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Online Education Weekly Roundup: Inaugural edition

The first post on this blog was a little more than two months ago, which makes our inaugural online education news roundup…a little more than two months late. There is really no excuse for taking this long to start a weekly news roundup, but better late than never!

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The good news is that we finally started one, and, although it is Monday, we will now have news items about online education posted every Friday morning. So hopefully you will enjoy all of your online news aggregated in one place.

For-Profit Colleges receive $1 billion in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funds

For-profit colleges have been taking a beating in the news because of complaints about shady recruiting tactics and student loan default rates that are nearly double the national average. The criticism got bad enough that a coalition of for-profit schools released a set of ‘responsible conduct’ standards aimed at softening their image.

But the criticism continued to pile on Thursday when Democratic senator and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Tom Harkin, of Iowa, announced Thursday morning that eight for-profit colleges collected about 25 percent of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill education funds this academic year.

There are some damaging statistics and facts in the report, but even Harkin admitted that while something needs to be done about the staggering dropout and loan default rates, these for-profit schools did provide a worthwhile service to some veterans.

"Some of these schools are doing a good job," Harkin said. "But there are some of these, they just want the money."

Hearings are scheduled today to discuss the “90-10” rule, which requires colleges to receive at least 10 percent of their revenue from non-government sources. The rule is contentious because currently, G.I. Bill funding does not count as government funding.

Audit says Minnesota K-12 online schools troubled by dropout issues and inadequate state oversight

One week ago, Minnesota released a state audit that basically took the state’s K-12 online schools to task for high dropout rates and poor standardized test scores and also leveled some of the blame at their own Department of Education for a lack of oversight.

The story is a perfect example of the current obstacle facing online schools all across the country. It seems perfectly clear to everyone that online learning will play an important role in the future of education, the audit even pointed out full-time enrollment at virtual schools in Minnesota has tripled in recent years.

The problem is that states, educators, and lawmakers aren’t quite sure yet how to make online learning equally as effective as face-to-face learning. Some self-starting students have no problem adapting to online learning, but the statistics show that the majority do, and Minnesota hasn’t figured out what to do about it yet.

Framingham, MA looks into adding a private, online school to the town

As I said earlier, despite all of the negative publicity and scary statistics, people seem to recognize they need to at least explore the benefits of an online school before they write it off completely.

That is what is happening in Framingham, MA where a proposed virtual school has piqued the interest of the town and local schools officials. Of course the school officials are skeptical, and kudos to them for demanding that the school’s founder provide solid evidence that this school will be as rigorous as the public school system.

Among the evidence schools officials will need to see are the academy's graduation requirements, sample lessons, and at least one fully developed course in each major subject. This type of strict regulation is exactly what online schools need to succeed right now.

There are plenty of success stories from online schools, but there are even more horror stories. The best way to ensure more success stories and less horror stories is to maintain control and oversight of the school, and to make it clear the school’s administrators have the student’s education in their best interest.

Women in Mumbai launch an online learning site

Shame on you for assuming that the United States was the only place actively pursuing online education strategies!

In Mumbai, three women got together to launch www.sharpeners.in, designed to provide students with a syllabus-based educational content in a simple way. The site will be free, and the three founders said they hoped the website would be an effective tool for connecting the teaching in top-tier schools to the teaching in middle and lower-tier schools.

While the site is online in beta version only right now, you have to applaud what these women are trying to do. Free, quality education, catered to the students in one of the fastest-growing cities in all of India is an excellent idea if it is scalable.

EducationDynamics and Smart Horizons Career Online Education to launch new online high school

Although the news that Smart Horizons Career Online Education and EducationDynamics are pairing up to launch Sun Coast High School is smaller than news that Pearson PLC bought Connections Education, the new partnership seems to have the same motivation behind it.

As the joint press release – issued last Tuesday – tells us, Smart Horizons is the first accredited online school district in the world, and currently operates six schools.  The release also explains that EducationDynamics “specializes in helping higher education institutions find, enroll and retain students.”

So, just like Pearson was looking to expand its online education footprint and add actual degree-offering online schools to its quiver, EducationDynamics is now adding an accredited online high school and hoping that its massive reputation and following will help make the school a success.