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MIT Offers Free Online Education

In late 2011, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched M.I.T.x, an online learning program that offers hundreds of courses for free. This isn’t a full degree program, but it does allow those who demonstrate mastery of a course of study to receive a certificate of completion.

This new program is a continuation of MIT’s original free online learning curriculum, OpenCourseWare. It’s very exciting to see a respected university like MIT offer additional distance learning options. The groundswell of online programs over the past few years has been nothing short of spectacular. In the Forbes article linked below, James Marshall Crotty calls this new education initiative a “game changer.” I agree with his assessment.

Read the full article at Forbes

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Think Before You Intern

As someone who began a career in software development with an unpaid apprenticeship, my personal experience has been that any internship, paid or otherwise, can be beneficial. But these statistics compiled by Online College Courses are nonetheless very interesting and may indicate a trend away from what I experienced 10 years ago.

Studies show that students who intern without receiving pay in return tend to learn less, perform more menial tasks, and be hired on full-time at a lower rate than students who are paid for their internships.

As with any aspect of your education and career, it’s important to evaluate whether a given opportunity will advance you towards your goal or just waste your time.

Read the full article at Online College Courses

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Don’t Let College Interfere With Your Education

David authored this article for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy back in 2010. It remains relevant for those making decisions about where, or whether, to attend college.

I made a decision early on that college was about getting a piece of paper, not an education. My goal wasn’t to become a better-rounded individual, or even to gain a greater understanding of my major area of study. Rather, it was to gain the educational credential that employers now use as a screening device for most jobs. And my experience confirmed what I had expected—that post-secondary education today has only a lackluster ability to provide real value aside from that credential.

It’s critical to understand the true value of a college degree before embarking on an expensive voyage that may or may not get you where you want to go.

Read the full article at the Pope Center

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Does Earning a Degree Increase Your Salary?

One commonly held belief about college degrees is that earning one will boost your income in your current job, or help you secure a job with a much higher starting salary than someone who only has a high school degree.

This may have been true at one point, but in recent years the earnings gap between high school and college graduates has been shrinking dramatically. Mary Pilon takes a detailed look at the earnings landscape in a recent Wall Street Journal article. It’s well worth a read whether you’re considering college for the first time or planning to return to school to earn a post-graduate degree.

One advantage to pursuing a degree via distance education is the lower cost. Combine that with the ability to work a full-time job while studying in the evening and you have a powerful alternative to the traditional college experience. Of course, it’s still a good idea to research your target career field and determine whether the cost of a college degree is truly worth the salary increase. It might not be.

Read the full article at WSJ.com

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The Case for Working With Your Hands

High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass.

Read the full article at NY Times

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Some Encouraging Advice

The Teaching Home is a magazine for Christian home educators. A few years ag, they published some suggestions for parents and students who are considering higher education. If you’ve been wondering what the Biblical motivations and goals behind higher education should be, this is an excellent read.

Read the full article.

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Why It Doesn’t Pay to Get Straight a’s in College

I worked hard to get good grades my first few years of college. My last year, I was tired of the whole college deal (and was working full time in my career field already) so I didn’t stress out quite so much about getting straight A’s.

I still got a decent GPA, but in the end it didn’t really matter since I’ve never had a potential employer ask about my grades. They generally only care about whether or not I can do the work.

Being good at book learning rarely equates to being good at any particular job.

Does studying for 60 to 80 hours a week, pulling all-nighters and not having time for socializing describe your college life? It describes 25-year-old Jon Morrow’s, and in this retrospective essay he questions whether it was worth it.

Read the full article.

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What Can Distance Education Do for You?

Here’s an interesting article about distance education that was published by a news station in Madison, Wisconsin. Despite the fact that it’s targeted at adults who want to go back to school, it contains a good overview of distance education along with some valuable warnings about what to watch out for when picking a program.

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How Do I Find a Proctor?

Teacher with Book

Most distance education programs require that you take your mid-term and final exams under the supervision of a proctor. Finding one isn’t difficult if you know where to look. Your local library is a good place to begin your search. Any certified librarian can act as a proctor for you. This is the route I took since I have a library close by. Another option is to find a proctor at a local community college. A proctor from a college may charge a nominal fee, though. Either way is acceptable in most distance education programs. You should check what the requirements are for your specific program.

Once you’ve located a proctor, you will typically need to have them complete a short form. This is a one-time request the allows the college to verify that you chose a qualified proctor. Thomas Edison State College has an example of their proctor request form online. After submitting the form and verifying that the college has processed it, you may then begin taking your exams under the supervision of the proctor. Taking a proctored exam is no different than taking any other exam. The proctor will simply ensure that you don’t have any extra books or notes with you before you start. He or she will also typically be the one to submit your completed exams to the college for grading.

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What Is Concurrent Education?

Another question I received during my NCHE workshop was in reference to something called “concurrent education” and whether it was compatible with distance education.

I wasn’t familiar with the phrase at the time the question was asked, but after doing some research it seems that it’s just another name for what many home schoolers choose to do: enroll in college-level courses while still in high school. This is often a very smart thing to do because the credit earned can be applied towards both a high school diploma AND a college degree. However, many families choose not to opt for dual enrollment because it can sometimes put an unnecessary strain on the student. (I myself chose not to pursue this avenue during my high school years.) For some families, though, it can be an excellent fit.

Back to the original question: can concurrent education/dual enrollment programs be pursued at a distance? The answer is: ABSOLUTELY! In fact, I would venture to say that dual enrollment is most effective when done at a distance. Why?

  • Transportation expenses (gas, parking fees, etc.) are avoided.
  • A potentially lengthy daily commute is not necessary. This gives students time for other activities.
  • Students are able to stay at home where they can take advantage of the guidance and counsel of their parents. (This counsel can be especially helpful if the student is taking a dual enrollment course at a secular university and the course content is overtly anti-religious.)

For these reasons, I would encourage home school families who are pursuing a concurrent education program to consider doing it through distance education. Many colleges are quite flexible about the student’s age when applying for distance education courses. Even if a college doesn’t have a program labeled “concurrent education” or “dual enrollment,” it is likely your student will still be able to enroll in one or more courses while still in high school.

Do you have any thoughts to share? Has your family had experience in pursuing concurrent education/dual enrollment options? We’d enjoy hearing your story! Please post a comment.