Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kids are not waiting for schools to go online

My grandson Oscar will enter the 9th grade this fall and he and a friend are working their way through Algebra II at the Khan Academy this summer. No one told them to do it -- no one assigned it – they just decided to do it on their own.

It turns out that Oscar and his friend may not be all that unusual. UCLA conducts an annual survey of incoming first-time, full-time college freshman and they included two questions about student's experience with online classes in the 2013 survey:

  • Have you used an online instructional website (e.g.,Khan Academy, Coursera) as assigned for a class?
  • Have you used an online instructional website (e.g., Khan Academy, Coursera) to learn something on your own?
The following table shows the percents of students who answered frequently or occasionally:

Overall, more than 40 percent of the incoming freshmen were frequently or occasionally assigned to use an online instructional website during the past year and nearly 70 percent had used online sites on their own.

Digging a bit deeper, we see that students entering public schools were a little more likely to have online experience than those entering private schools. (Public colleges and universities also offer more online instruction). To me, the most interesting finding was that students entering historically black colleges and universities are much more likely to have online education experience -- on their own or assigned -- than the typical incoming freshman. I could speculate on the cause of this discrepancy, but it really requires further research.

College expectations correlate with high school experience -- students who are going to historically black and, to a lesser extent, public schools are more likely to expect to take online classes in college:

The survey also yields some insight into the importance of having used online classes. They correlate online participation with a multi-dimensional positive habits of mind index and conclude that
Students who chose to independently use online instructional websites are also more likely to exhibit behaviors and traits associated with academic success and lifelong learning.
My grandson Oscar and his friend may be ahead of the curve, having been assigned Khan Academy lessons while in junior high, but it looks like today's kids know the Web is good for school work as well as playing games, posting selfies and building Minecraft worlds.


1. Note that I have focused on the online instruction portion of the survey, but it covers many other characteristics of incoming freshmen.

2. Components of the habits of mind index: