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Upgrading High Schools with MOOCs


• Nathan Martin

This post was originally posted on Digital Learning Now

edX believes that students who want to learn deserve access to the best classes in the world. Since launching in 2012, the non-profit collaboration governed by MIT and Harvard has expanded opportunities for driven and motivated students to take Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from some of the best universities in the world.

Millions of students access college-level courses from every corner of the globe, either auditing the courses for their own enrichment or, through edX’s verification system, earning a verified certificate.

Now, edX is bringing the opportunity to earn credit to high schools.

Through edX’s High School Initiative, students have access to 27 high school-level courses ranging from AP courses offered by the best universities in the world to courses in calculus, computer science, and psychology.

edX states that, “colleges and universities find that many students could benefit from taking a few extra courses to help close the readiness gap between high school and college”—these courses are a worthy contribution to that clear need.

It’s important to state what this initiative can and cannot do. edX will not replace high school, but it does add a free alternative option for students to prepare for college. While there are virtual AP courses provided by a wide range of providers, before edX’s High School Initiative, students whose school didn’t offer these courses and wanted to take AP exams, , either relied on purchasing the courses themselves (at the cost of several hundred dollars) or costly textbooks pouring over them, and relying on self-directed learning. Without rigorous and continual assessment and feedback, it was difficult to ensure they were prepared for their exams. This left only some students able to have the chance of passing AP exams without course-work.

This new announcement promises to better prepare students attempting to pass AP exams on their own. The program also provides an invaluable supplementary offering for students taking AP courses currently, allowing those students to focus on sections most relevant to their own needs.

What does edX’s announcement mean for Course Access?

Few projects align better with our philosophical goal of expanding access to high quality courses than edX’s newest venture, and we are delighted to see this announcement. Students need access to high-quality courses—particularly for the demands of AP exams—and these new free courses are tremendous pathways. With Florida expanding its market of online courses available to students to include MOOCs in 2013, these existing and future offerings from edX could be provided as part of a student’s individual study at school.

At their best, high-quality MOOCs can be a useful tool that districts can utilize to better serve their students. As edX’s founder Anant Agarwal argued last June in a tremendous TED talk, the future of MOOCs is a blended one that integrates world-class instruction with hands-on human interaction and guidance.

This new offering should excite districts and states rather than frighten them. Embrace high quality disruption for the sake of the students.

We encourage states and districts to follow Florida’s lead of incorporating a broader range of courses. Whether taking advantage of the public service provided by edX or other high-quality MOOCs, states should seek to incorporate new courses and resources into daily instruction. Tell students about these opportunities. Find ways to incorporate the content into daily instruction. Every student should leave high school prepared for college, career, and life-long learning.

For more information about edX and the new reality of education, check out this video from ExcelinEd’s 2013 National Summit.


About the author


Nathan Martin

nathanM@excelined.org

Nathan Martin serves as the State Policy Director of Online and Blended Learning for Digital Learning Now. Previously, he worked as the Director of Policy and Alliances for Scantron, an education technology company focusing on digital learning and assessment. Prior to that, he worked in journalism, producing a nationally-syndicated talk radio show, working for the Washington Post and writing for various newspapers in his home state of Mississippi. Nathan received his undergraduate degree from Patrick Henry College. Contact Nathan at Nathan@excelined.org