MOOCs Replacing SATs? I’m a Kevin Carey fan!

I’m loving the buzz around Kevin Carey, the director of the education policy program at New America. I first heard him interviewed through the weekly podcast that New America published on March 5th. He challenges the traditional college model and says that U.S. higher education is ripe for disruption. It’s a must listen for folks who are thinking about the future of higher education and how it might evolve in the next decade. (I also loved that I could listen to this podcast from SoundCloud directly from a Tweet, where I initially found the podcast, very cool).

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Carey continues to challenge the idea that 16, 17 year olds learn best from the traditional brick and mortar universities, where they sit in classrooms and learn from lectures. I particularly like his argument that MOOCs and other new assessment tools will level the application playing field and challenge what is now an outdated admissions system that most highly selective institutions still rely on to craft their newly admitted classes.

He points out that the factors used in applications, from GPAs, Testing, and Essays can all be “gamed,” and that they aren’t necessary accurate predictors of how a student will perform in college. I’m not sure that I agree with that opinion, since highly selective schools are prone to graduating higher rates of students and having them go on to succeed professionally, but I agree with his argument that more factors can show whether or not a high school student is ready for college level work.

Carey’s¬†explanation that “MOOC success is much more likely to predict success in college classes than SAT scores, because MOOC success is, in fact, success in college classes,” makes sense, but I wonder if the students who are able to succeed in these MOOCs will be the same demographics of students who already have a leg up, with educated parents, excellent high schools and internal motivation. I love MOOCs, and I’ve presented on them through my current position with the Department of State, but I also know that they have a 2% completion rate on average, and the majority of MOOC students already have a BA degree. Of course, you see the amazing article here and there about the Mongolian 15 year old genius who took MIT MOOCs and ultimately enrolled at the prestigious institute (Carey also uses him as the ultimate poster child for what can go right in a MOOC fueled world!) …but those examples seem, well exceptional. If I’m a low income student coming from an under-resourced high school, am I going to have the tools/environment it takes to complete a MOOC course? I guess it all depends on motivation, because some of those types of students also aim for the Ivy League.

Expanded educational access through technology is definitely a positive trend, and I’m excited to read further analysis by Carey on the future of admissions.

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