Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Education

April 3, 2013

Signing on to higher education

A group of students at the high school are taking a crash course in college life — and getting high school course credit for it.

Thirteen Andover High students are enrolled in courses at "edX," an online, non-profit education venture that brings students, professors and ideas together in a framework of free courses for which anyone can register.

The organization developed a partnership with Andover High School to study how high school students engage college-level content through David Birnbach, a School Committee member with connections both at edX and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the schools in edX.

With the world becoming more digital and web-based, "the best learning will be learning online in concert with more project-based learning going on in a classroom, where the role of the teacher will change but be as important as ever," Birnbach said.

The current method of teaching — students focused on the teacher at the front of the classroom during the day, and sitting at home leafing through textbooks at night — is only "one method of the learning experience," according to Birnbach.

Web-based learning "will grow to be a bigger component of learning at Andover High, and learning in general," he said.

The students are all enrolled in at least one of three edX courses: Justice and The Ancient Greek Hero, both offered by Harvard, and Introduction to Biology, offered by MIT, according to AHS Assistant Principal Luz Valverde.

Completing a course nets the enrolled student a certificate, which earns him or her one course credit at the high school, Valverde said.

But if you ask the students what they're getting out of the program, they give a different response.

"It's more for enrichment of your mind and understanding rather than an academic boost," said 16-year-old Nikhil Chopra, a junior. "A program like this is really important for delving into what you're going to be learning in college."

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