Web Games Can Improve Learning Abilities-Part 2

August 16th, 2018

BY AGNESS WALEWINDER

As mentioned in Part one, some web games have more of an impact on learning and brain development than others. However, not all web games come with taglines that let a player know if it’s educational or not. If someone cycles through what they believe to be educational web games, they will eventually come to learn the signs of a game that positively affects brain growth and learning skills.

Some of the learning abilities that the right web games can affect include:

 

  • Enhance memory

Commonly, when a player begins a new game, there are new sets of instructions and how-to guides to remember throughout the game. As someone delves deeper into a game, there’s even more to stow away in a memory bank. Thus, web games, especially interactive RPGs,  can help stimulate both short-term and long-term memories.

 

  • Improve concentration and and attentiveness

Excellent web games are designed to capture and engage a player’s concentration and attention for long periods of time. This can help in classrooms too when students feel themselves becoming bored by the curriculum. Improved concentration and attentiveness are tantamount to discipline; hence, students are capable of focusing their attention for longer, regardless of their learning environments.

 

  • Enhance the ability to multitask.

Time management web games often require players to be observant of multiple tasks at once. Yes, it can be a focal point for frustration at first, but as players learn more about the game, multitasking becomes easier. This is a valuable skill that can translate to real life in all aspects—not just school.

 

  • Build problem-solving 

Most web games require players to follow rules to survive and thrive in-game. Some games even have situations where a split-second decision could mean winning or losing the game. Focus has to be sharp, of course, but these split-second moments build problem-solving skills, as real-world dilemmas require the same amount of quickness and care.

 

  • Improve organization and coordination

Hand-eye coordination is a big-time must-have for most web games, as is organization of the rules, instructions, missions, and objectives. Players have to organize and coordinate their moves to win, which often requires precision and strategy as well. Organization is good for classroom work, while coordination helps with homework, class projects, and juggling the curriculum from one class to another.

 

  • Help brain function and neuron speed

Quick reflexes come from the brain telling someone’s body and mind to react quickly. Web games have moments of intensity, where players have to avoid obstacles, figure out puzzles, or focus their energies on saving characters and achieving missions. These require quick thinking that, over time, will expand brain function, making it easier for players to react in both game time and the real-world with enhanced neuron speeds.

 

Web Games Can Be More Than Learning Tools for Students

 Movies and television shows portray college as one big party, where students play drinking games and skip classes without a care in the world. However, that’s why movies are fiction and real-world college is, well, reality. The average college student is exhausted, overworked, and strapped for time. Which is where web games could come in as more than convenient, fun learning tools.

Web games are meant to be enjoyed as much as they are meant to be educational. They can be excellent stress relievers, as students can lose themselves in the fun of problem-solving missions, puzzles, and connected objectives—all from the convenience of a dorm room, apartment, or anywhere, really, with a handheld gadget. Sure, players are still learning from these games, but sometimes it’s nice to relax and forget that you’re learning.

Are Web Games Bad for Brain Development?

According to psychologists,  web games, like anything else, need to be enjoyed in moderation. Some web games are more educational and better for brain development than others. Violent web games often have a negative impact on the brain, as negative gameplay scenarios can cause stress that lessens any skills or learning abilities that would otherwise be helpful to students.

To get the most out of web game play, these same psychologists suggest limiting gameplay to an hour or two on a daily basis. Moderation is key to stimulating the brain just enough. Too much gameplay of anything can be overwhelming. These games should also fall in the educational  or strategic categories, as these categories have the most to offer students seeking to improve their learning abilities.

Learning abilities grow when neurogenesis is stimulated. Neurogenesis is the growth of brand-new neurons in the brain, which is essential to growing new knowledge and making important connections between old information and new information in one’s mind.

Web games encourage cognitive processes. Cognition is the series of intellectual activities in the brain. It affects focus, intelligence, perception, memory, and reason. Ergo, a good web game will stimulate one, or all, of these cognitive activities, causing major brain developments that only enhance a student’s performance during various classes.

So, in short, no—web games aren’t inherently bad for brain development. The right web games played in moderation can actually help improve upon the cognitive processes of someone’s intellectual activity.

