Tag Archives: College

Cost & Benefits of Online vs. Traditional College

Online and hybrid college courses and programs are becoming more prominent in higher education. While we are still early in the evolution of online education, there are some interesting trends appearing. For example, online courses are (on average) pricier than their brick and mortar counterparts; but largely because of the disproportionate number of for-profit schools. At the same time, attending a course virtually can preclude paying out of state tuition. More students in business students take courses online, but the breakdowns in other courses of study are negligible. However, the most important element of online education is that it is still a struggle for students to finish a degree online.

Online vs Traditional College
Source: Affordable-Online-Colleges.net

Even America’s Top Students are Ill-Prepared for College

Elaine Tuttle

Elaine Tuttle

I have had the privilege of working for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program for 7 years and have never been more amazed by the level of brilliance and ingenuity amongst America’s Youth.  In her piece at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, their Executive Director, Elaine Tuttle Hansen, highlights the fact that it is not only America’s low achieving students that are struggling to acquire core skills necessary for success in college, but our top students as well.

She notes that: “What’s changed is that today, college readiness is more often a hot topic for educators and policy makers focused on at-risk students.” This focus, for laudable reasons, on at risk children has largely left gifted and advanced students out in the cold. This is especially problematic for bright children in disadvantaged homes.

“…the focus on low­-achieving students in public schools has disproportionately left more smart minority and low-income kids behind, creating a well-documented ‘excellence gap.'”

Elaine highlights programs, like CTY, help to engage and promote gifted youngsters  thus giving them a leg up when it comes to college life.

“Take David, a college student I heard from recently, who loved the summer program he took at the Center for Talented Youth a few years ago. But it wasn’t enough to save him from being so bored in school that he “coasted” through elementary, middle, and high school and his first two years of college. ‘By the time I found academic work that challenged me, … I realized my work ethic and study skills were atrocious, in large part, I believe, because I had never been forced to use them,’ he said. ‘I would like to know the person I would have become had I been engaged as a young learner.'”

Unfortunately, gifted summer programs (even those with generous outreach and scholarship programs) remain out of reach for many underprivileged children. To read Elaine’s argument, see her article in the Higher Ed Chronicle as well as her interview on NPR’s “Tell Me More”.

Shmoop’s Learning Guides and Libraries – Great Free Resources for Students and Educators!

Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 10.14.26 AMI have written about Shmoop in the past (see my article: “Highlight of Product at the AP Conference Shmoop“). If you are unfamiliar with Shmoop, think of them as an all inclusive website for study-guides, lesson plans, student and teacher resources, and sample standardized test repository (just to name a few). While Shmoop offers a wide variety of paid resources (inexpensive and well worth the investment it in my opinion), they also have ample free resources for both educators and students.

If you are looking for a great review of material, check out their “Free Learning Guides” that cover a myriad of topics from literature to mathematics. They also have a great repository of learning videos under their “Shmoopsterpiece Theater.”

If you are looking to provide guidance to students preparing to leave High School, try the section on “Shmoop Careers,” where students can take a brief aptitude and interest test and receive guidance, or “College 101,” which can help students to select a college or university that will meet their needs, complete a successful application, and get funding.

New material is added regularly, so this is  a site to bookmark!

Digital Portfolios & College Admissions

This is reposted from my PLP Voices article: “The Truth about Digital Portfolios & College Admission

Button with a portfolioIn my daily readings about educational technology and pedagogy, one term and concept has been popping up more and more frequently: Digital Portfolios.

A digital, or electronic, portfolio is a collection of student work in a digital medium. Educational technology experts are touting them as the future context by which students will be judged for college admission, job applications, scholarships, and more.

Some high schools (public and private) have taken up the mantle and begun developing and building a digital portfolio requirement into their curriculum or graduation mandates. I can certainly see the potential usefulness of a catalog of student work stored electronically, but I also want to know: how useful are digital portfolios, really?

Digital Portfolios are becoming trendy

In my research and readings, there is no doubt that Digital Portfolios are currently on the minds of educational technology specialists, administrators, and software developers. Recently, software companies like CollegeOnTrack have announced compatibility with The Common App and other means by which students submit online college applications.

Portfolios have always been an important part of the resume for students pursuing further schooling in art, music, and writing. Therefore, it makes sense that when college application materials are submitted digitally, there needs to be a system that allows for the submission of creative materials as well. However, will this be the new norm for ‘traditional’ students (outside the creative arts) who are applying to four-year institutions?

