarding to take those first few big strides. Which brings me to the main point I wanted to make…
It’s so important to grow up with a positive attitude towards reading, towards school, and especially towards your ability to grow by teaching yourself about the things that interest you the most. I was lucky enough to have parents and mentors growing up who meaningfully stressed the virtue of intellect and academic discourse and the value of reading for personal growth. Many of my peers, especially in early childhood, weren’t as lucky as I was. Fostering the habit of self-teaching and a love of learning is easily one of the most important things a parent, mentor or teacher can do for a child, men-tee or student. More often than not, nowadays, the message that results from mentoring relationships is being delivered improperly at all levels – grades are ends in themselves, the degree is what is important and passing is acceptable if it gets you the certification. Nurturing habits that produce a desire to educate one’s self and entertain new interests is fundamental to living a fulfilling life — The result is an endless spring of inspiration and confidence. Teaching yourself things gives a unique sense of ownership and appreciation for information and it’s sources (especially people) — your command over subject matter becomes even more of a point of individuality and pride. The bottom line is that fostering a habit of self-teaching is more than just “teaching a man how to fish”, it’s “teaching a man to want to teach himself how to fish.” The difference can be powerful over a life time.