Online education?s digital class system

The Oakland Military Institute is a public charter high in Oakland, California begun when now-governor Jerry Brown was mayor of this Bay Area city. In addition to a kind of military discipline, the school decided this past January to offer students online college level courses created by San Jose State and the online educational startup Udacity.

But the experiment hit a bump when the school found that many of the registered students weren’t logging on to the course work. “It turned out,” wrote the Oakland Tribune, “some of the low-income teens didn't have computers and high-speed Internet connections at home that the online course required.” In addition, many of these students need direct and persistent guidance to navigate Internet course work. As the paper drily noted, “... the experiment exposed some challenges to the promise of a low-cost online education.”

Education, it seems, isn’t simply a matter of directing students to course materials. The Tribune summarized Sara Melnick, deputy director of the National College Access Network, who concluded that “... giving more students access to college classes is not enough.... They are more likely to graduate if they have academic support and involvement in campus life.” This is especially true of low-income and first-generation students who don’t have home resources or parental guidance.

Apparently, you can order students in military fashion, but if they’re not equipped, they can’t necessarily follow out that order.

San Jose State's online college course experiment reveals hidden costs (Oakland Tribune, Jun. 3, 2013)