Let’s do more on-line learning! But to raise graduation rates?

March 5, 2012 at 8:24 am 6 comments

The University System of Georgia is aiming to provide more online education and figure out ways to improve it.  Great! As way to increase graduation rates?  Really?  Retention rates tend to drop online.  While we don’t know how to interpret the low success rates in the Stanford classes, it’s clear that face-to-face classes have much higher retention rates.  More online education means that you get more access.  Does it follow that you get more graduation?  Other papers around the state are recognizing that more on-line is about access, which is an important goal.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby named a task force Thursday to look for ways to improve how the system’s 35 colleges and universities provide online education.

The effort will be part of an initiative aimed at increasing the state’s college graduation rate.

“The economic future of Georgia depends upon more Georgians completing some level of college education,” Huckaby said in a prepared statement. “We have to make better use of our distance education resources and ramp up our efforts to help us meet state workforce needs.”

via Georgia university system to examine online learning – Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Kay  |  March 5, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Is history repeating itself (a rhetorical question if there ever was one)?

    When the US decided that everyone should get a high school education, the eventual result after a few decades was that the high school curriculum gradually slipped to (now) lower than the 8th grade standards in the 19th century (for reading, writing, history, etc.).

    Now we find (per US Dept of Ed) that as of 2003 only 31% of 4 year college graduates can be rated “proficient” in reading.

    Isn’t this really just consumer fantasy marketing and “designer jeans” education?

    It is hard to find any evidence (from the White House on down) that there is a real goal for “real education” in the US. The vast majority of the goal statements are all about labels and tokens (everyone will have a college degree by year X, etc.), but they wimp out on real standards.



  • 2. Stephen Edwards  |  March 5, 2012 at 9:40 am

    But … reading Huckaby’s words exactly gives me a slightly different impression: “… more Georgians completing some level of college education …”. This is *graduation numbers*, not *graduation rate*. In other words, lower success rates can be compensated for by increasing volume, if all you’re after is a net gain in total number of graduates.

    I’m not saying whether that is a good focus, and I’m not saying anything about the odds of lower success rates. I’m just pointing out that the news article might be using the term “graduation rate” to mean “the number of graduates produced per year” as opposed to “the proportion of students enrolled who successfully graduate”. Both terms can be labeled “graduation rate”, although many non-educators appear not to see much difference between them.

    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  March 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      Well-spotted! You may be right — if it’s just about raw numbers, flooding enough people in the front will get you more, even if you still lose most of them.

  • 4. Cecily  |  March 5, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Our legislature seems to be going through similar rhetorical debates as the rest of the country. One advantage our online program may have in increasing graduation rates is an emphasis on concurrent enrollment. The major problem is that the state doesn’t want to pay tuition rates for online concurrent enrollment- the pay rate is about half of tuition at most schools. The other problem with concurrent enrollment are that it might not transfer as well to more prestigious private universities( a lot of the best students here choose to attend Brigham Young University instead of a state school or an ivy league), and credit doesn’t seem to transfer as easily as AP. One main advantage to concurrent is that it does seem to be slightly more attractive to girls than guys, and the girls are where we are taking a lot of the hit on low graduation rates– many people here feel it is socially acceptable to drop out of college if you are a married girl. Obviously, that is not the way I was raised(my mom got her bachelors, and my sister and I both have graduate degrees), but I have heard way too many jokes about getting an “mrs” degree, and it is somewhat shocking how many girls here are comfortable not finishing especially if they start child rearing before their 21st birthday, something else that is rather common here.

  • […] too expensive to change, to design without a good idea of the purpose.  That’s why I found the call for more distance education in Georgia schools distressing.  More distance education is a good thing, but it’s unlikely to improve graduation rates. […]

  • […] future of university education.  If you want to have more well educated students, if you want to improve graduation rates, you have to speak with the students that might not be so much fun to talk to — the ones who […]


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