 

————————————————————————————————————————————————————Byline:

Agness Walewinder is a game geek by passion extremely interested in exploring connections between web games and their role in students’ learning abilities. She also works at Poki – a playground for kids of all games. This playful platform features plenty of games such as Fast Typer or Tunnel Rush that can help with improving concentration and attentiveness, build problem-solving skills and enhance players’ memory.

 

Web Games Can Improve Students’ Learning Abilities: Part 1

August 15th, 2018

BY AGNESS WALEWINDER

 

Web games have soared in popularity over the last decade, gaining traction as stress relievers and time wasters for people of all ages. However, in a 2013 Stanford study  of college panelists, students were observed bettering their educational tools and learning abilities through the regular play of web games. Most of these students never realized that they were learning or building their educational abilities; therefore, the realization that they were learning something never took the fun away from the web games.

There have been further studies, such as those documented in the Huffington Post in 2014,  that suggest children of all ages, especially toddlers, can learn from web games. Toddler web games tend to be more directly educational with focused themes on colors, numbers, alphabet letters, and other need-to-know elements.

College students are often overwhelmed with their studies, so downtime is cherished and commonly spent vegging out in front of the latest gadgets. That said, web games are popular throughout college campuses, especially action or strategy games that require concentration and patience. These kinds of games allow students to leave their real-world dilemmas behind, choosing instead to focus on the make-believe missions and objectives on the screen.

With the introduction of these insightful studies, hundreds of new web games are released on an annual basis on platforms like Poki. This game platform actually features a category of educational games, like the Geography Game, Fast Typer, and Tunnel Rush.

Tunnel Rush  is an indirectly educational web game that sends gamers hurtling through a colorful warp zone of moving obstacles. The longer a player survives, the faster the game gets, and the more challenging the obstacles become. It’s the sci-fi equivalent of dodgeball on the interwebs, which teaches players how to avoid dangers while concentrating on reaching a new, safer destination.
IMAGE 3: Tunnel Rush – a game that will make you think and get more strategic.
Additionally, the obstacles change with every gameplay, keeping players on their proverbial toes to keep minds keen and reactions sharp.

Student Classes Vs. Web Game Teachings: How Do These Skills Help in the Real World?

The whole point of going to school is to learn and grow as individuals who can then contribute in a well-rounded way to our communities and society. While some student classes are for fun, in the same way that some web games are for fun, there is always something to be learned in both, regardless of how subtle those educational elements are.

Examples:

Cooking and baking classes, especially in college, help students learn the basics of preparing something sustainable and delicious to either further their careers in the dining industry, provide for themselves and future families, or both. In high school, you can find cooking and baking classes in Home Economics, since nourishing oneself is essential to becoming an adult.

Coincidentally, there are cooking and baking games that teach both time management and the importance of preparation. Educational cooking games usually ask players to piece together a recipe, in which case organization skills are a must. Ergo, a player learns how to organize their ingredients, put together a recipe by following directions, and manage time to ensure a meal comes out perfectly. While all gamers could benefit from these sorts of web games, young players have the advantage of learning kitchen safety, such as using mitts to retrieve dishes from the oven. Most web games geared towards younger crowds encourage parental supervision and interaction.

Perhaps one of the best examples of the correlation between web games and student classes would be basic study skills. During important tests, such as the SAT in high school or mid-term exams throughout college, patience, concentration, determination, and focus are required. In one way or another, almost every web game one could play requires the aforementioned skills. Some are subtle in their mastery of these skills, while others offer a direct approach of mini games and specific objectives that require players to perfect these skills to progress through levels and complete a game.

Another example would be in interactions. Various web games can be played with multiple players from around the world. Just like class projects, these games ask players to cooperate to accomplish missions, thus honing interactive skills, like basic communication and strategic group thinking.

Byline:

Agness Walewinder is a game geek by passion extremely interested in exploring connections between web games and their role in students’ learning abilities. She also works at Poki- a playground for kids of all games. This playful platform features plenty of games such as Fast Typer or Tunnel Rush that can help with improving concentration and enhance players memory.

Modern College Issues: Fees, Fertility and New Technology

August 14th, 2018

BY ANNABEL MONAGHAN

 

From student debt to having children to new technology uses, college students are faced with challenges unlike generations before. In 2018, the cost of college education for United States students is a top concern when choosing the right university. Furthermore, with fertility rates declining, it’s no wonder that college students aren’t even aware of fertility and what can seriously effect it. Even technology continues to surpass the knowledge that college students had in high school, demanding their time to learn the ins- and- outs of new calculators and connection methods.

18 year-old Seth Owen dreamed of attending college, calling it his “life goal”. He graduated high school with a 4.16 GPA and an acceptance from Georgetown University and began to watch his dreams come true. When he was given his financial aid package, however, he was saddened to see the results.

The financial aid package that graduated seniors are offered is based upon the income of the student’s parents. For Owen, that made his dreams nearly impossible. He was disowned by his family after he came out as gay. Georgetown was refusing to amend his financial aid package with the $20,000 he needed to attend as a freshman. But a teacher close to Owen created a GoFundMe page for him and the tuition has been covered for much more than the first year.

Students all over the United States face insecurities when attending college due to the high cost. There are a few loans that help college students afford university, but they must be paid back. Direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized loans are offered directly through the federal government. Direct PLUS loans are offered to the parents of undergrad students to help cover the cost of the student’s education. Perkins Loans are offered to both undergraduate and graduate students and is depending on school funding, which is why the schools are paid back for these loans post- grad. Private student loans are issued by banks, credit unions, or other financial institutions and are a bit trickier to understand. They are offered as fixed rate loans and variable interest rate loans. With a strong credit score, these loans may be better than federal loans, however.

According to a CNBC map, Utah has the lowest rate of student loan debt in the United States, with $19,975 on average per person. Northeast states have the highest rates of student loan debt. Almost 75% of college graduates in New Hampshire have outstanding student loans- and they carry an average of $36,367 each, which is the highest rate in the country. Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota, and Massachusetts are the top six states with the highest average of student debt for undergrad students. On average, they will carry about $31,500 of student debt on average. On the other hand, New Mexico, California, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida have the lowest levels of student loan debt, with averages under $25,000 per person on average. Those are all below the average of $32,731 for the class of 2016.

The student debt crisis in America is thought of as a top leading cause for declining fertility rates. For university students, fewer than half were able to pinpoint when a woman’s fertility begins to decline. Fewer than one- in- five knew when a man’s fertility declines. A majority of the participants wanted to have children, but the women planned to postpone that until after they finished their education, advanced in their careers, had access to affordable and quality childcare, and were working positions that allowed them to have children. They also wanted to travel and enjoy other activities beforehand.

Dr. Eugénie Prior of the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority in Melbourne, who led the study, commented, “Our study shows university students overwhelmingly want to be parents, but most have an unrealistic expectation of what they will achieve prior to conception.”

38% of men and 45% of women correctly stated that between the ages of 35 and 39 years of age a woman would find her fertility declining, whereas only 18% of men and 17% of women knew that men’s fertility declines much later, and 45 and 49.

With new technology, it’s a shock that university students lacked the knowledge of reproduction and fertility. The growing generation have done VPN reviews and implemented VPNs to protect themselves from internet cybersecurity threats. They have learned how to utilize technology in the classroom at a young age. As they move on to university, they will continue to utilize and learn new technology. From newer and more advanced laptops to wireless Bluetooth keyboards, to anti-malware software and new connection ports for USB-C, HDMI, USB 3.0 and more new ways of transferring data, these students will be at the top of the technology game as freshman undergrad students.

Staying on top of all trends college is imperative as a college student is necessary to be organized, prepared, and happy as a student. The three tips above can and will motivate any new student to continue learning necessary life tips about the classroom… outside of the classroom.

Annabel Monaghan is a writer with a passion for education and edtech. She writes education and career articles for The College Puzzle with the aim of providing useful information for students and young professionals. If you have any questions, please feel free to email her at annabelmonaghanwriter@gmail.com

 

 

For Profit Colleges Poised To Grow Under Trump

August 13th, 2018

By Richard Scott and Michael Kirst

Traditional public and nonprofit colleges are not constituted to rapidly adapt to changing regional economy contexts, whereas this is one of the major strengths of for-profit colleges. While for-profits enjoy important adaptive advantages, they have also exhibited limitations of their mode of operation, shortcomings that have prevented their rapid increase in market share in higher education. From the 1970s well into the 1990s, the numbers and enrollments of for-profit colleges rose steadily, but in the early decades of this century, these increases have been slowed and, in many cases, reversed. This sector of higher education exhibits high volatility up to the present. But a word of caution: Most studies refer almost exclusively to that subset of for-profits that, perhaps in addition to other types of programs, offer academic degrees. These are the programs that are captured by the official educational data systems. For-profits offering exclusively vocational training and certificates operate under the radar screen, and their investigation would require a different design and data-gathering strategy that will be pursued in the LA region.

Our interviews with San Francisco  Bay Area colleges confirm that for-profit institutions continue to be a key player in the field of higher education. Over time, they have offered a wider spectrum of two- and four-year programs (e.g., criminal justice, education, retail, and hospitality).  Following changing market demands, they alternate between an emphasis on employer-guided vocational training and academic degree programs. Colleges such as the University of Phoenix and DeVry offer more focused programs and provide a range of supports, such as “success coaches”, financial advisors, counselors, and staff to support on-line work and, more generally, student learning.

These distinctive advantages, however, are offset by the heavy emphasis placed by many of these systems on marketing. To succeed, colleges must attract and retain new students (customers). Too many for-profits have employed sales techniques which overstate successful outcomes, including time-to-graduation or employment prospects. Some have resorted to out-right fraud.  For example, California’s State Attorney General levied a $30 million fine against Heald College (with four campuses in the Bay Area), a branch of Corinthian Colleges, alleging the company boosted official placement rates by paying temporary employment agencies to hire students for brief stints after graduation (White 2015). Corinthian College closed operations in 2016, adversely affecting more than 16,000 students in California and other states.

For-profit colleges are structured in ways that depart markedly from public and nonprofit schools.  Rather than being fragmented and distributed, their decision structures are lean and centralized.  Rather than attempting to please multiple stakeholders, they serve a unified set of shareholders. Curricular decisions are centralized at the corporate level and their “delivery model” is similarly centralized. Curriculum is highly structured, offering clear pathways to completion with little to no opportunity for exploratory or elective courses. The centralized model affords more efficiency in the creation, approval and implementation of a new program.  A process taking up to two years in a public college may be accomplished in a matter of weeks or months in a for-profit system.

Faculty at for-profit institutions tend to be non-tenured and exercise little to no discretion over curricular offerings or mode of instruction.  Instructors receive training from college managers. A University of Phoenix informant reported that the college spent considerable effort and time in training and supporting new instructors. He stated that instructors underwent intensive training for about six months before teaching their first class and were continuously monitored and coached after the initial training period.  According to this individual, all faculty were assessed twice a year with student evaluations being a key component of this process. The college thus enjoys much more latitude to remove under-performing instructors, or to replace an instructor with experience in one area with a different one should program priorities change.

For profits have been quick to adopt on-line learning instruction.  Many have a strong technology platform and have expanded much more rapidly than public colleges in offering online and/or blended courses. A respondent from the University of Phoenix reported the popularity of “flex-net” courses, where students are able to work at their own pace online (usually taking one course for six weeks) but come to campus to interact with faculty during scheduled hours to interact and seek instructional support.

Most of for-profits have more flexibility to meet students’ needs, with courses offered in the evening, on weekends, as well as online. For-profit colleges can also adapt to change more easily than community or other public colleges because they own little to no property, foregoing the sunk costs of maintaining a campus with dedicated classrooms, dorms, student unions, or other amenities.  Only a few, such as DeVry, operate (limited) student dorms.  Many lease instructional space in shopping malls or in downtown commercial office buildings.

Yet another important advantage offered by for-profits is their willingness to offer applicants a generous reading of their previous academic accomplishments.  While many public systems are strict in terms of how much academic credit entering students will be offered for their previous efforts in other schools, most for-profits not only grant credit for earlier courses taken, but also credit for “life experiences” (e.g., employment and volunteer service) that count toward the pursuit of a degree.

In spite of these substantial advantages, for-profits have had a difficult time gaining traction. A decade of rapid growth around the turn of this century has been followed, after 2010, with sharp decreases in enrollments and, in some cases as described, failure of the company with severe implications for stranded students.  However, the Trump Administration has taken several policy and regulatory actions designed to enhance for-profit growth. Several large for-profits have merged, and are poised to recover enrollment lost in the last few years.

Most Community College Transfer Students Never Get Degrees

August 9th, 2018

College Degrees

Report: Most Transfer Students Leave College Without 2-Year Degree
A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that only 60,000 students out of more than one million who started their educations at two-year institutions transferred to another college after receiving a certificate or associate’s degree. (Inside Higher Ed, Aug. 8)

2 Very Positive Trends In College Preparation

August 8th, 2018

One of the best ways to prepare for college is to take a course in high school that is similar to a college course. It is hard for many high school students to imagine the challenge and pace of a college course.

The New York Times highlighted two positive trends that help preparation. More than 635,000 students under 18 took community college classes in 2018,an increase of 122% from 2001. Participation in Advanced Placement classes rose from 1.3 million in 2006 to 2.7 million last year. Progress in American education is often overwhelmed by negative stories.

What To Look For In Your First Job After College

August 7th, 2018

BY BRETT CLAWSON

Searching for your first job can be an exciting experience, but it can also leave you feeling frustrated, confused, and mentally exhausted. However, knowing what to look for in a job before you even begin searching can help reduce or even eliminate these negative feelings. If you are like many other people today, salary will be a primary factor to consider. But money should not be the only consideration: There are several other elements you will want to consider, and some of them are described below.

Company History

One important element to consider when looking for your first job is the company’s history. If you are interested in a particular company, conduct a bit of research before applying to any available positions. Find out how long the business has been operating. Is it a fairly new company or has it been around for a long time? Is it known for a high turnover rate? Has it expanded into any new markets or been forced to shut down one or more of its outlets?

Employee Benefit Package

Another element you may want to consider before securing a first job is the type of benefits offered by the company. Think about the types of benefits you would like to see in a benefit package and find out whether or not the business provides any of them. Some of the best employee benefits include such things as health insurance, sick leave, paid vacations, retirement plans, parental leave, bonuses, and reimbursement for relocation (if necessary).

Relevancy To Your Career Goals

When searching for a first job, you may be tempted to grab the first offer you come across. However, if you are not completely happy with that first offer, you may very well find yourself looking for another job. To avoid this type of situation, examine the job opening and try to imagine yourself actually doing the work that it entails. Do you imagine yourself as being happy and fulfilled? Is the job within your field of interest? If it is not, can it help you obtain experience for a job that is in your field of interest?

Potential For Growth

As a first-time job applicant, you may need to take an entry-level position within a company of interest. But if you are interested in future advancement, you will want to find out whether the company offers a promotional program. Do they offer management training programs and promote within? Or conversely, do they hire their supervisors and managers outside of the company? If they do promote within, are promotions based on professional experience, seniority, or progress in a training program?

Satisfaction Of Current Employees

Finally, if you have looked over a job position carefully and have decided to apply, take some time to research how current employees feel about the company. You can accomplish this by checking out employee reviews of the company, but keep in mind that employees with negative feelings will likely be apprehensive about posting their feelings online. Because of this, you may want to visit the business before you apply for a job and strike up a casual conversation with various staff members as well.

Although looking for your first job can be overwhelming, knowing what to look for in a first job can help you overcome any negative feelings. There are many elements to consider when searching for a first job, and the five elements described above are among the most important.

Author:

Brett Clawson is a writer and entrepreneur with a degree in Business Management. He enjoys researching emerging business trends and sharing their impact on business and the industry as a whole. He believes that the best way to influence others and share his knowledge with the world is through his writing.

 

Debates Differ on Financial Completion Incentives  For Students

August 6th, 2018

A growing number of states are experimenting with different ways to encourage students to take more credits.

By INSIDE HIGHER ED

There is little disagreement that the more courses students take each semester, the more likely they are to graduate on time, but much debate has centered on how to encourage students in that direction.

In California, the Legislature’s recently passed budget is offering one of the largest incentives seen across the country. Qualified community college students can receive a grant of up to $4,000 a year if they take 15 units or more.

The new program, known as the Student Success Completion Grant, is an expansion of two existing programs, which awarded qualified students $1,000 a year for enrolling in 12 or more credits each semester and $2,000 a year if they took more than 15 credits each semester.

Like the two previous programs, the new completion grant is available to qualified students who receive one of two types of Cal Grants, the state’s financial aid award. These awards help students cover nontuition costs like books, transportation and other living expenses.

The expanded incentive to encourage students to take more credits effectively attempts to eliminate the need for these students to work. Currently, most of the state’s two-year system students are attending part-time, with 21 percent of students going full-time and taking between 12 and 14 credits and 8 percent taking 15 or more, according to state data.

In California, 38 percent of full-time students complete a certificate, degree or transfer, whereas 12 percent of part-time students do so, so they’re three times more likely to complete if they go full-time, said Kevin Cook, associate center director at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Although the grant is an increase in money to students, there are still many two-year students who don’t receive enough of it. For instance, last year the system served about 2.3 million students, but only 112,000 of them qualified for the type of Cal Grants that go to low-income and older students, according to a system representative. Cal Grants generally target recent high school graduates.

“We know the data is fairly incontrovertible,” said Jonathan Lightman, executive director of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges. “If you go full-time, your chances for success as measured by degree or certificate completion go up. No one disputes that, but for whom is the community college is the question.”

Lightman said the system would be better served by examining and investing in the needs of the adult population and those students who have no choice but to go part-time because of work and family responsibilities. About 21 percent of students over age 25 took between 12 and 14 credits last year, while 17 percent took more than 15 credits and the rest took fewer credits. “You’re spending more money on a very limited percentage of the population,” Lightman said. “If you say the community college is open to the community, then you have to figure out the strategies to meet people where they’re at. We’re not going to get people in an older demographic — the [25-year-old plus] — to go full-time.”

In recent years, financial incentives that encourage students to attend full-time have become more common as research and analysis of such programs has more often shown positive impacts.

For instance, in Indiana, 38.5 percent of the state’s college students graduate from the same institution within four years with a bachelor’s degree or two years with an associate degree or certificate — a 13.9 percentage point increase over the past five years, according to a 2018 Indiana Commission for Higher Education completion report. Indiana has had a 15 to Finish initiative that requires students to take at least 30 credits a year to maintain state aid since 2013.

In Nevada, the state covers a portion of the full cost of attendance, up to $5,500, for low-income students if they enroll in at least 15 credit hours.

Meanwhile, Congress is considering incentivizing faster completion in the PROSPER Act, which would offer students $300 more in federal aid once they cross the 15-credit-hour threshold.

“There is support on both sides of the aisle to get students through as quickly as possible,” said Justin Draeger, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, adding that the dissension comes from how to do it. For instance, Democrats voted against the $300 incentive while Republicans supported it.

“Using carrots as an incentive instead of sticks is the preferred way of incentivizing, and we’re OK and supportive of the PROSPER Act’s attempt to get students to complete on time,” Draeger said, adding that they wouldn’t support any financial penalty against students who don’t take more credits.

Penalizing students for not taking more credits was one of the reasons why a completion incentive in Tennessee failed to pass the state’s Legislature in April. The completion bill would have required students in the state’s free community college program and state lottery scholarship program to lose up to $250 a semester or $500 a year if they failed to complete 30 credit hours a year.

Claude Presnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, said he and his members opposed the incentive because it punished students.

“We’re all about completion, but we want to do it in a way that incentivizes students in a positive way and gives credit to students taking rigorous course work,” he said.

Students already must maintain a 3.0 GPA for the lottery scholarship, but a biology, chemistry or fine arts major who is taking a recommended 12 credit hours a semester — because the course load is rigorous — could lose $500 for not reaching the 30-annual-credits threshold, Presnell said.

Instead, Presnell said a more positive approach would have been to encourage students to go full-time and award them $500 to take the additional courses in the summer that would help them reach the 30-credit threshold. A similar policy debuted at Alamo Colleges in Texas two years ago — it awarded students up to six free credit hours if they earned a total of 24 credits in the fall and spring semesters.

“If you’re in fine arts, you can’t take 30 studio hours in a year without killing yourself, so let’s do completion with some flexibility,” he said.

