Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Unbundling V Package Deals

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Unbundling V Package Deals

Article excerpt

Coursera, the for-profit massive open online course platform, sent out a quarterly update recently. It now offers 1,026 courses through 119 partners. There are 25 categories: the biggest is the humanities with 186 courses. Just over a quarter of the courses (268) offer "verified certification" and 110 are a set of courses intended to deepen subject expertise. But most courses are discrete units of content, including the popular social psychology Mooc from Wesleyan University and the "learner recommended" University of Rochester course "The Music of the Rolling Stones 1962-74".

Running my eye down the list, I was reminded that by the mid 1980s US high schools had become so large and the curricula so diffuse that researchers Arthur G. Powell, Eleanor Farrar and David K. Cohen said that they resembled "shopping malls" (in their book, The Shopping Mall High School: Winners and Losers in the Educational Marketplace, 1985). The mall high schools offered various opportunities to learn. There was a lot of choice in terms of field, quality and pathways: pre-college, pre-vocational, life skills.

However, this approach did not work out so well. The lack of a common curriculum, marked variation in public expenditure across districts and the lack of uniform high school completion standards confounded employers and universities trying to make selection decisions. Students seeking their first job were less well served by qualifications with little national currency or comparability. Inequities shaped by race, income and location were increased.

Business, community and teaching union leaders campaigned for "common core standards". Thirty years later, those standards are in place in many states. A young person who has followed a programme grounded in the common core standards will have had a planned educational experience where concepts, principles and ideas will have been presented in a logical order and sequence, in ways likely to facilitate learning. …

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