Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


April 3, 2013

Signing on to higher education


Completing an edX course doesn't offer a GPA boost. The courses offer certificates for completion instead of weighted letter grades, making grade translation impossible, according to Duclos.

Nikhil, chewing through content for the Ancient Greek Hero and Justice courses, said he thinks it is better that way.

"If you're letting it just be something you can learn from and enrich yourself with, it's more effective than an academic goal," he said.

Mimi Olney, 17, and also enrolled in the Justice course, agreed.

"It's nice to take a class when you don't have to worry about what you're getting as a grade," she said. "You want to pass the course, but it's nice just to take the class to learn."

While the entire college experience isn't transferred through the online content, certain aspects of university life are conveyed virtually. Course lectures are streamed as video footage, and students can pause, rewind, even slow down content to complete it at their own pace, the students said.

Self tests are assigned to ensure the students are understanding and completing the content. Reading assignments are set up to align with video lectures, and resource boxes provides other content like programs designed to help reinforce lessons, according to the students.

"It's like going to class every single day," said 16-year-old Jordan Janeiro, who is taking the biology course at MIT.

For 16-year-old Grace Anne Castro, edX is providing an opportunity to prepare for college two years in advance.

"You really have to be self-motivated to do the work, and that's a big thing you need to do in college," she said.

For school administrators, there's an even bigger picture to what the online courses provide.

"When you talk about exposure to different ideas and points of view... I just think about the different depths to enter into that college environment," Duclos said.

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