Blended Learning, College faculty, Domestic, Education Quality, Flipped Classrooms, For-Profit, High school / Secondary 2, Investors, Not-for-Profit, Publishers, Required, STEM / Science, Technology, Education, Math, Students, Technology - Written by on Monday, November 21, 2011 8:00 - 0 Comments

Heard: Stanford Online High School Gains New Prominence

by Stuck in Customs via Flickr under CreativeCommons

The Stanford Online High School for Gifted Youth is an early leader in online high schools… and it is remarkable in this respect: It attracts the best and the brightest. Many students from that program are attending top colleges. Many of them would be admitted to top high schools in the country. As we have said before, the digital learning industry needs to see a continued flight to quality. Stanford OHS is one example of this on the high school level. WiredAcademic managing editor Paul Glader wrote a story about SOHS in 2009 for The Wall Street Journal. Here is a sampling from it: 

Stanford’s EPGY program dates to the 1960s, when computer-science professors at Stanford began experimenting with ways to teach math using computers. It expanded to offer online classes and summer camps and, in 2006, launched an experimental online school for gifted youth.

The school is a good fit for children of far-flung executives such as 16-year-old Josh Singh, who lives with his parents in China. (The school has software that coordinates schedules to select class time with the fewest conflicts.) He said the online school has expanded his social life beyond China. “I have friends all over the place now,” he says.

But the school’s leaders say they have been surprised by some of the challenges they have faced. Headmaster Jan Keating says the school is trying to reduce its attrition rate, which she calls high, but declines to disclose specifics. Administrators say students without discipline or parental supervision sometimes withdraw emotionally and socially.

Meanwhile, The New York Times writer Alan Schwarz has a story this past weekend about the SOHS program. He notes that Stanford is now attaching its name to the high school on a more official level… It is now called Stanford Online High School rather than the Experimental Program for Gifted Youth. Some education experts, Schwarz notes, consider that a milestone for online education.

As the line between virtual and classroom-based learning continues to blur, some see Stanford’s move as a sign that so, too, will the line between secondary and higher education. Several other universities — though none with the pedigree of Stanford — already operate online high schools, a development that has raised some questions about expertise and motives.

Since I wrote about online high schools for the Journal in 2009, the number of students in these programs has more than doubled. Here are the updated numbers in the Times story:

About 275,000 students nationwide are enrolled full time in online schools, according to Susan Patrick, president of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a nonprofit advocacy group. Most of these are free public charter schools, but colleges — private and public — have begun to get into the business as well.

The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and the University of Missouri have awarded diplomas to about 250 and 85 students, respectively, annually for the last several years. The George Washington University Online High School opened in January.

Capitalizing on its reputation in foreign language instruction, Middlebury College in Vermont last year worked with K12, a for-profit company, to develop online high school language courses serving 50,000 students nationwide. An individual student’s course costs $749 per year, and Middlebury will share the profits. Ronald Liebowitz, Middlebury’s president, said that while “it looks like mission creep beyond belief,” the opportunity to raise revenue carried the decision.

Here are the other updated nuggets from the Times story on the SOHS program:

In this growing market, Stanford Online High School aims to be the destination for the most talented students. About 20 percent of the current 120 students receive financial aid to offset the $14,800 tuition, which is about half the average private-school tuition nationwide but far more than the University of Nebraska program’s $2,500. About 300 more students take one or more $3,200-per-year classes to supplement a bricks-and-mortar program.

….

Of the high school’s 75 graduates, 69 so far have enrolled directly in four-year colleges, according to Raymond Ravaglia, the high school’s executive director. Eight attend Stanford, and 25 others are at Ivy League institutions or other elite campuses.

In a typical class session, about 14 students simultaneously watch a live-streamed lecture, with video clips, diagrams and other animations to enliven the lesson. Instead of raising hands, students click into a queue when they have questions or comments; teachers call on them by choosing their audio stream, to be heard by all. An instant-messaging window allows for constant discussion among the students who, in conventional settings, might be chastised for talking in class.

Mr. Ravaglia said the school would gradually expand to about 100 students per grade and would keep class sizes around 15. (“We don’t have plans to have 1,000 kids and then press control-C to start replicating it,” he said.)

But Mr. Etchemendy, the provost, said he “would be neither upset nor shocked” if enrollment at Stanford Online High eventually approached that of Stanford’s undergraduate population, about 6,500.

Read the full NYT piece here



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