Virtual School Meanderings

July 13, 2009

Online Learning & Dual Credit: A Case Of “I Don’t Want To Grow Up”?

inacolThis was posted to one of the iNACOL forums and I thought that some of my readers might like to comment.

On Tuesday, June 30, I heard Ron Packard (CEO and founder of K12) at a gathering offsite from NECC 2009 in Washington DC predict that the combination of the needs of the changes in our service-based economy and the rise of truly individualized education through technology and changes in teacher’s approach to education will result in a compression of “normal” high school from 4 to 3 years and “normal” baccalaureate degrees from 4-5 years to 3 years.

He said some students are already being allowed to accelerate and graduate by ages 12-15. What I found fascinating about his prediction is not so much the prediction about high school education norm dropping from 4 to 3 years and his comment that “the lines between high school education and a college education” will become very blurred in the coming years.”

My education career is more rooted in higher education (although I teach in K-12 and higher ed), and I have long thought that, if possible, high education should largely be responsible for reforming high school education so that more high school students would graduate from high school strongly prepared to CONTINUE their college education.

What do readers think about Packard’s prediction of 1) the “shrinking” of the normative years to complete high school and a bachelor’s degrees and that 2) high school and college education will become highly blended?

clipperThe notion of dual credit courses is not new be any stretch of the imagine.  One that I am somewhat familiar with is the Clipper Project at Lehigh University (and the main reason I know about that is because one of my dissertation co-chairs, Tom Reeves, was an external evaluator on the project – and I’ve tried to find this evaluation report online as it used to be available, but even the Internet Archive is a no go for it now).  This is an example of an online program where high school seniors can take university courses for university credit.  Note for an interesting piece of research done on the Clipper Project, take a look at this Educause Quarterly article.

In thinking about this notion, I recognize the value in accelerating high school and making these kinds of learning opportunities available to our better students.  My concern is the blurring of the lines between high school and university.  Let’s face us, based upon the only generational difference that we can reliably and validly determine, our undergraduate students in university act more and more like high school adolescents all of the time.  Does the blurring of the lines between high school and university further make the transition from adolescent to adulthood an even muddier stage of life where our twenty-somethings become the new adolescents that have to be cared for like the snowflakes they are because they refuse to grow up and make the jump to adulthood.

I mean the undergraduate degree is the new high school diploma (as evidenced by research projects like Declining by Degrees and Ivory Tower Blues).  And it isn’t because the economy has such a demand for so many more well educated, highly skilled people than it did a decade or two ago (and even if it did, the undergraduate degree isn’t going to provide that because universities have had to dumb down so much of what they do because of the snowflake effect and the grade inflation – did you really think it was because there are so many great students these days?).

So, while I do appreciate the need for these kinds of dual credit programs for the truly gifted students, I wonder if the value of these programs (online or face-to-face) have been lost because of the other factors that have served to make a university educated person today about as educated as a high school graduate from twenty years ago?

Anyway, that’s my rant for the week…  What do yo think about the use of online education as a way to compress high school and university education?  How about the blurring of the lines between high school and university?

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