The Digitalization and Development of Higher Education

Have you also found the amazing low priced external programs (like LSEStanford) and certificates on Coursera and Edx?

Vaasa winter 2016, (c) Jan Gustafsson
There is lot of supply but are the programs really seen as good as the internal programs? Presently, I have been trying to find trust-wort opinions about LSE external programs for curiosity. I found an article from guardian but it was sponsored by the program. However, the article underlines that not all clever people can or want to participate in collage life. There are no doubt that combining work and studies is tempting - or a must.

And for some intelligent individuals don't get access to the higher education. Shai Reshef TED 2014 presents a virtual university that solves many of problems in attendance. Even the Economist has raised a thought that colleges have unnecessarily high tuition rates: "Some of its [Harvard] alumni think this ought to be sufficient to scrap tuition fees." Luckily for now, the education is free in Scandinavia - although a small tuition could make students graduate faster and to understand the real costs behind the degree. But that is another topic.

I am personally interested in finding out, whether the distance learning can be as good as (or even better than) learning at the internal program.

I found a discussion dating back to 2007 where one reviewer argued that the employers do not value the external degree from LSE as much as the internal program - even though the examination is exactly the same. The writer also argued that the cost of external program are mostly used in the internal program. However, there are many stories about external students ending into graduate program at LSE as internal students - with scholarship from the external program. Lastly, I found an article of BBC that seems like a trustful source: the external program might be very good.

Yet, the consideration of digitization is only one aspect that higher education needs to develop. There are concerns about the quality of the whole system. As the students need expertise order to get a job, the college education employs fewer subject that are studied deeper, which offers little room for connections between phenomena (Liz Coleman TED talk 2009). In our university there are many sources for developing the teaching and the learning experience. Second workshop is  in the next week! Today, I had amazing experience in my own teaching. The results of the last exam on our master level course came. I noticed that a student that I helped to learn without attendance on exercise sessions passed. The course is hard (and it should be as a master level course). But when the student passed, I was so happy that I informed him personally. That made his day. It was the last course for the degree and thanks to the flexibility the course was completed and the student could keep working while studying. This flexibility didn't take too much time from my side (but couple of hours more than planned) and it was a big help according the student.

Could the "internal" program use more good sizes of digitization? At least the students in our university wish for more distance learning possibilities as many are working at the same time (even though the program is planned for full time). And if the education would mostly be based on learning by oneself from books, why couldn't the distance program with discussion forum be as good as lecture format? The gain of the program would come from well planned study materials (with commentaries), deadlines and recognition of knowledge and competence.

Harvard has offered external program for long. The price is very low (like 20 000 dollars) compared to the normal tuition (90 000 dollars), if I understood right, the intake is easier but the graduation is as hard as in the "normal" face2face program. Johnson wrote about completing the graduate degree and it sounds pretty amazing. The enrollment to Harvard Extension School is straightforward: you enroll to a course, if passed with B or better - then we remain in good academic standing. You need to pass some courses (four, say) with at least B and you might get in. Yet, Washington Monthly published 2013 "The Other Harvard"  Daniel Luzer who writes:
"The Extension School website is pretty clear about how it’s not that Harvard, which is part of what makes it so interesting: 'Harvard Extension School has degrees that allow you to enhance professional skills, prepare for a new career, or pursue intellectual inquiry for personal enrichment.' In addition, 'graduates of the Extension School get to participate in the Harvard graduation ceremony, led by President Faust. You can see a video of past graduates getting their degrees conferred on the Harvard campus.'
It seems somewhat obvious that if one of the appeals of the program is that one 'gets to' participate in the Harvard graduation, this is something other than a standard Harvard degree."

Luzer also criticizes the summer school of Harvard, because you cannot use the credits earned in Harvard degree later on (if accepted). That is actually the reason why I picked Stanford summer session over Harvard Summer School. At Stanford, you're a Stanford student "visiting graduate" or "visiting undergraduate" student. In the web pages of Harvard summer school it becomes clear that the students won't be formally enrolled at Harvard like an exchange student... But the degree from Harvard extension school? Johnson said it was hard to graduate. Well, master's degree is hard to obtain independently on what was the attended university.  But I think that the real question is: is a degree from Harvard extension school close enough to a degree from Harvard university?

Today, the exact words sound better: "the University-wide commencement ceremony is held once a year, in May" or "Alumni of the Harvard Extension School also have access to the benefits of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA)" or "Bachelor [or Master] of Liberal Arts, Extension Studies, Harvard University". The sites leave an impression of extension school being a subset of Harvard. Their strongest statement is: "We are a fully accredited Harvard school. Our degrees and certificates are adorned with the Harvard University insignia. They carry the weight of that lineage. Our graduates walk at University commencement and become members of the Harvard Alumni Association." That statement does not leave any room for doubt.

Btw, here is a list of Stanford courses (at least some are free) on different platforms. 


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