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Changing the Game
MOOCs Help Colleges Recruit Top Talent

MOOCs are already making higher ed more accessible and affordable, and now they’re also helping colleges find young, scholarly talent at home and abroad. The Christian Science Monitor chronicles a number of stories about high-school students who earned spots at good colleges due to their performance in MOOCs. Two MIT freshmen, one from India and one from Mongolia, aced one of MIT’s MOOCs and got the school’s attention, eventually leading to their matriculation there. A Pakistani high schooler took a University of Pennsylvania MOOC on modern poetry, and today that MOOC professor is his academic advisor.

These case studies highlight international students, but the same opportunity is open to high school students here at home. As the Monitor notes, MOOCs are a new way for high school students in rural locations, or who attend schools lacking the resources or funding to offer Advanced Placement courses, to showcase their talents and gain a competitive edge:

Piotr Mitros, chief scientist at edX, the MOOC platform created by MIT and Harvard to dispense learning online, notes that 5 billion people around the world lack access to a decent education. Among them, he says, “are millions who are brilliant and don’t have an opportunity to do anything with that.” Twenty years ago, he adds, there was no way to tap and teach these students. “Now we have the means to do it.”

One of the main selling points of MOOCs when they first emerged was their ability to make top-quality education available to people around the world who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it. So far, at least, research suggests that most users are well-educated westerners. But these stories suggest that MOOCs are beginning to reach these underserved communities.  What’s more, the domestic uses of MOOCs are giving gifted high school students, as well as adults undergoing career transitions, a chance to pursue learning outside of traditional schools, and to demonstrate their new knowledge to colleges and employers. Even in their early stages, MOOCs have attracted plenty of naysayers, but it’s clearly too soon to count them out.


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  • FrederickR

    A lot of Colleges are now chasing the talented (mostly foreign and full tuition) students. We would all be better served if we looked hard at why so many of our own students aren’t making the grade. Unfortunately, most US High Schools spend 80% of their time trying to deal with the bottom 20%. The kids who are smart are not sought out and developed because of the common teacher attitude of ‘they’ll be alright’. The result has been failure to both the bottom AND top 20%.

    Even worse, most HS’s focus the remaining students on ‘getting a good job’ (which no longer exists). They downplay the military, being self employed, and getting advanced degrees. As a result, foreign Professors dominate many of the academic positions (especially in the Sciences) at our Universities, who then tend to look for.. more foreign students.

    A death spirial has started and won’t stop until a concious political decision is made to change, or we hit bottom.

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