Archive for November 20, 2012
Many Americans I’ve met don’t realize that the United States doesn’t have a national curriculum, and that the Federal government is prohibited (in the bill establishing the Department of Education) from ever creating one. States control curricula. The new “Common Core” standards are interesting because they’re being established by the state Governors — the states can work together to develop a common set of standards and curricula, but the Federal government cannot create such a set. Computing in the Core is an effort to get the Governors to consider computer science in those core standards.
There’s a parallel kind of effort going on in the UK. Their new secondary school standards are called the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), and the English Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has indicated a willingness to include computer science in the new EBacc. As covered by the BBC:
Mr Gove indicated that computer science could be added to the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) list of key academic subjects that teenagers are encouraged to study at GCSE. He said: “Computer science is not just a rigorous, fascinating and intellectually challenging subject. It is also vital to our success in the global race.”
A working group from the British Computer Society (BCS) has now completed a report making the argument for CS in the EBacc. It’s an exciting effort, supported by a coalition of corporate and higher education interests. I don’t know how to estimate which effort (Computing in the Core vs. CS in the EBacc) is more likely to succeed or how quickly. My sense is that CS in the EBacc has the advantage in that it only has to convince a single Department for Education, as opposed to the Computing in the Core effort which has to convince a coalition of state governments.
This is the exciting next stage after MOOCs. MOOCs are an interesting platform, but their success has been narrow. We need more models for on-line learning for different audiences, yet still supported by higher-education. Here’s an exploration of another model.
The virtual classroom is a cross between a Google+ hangout and the opening sequence of “The Brady Bunch,” where each student has his or her own square, the equivalent of a classroom chair. However, with Semester Online courses, there is no sneaking in late and unnoticed, and there is no back row.
Unlike the increasingly popular massive open online courses, or MOOCs, free classes offered by universities like Harvard, M.I.T. and Stanford, Semester Online classes will be small — and will offer credit.
“Now we can provide students with a course that mirrors our classroom experience,” says Edward S. Macias, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Washington University in St. Louis, one of the participants.
“It’s going to be the most rigorous, live, for-credit online experience ever,” said Chip Paucek, a founder of 2U.