Davidson College Takes Next Step With MOOCs

(Illustration: Shutterstock)

(Illustration: Shutterstock)

Davidson College, a North Carolina school with 2,000 undergraduate students, supports a massive open online course (MOOC) platform of 35,000 high school students and teachers.

In a partnership with the College Board and edX, an online course platform, Davidson created the Davidson Next program. After joining the edX Consortium in 2013, Davidson created the Next program with the help of funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

The Next program offers online Advanced Placement (AP) courses to high school students who might not have access to those courses otherwise. Next includes courses on AP Calculus, AP Physics, and AP Macroeconomics, as well as a course for instructors called “Teaching with Davidson Next.” In addition to equipping students with modules they can take at their own pace, the Next program allows teachers to select certain modules to incorporate into their classes.

“It was created for any high school students, but we especially had in mind students in undersourced schools,” said Julie Goff, program manager of the Davidson Next program.

Goff said the purpose of the Next program was to support both teachers and students who may lack resources. She said that sometimes teachers will instruct an AP science class that has nothing to do with their own academic background or area of expertise. The Next modules are meant to help teachers learn more about the subjects they are expected to teach.

Schools that may not offer any form of physics, calculus, or macroeconomics at the AP level may elect to have their students enroll in the Next online courses, which can be taken at the student’s own speed. Goff said that, in some situations, a student will take a course without taking the exam as an exercise in independent learning. These students are treated on an individual basis by their respective schools.

Davidson ran a pilot program with local high schools over the course of the 2014-2015 school year. Thirty-two teachers and 1,200 students in the Charlotte, N.C., area used Next during this pilot phase. After evaluating the pilot program, Goff said that students in Next Calculus scored better than students who took the same class the year before without the MOOC.

In the summer of 2015, Davidson made the program available to international students. As of last year, 35,000 people had enrolled. For the 2016-2017 school year, Goff said that 185 teachers are already registered. She expects that number to double or triple in the coming weeks, as more students and teachers return to school. Goff said she hopes Davidson Next can diversify its courses in the future, possibly adding modules on AP Biology and AP Statistics.

“Davidson faculty have been working with the College Board for decades,” Goff said. “They helped design these curricula. For a school Davidson’s size, we have a niche of expertise with the College Board. The College Board is interested in how we provide support for teachers and students.”


Eleanor Lamb
About Eleanor Lamb
Eleanor Lamb is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Big Data, FITARA, Homeland Security, Education, Workforce Issues, and Civilian Agencies.
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