I decided to investigate whether or not colleges are currently considering digital portfolios from ‘traditional’ applicants or, if they are not, are they looking to do so in the future. At this point, I extend a special thanks to my friend and colleague Randy Mills, our school’s Director of College Counseling, who helped me procure some college admissions information.

Few colleges want to see digital portfolios

It appears that while schools and software companies are gearing up for students to start creating and curating a digital portfolio, the reality is that colleges and their admissions directors are more conservative on the current and future role of this medium. Right now, few colleges and universities will consider additional application materials and do not see this changing in the near future.

Admissions officers currently spend copious amounts of time evaluating transcripts, letters, test scores and personal essays. The addition of a video or a website is not a feasible option for an already overburdened system. Institutions with heavy application loads, in particular, are simply not capable of introducing more material into the mix.

So, does this mean that Digital Portfolios are a waste of time and have been overly hyped in our fetishized technology-driven lives? Not necessarily. In fact, there are many ways that students and teachers can use Digital Portfolios for assessment, perhaps with an eye to college applications (but not reliant on it).

How Digital Portfolios can be useful now

Edutopia recently highlighted some potential values of online portfolios: peer assessment, curating knowledge, increasing engagement, strengthening organizational skills, to name a few. By their nature, Digital Portfolios are an excellent way for students to track their own learning – providing a broader look at one’s educational journey. They can give students a more coherent way to do some valuable self-assessment of their academic and intellectual development and growth.

Likewise, a single or multi-year digital portfolio can help teachers and administration track and evaluate a student’s progress over the course of time. Educators understand that a true assessment of learning is not what you can produce at the end, but how far you have come in the process. A meaningful catalog of student work is an excellent way to judge and evaluate this effectively.

Creating the Digital Portfolio

Electronic portfolios are relatively simple to put together, and the trend toward creating student projects and assignments with digital tools makes it easier than ever for students and/or teachers to put together. Beth Holland’s article at Edudemic, “How to Use Google Drive and Evernote to Create Digital Portfolios” highlights two of the best web tools for creation and describes a process of virtually seamless and easy integration — all for free.

Plan for the future

Even though most universities are not currently asking for Digital Portfolios, they could become more relevant in the future. Many top tier schools, such as MIT, already allow students to include links to their online work. It is conceivable that student demand for broader consideration of their digital products will push institutions of higher learning to adapt to the expanding world of digital media.

For this to become feasible, I foresee two necessities: first, Digital Portfolios will need to be engaging andconcise — two-hour film epochs are not going to get a student’s foot in the door. And there will need to be a template or model — some type of uniformity in how this content is presented. Currently, there is none.

While Digital Portfolios have seemingly been over-hyped in the past few years, I do believe that they have a place in education and assessment. Additionally, they appear to have a (as yet undetermined) future in application processes for higher education. Curating one’s work seems to have no downside – resources are free and the archives may be useful in ways we cannot yet predict (MOOCs? Job seeking?). At the same time, it benefits students and educators to approach these projects with realistic goals and expectations and some financial caution.


Byrne, Richard. “Free Technology for Teachers: PortfolioGen – Create Teacher Portfolio Pages.” Free Technology for Teachers: PortfolioGen – Create Teacher Portfolio Pages. N.p., 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Hiles, Heather. “Five Ways to Use Online Portfolios in the Classroom.” Edutopia. Edutopia, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Holland, Beth. “How to Use Google Drive and Evernote to Create Digital Portfolios.” Edudemic. Edudemic, 01 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Kolk, Melinda. “Digital Portfolios.” Creative Educator. Creative Educator, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://creativeeducator.tech4learning.com/v05/articles/Digital_Portfolios&gt;.

Peterson, Chris. “Opening the Black Box: Analytics and Admissions.” Chronicle of Higher Ed. Chronicle of Higher Ed, 23 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Roland, Jennifer. “Beyond the Transcript: Digital Portfolios Paint a Complete Pictures.” MindShift/KQED. MindShift/KQED, 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Smart, Maya P. “Digital Portfolios Pull Double Duty.” Edutopia. Edutopia, 20 May 2009. Web. 29 Jan. 2013.

Treuer, Paul, and Jill D. Jenson. “Electronic Portfolios Need Standards to Thrive.” Educause Quarterly(2003): 34-42. Web.