Competition offers $10K for 21st-century education ideas

_The Economist_ and InnoCentive hope to solicit an idea that will bring education to children in developing countries.
The Economist and InnoCentive hope to solicit ideas that will bring education to children in developing countries.

How can technology be leveraged to deliver a world-class education affordably to students in developing countries? That’s the question a new competition asks, and the best idea will earn $10,000 for its creator.

Many school-age children in developing countries need access to educational opportunities, and the publication The Economist and InnoCentive Inc. have turned to “crowdsourcing” for help.

The two organizations recently partnered to create the 21st Century Cyber-Schools Challenge, calling on participants from any discipline or background to submit ideas.…Read More

Wal-Mart to offer its workers an affordable online education

Wal-Mart is dipping its toe into the online-education waters, working with a web-based university to offer its employees in the United States affordable college degrees, reports the New York Times. The partnership with American Public University, a for-profit school with about 70,000 online students, will allow some Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club employees to earn credits in areas like retail management and logistics for performing their regular jobs. The university will offer eligible employees 15-percent price reductions on tuition, and Wal-Mart will invest $50 million over three years in other tuition assistance for the employees who participate. Executives at Wal-Mart, the nations’ largest retailer, said the company was not interested in entering the online-education field in a broader way. The point of the program, they said, was to help employees get more education and to build a better work force. Even so, because of its size, Wal-Mart’s internal changes often turn into industry standards, as with its efforts involving environmental sustainability. And with 1.4 million employees in the United States, even an employees-only program could have widespread implications. “If 10 to 15 percent of employees take advantage of this, that’s like graduating three Ohio State Universities,” said Sara Martinez Tucker, a former undersecretary of education who is now on Wal-Mart’s external advisory council. “It’s a lot of Americans getting a college degree at a time when it’s becoming less affordable.”

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Exam lets prospects ‘test drive’ online education

Nearly seven in 10 students pass Test Drive College Online's competency exam.
Nearly seven in 10 students pass Test Drive College Online's competency exam.

Prospective students returning to college after a lengthy layoff can gauge their basic English and math skills beforehand to make sure they’re ready for online classes with a new program designed to find the most qualified and disciplined students for web-based courses.

Test Drive College Online, launched May 5 at no charge, matches applicants with online institutions that best suit their academic goals after the student passes a 20-question College Competency Exam, which includes freshman-level math and English questions that help advisors identify students who aren’t yet ready for higher education.

Once students pass the competency test, they can enroll in a five-week course designed as a test run, letting them understand the demands of web-based classes before they pay tuition and find they can’t handle the workload. If the student completes the course, an advisor helps the student transfer the credits earned during the five-week class and enroll in any one of 200 online programs.…Read More

Online college for union members in the works

Education experts say more web-based colleges are needed to meet growing demand.
Education experts say more web-based colleges are needed to meet growing demand.

The National Labor College will make about 20 online courses available for the AFL-CIO’s 11.5 million members next fall in an effort to help workers adapt to a job market that increasingly requires higher education.

The online school, tentatively named the College for Working Families, will be built with resources from the Princeton Review, a national educational support services provider, said William Scheuerman, president of the Silver Spring, Md.-based National Labor College.

The Labor College and the AFL-CIO will distribute a questionnaire in the coming weeks that will gauge members’ interest in which classes will be available in the fall.…Read More

Has Google developed the next wave of online education?

Google Wave has a spell checker that uses context to correct misused words.
Google Wave marks the next step in collaboration capabilities for group projects, some in education say.

Combining text, audio, and video chat with features like drag-and-drop documents and interactive polls, Google Wave is a free web program that could add unprecedented depth to student interaction, many educators say.

Programmers who designed Google Wave, a tool still in development and only available through limited invites, started with a question: What would eMail look like if it were invented today?

The answer is a format that merges social networking with multimedia in an online meeting space where students and instructors can see each other type in real time, conduct private conversations, and edit documents simultaneously.…Read More

Opinion: Virtual schools are a critical piece of education’s future

Classroom and lecture hall disruption can be important for students on every level of education.
Classroom and lecture hall disruption can be important for students on every level of education, writes Michael Simonson.

Technological innovations might be categorized along a continuum from sustaining to disruptive. In education, a sustaining technology might be a SMART Board, which in most applications is a way to present information dynamically and efficiently—a sustaining upgrade to the chalkboard and overhead projector—while a disruptive technology would be a virtual school.

As a matter of fact, most attempts to integrate instructional technology into the traditional classroom are examples of sustaining technologies: data projectors, DVD players, eBooks—all which improve the performance of established products.

Most integrated technologies sustain, and do not disrupt.…Read More