HIGH SCHOOL/COLLEGE DUAL ENROLLMENT HELPS SOME STUDENTS

August 2nd, 2018

By Katherine Mangan ,CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

When Xahil arrived at the University of Texas at Arlington, she was two years ahead of her peers, thanks to the 71 college credits she’d racked up while still in high school. While enrolling as a junior should get her out into the work force faster, it left little room for the kind of fumbling freshmen are usually forgiven for, she suggested. “Professors already expect you to know everything by your junior year.”

The psychology major, who asked that only her first name be used, was one of hundreds of students participating in focus groups about the advantages and potential pitfalls of getting a head start on college while in high school. Researchers from the University of Texas system considered their accounts in preparing a report they are releasing on Wednesday.

“If you’re not prepared to hack it and do poorly in the course, it could color your thoughts about whether you’re college material or not.”

The goal of their study, which also included surveys of faculty members, advisers, and enrollment managers, was to determine whether students are being well served by the explosion of interest in dual-credit classes, which earn them both high-school and college credit.

Originally offered to give high-achieving students early exposure to college, such classes have since been extended to students of varying abilities, as long as they meet minimum college-readiness standards. They’ve been touted as a way to propel more disadvantaged students toward college while saving them time and money, since they can take the classes free or at greatly reduced prices. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of high-school students in Texas taking at least one dual-credit course jumped from about 18,000 to 204,000. The rapid growth makes the Lone Star State an important bellwether of the growth taking place nationally.

Most dual-credit classes are taught at high schools by teachers whom the partner colleges approve. Sometimes, video technology beams college professors into high-school classrooms, and occasionally, students commute to college classrooms.

What hasn’t been clear, as the boundaries between high school and college rapidly blur, is what happens to students once they complete the shift. The results — at least from the University of Texas study and other small-scale studies around the country — are encouraging.

It found that, compared with students who came in without college credits, dual-credit students were more likely to stay in college and graduate from one of the system’s campuses. They also have higher first-, second-, and third-year grade-point averages, and graduate with fewer semester credit-hours.

Among the findings of the university system’s report: Dual-credit students are twice as likely as non-credit-bearing students to stick with their first and second years of college and three times as likely to graduate in four years.

That’s the good news. The bad news, for students looking to dual credit as a way to save money, is that for those who graduate in four or five years, taking dual-credit classes made a significant dent in their loan debts only when they came in with at least 60 credit-hours. Students who entered with one to 15 hours of dual credit actually ended up with $67 more debt.

Moderate Gains

There’s more sobering news in a separate study circulated for comment last week by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The board’s study, prepared by American Institutes for Research, found only modest gains for students who took dual-credit classes. One possible reason the results weren’t as encouraging as the university system’s report is that it excluded performance comparisons for students who attended early-college high schools like the one Xahil attended. These schools have a variety of supports in place to help students graduate from high school with the equivalent of an associate degree or 60 hours toward a bachelor’s.

The coordinating board’s study found that dual-credit classes increased college enrollments and completion rates by about 2 percentage points each and decreased the time it took to earn a degree by 1.2 months, or the equivalent of one summer term.

It also found that not everyone benefits equally. White, well-off students were more likely to take dual-credit classes than were low-income and minority students. And when they did, white students were more likely to benefit from them.

From 2001 to 2015, 10.6 percent of black students and 15.6 percent of Hispanic students took a dual-credit course during their junior or senior years, compared with 24.7 percent of white students. Most of the gap in participating rates could be explained by family income, academic preparation, and the types of high schools students attended, the report said.

The Future of Learning

The disparities extended to the outcomes of students who did participate. “For black and Hispanic students, dual-credit participation increased enrollment at two-year colleges but did not meaningfully influence college completion rates,” the report said. “Of particular concern, we found that, on average, the impact of dual-credit participation for students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was negative for most outcomes.”

Students can start taking dual-credit classes in Texas as early as their freshman year of high school, and the grades go on their transcripts. Someone who isn’t adequately prepared could become discouraged from a bad grade or overly challenging course.

“If you’re not prepared to hack it and do poorly in the course, it could color your thoughts about whether you’re college material or not,” says Trey Miller, a lead author of the report prepared for the coordinating board.

Underlying both studies was the concern by faculty members across the state that the rapid expansion of dual-credit courses had resulted in students who were unprepared for college being pushed into classes that sometimes lacked the quality and rigor of courses offered at their own institutions. That, they said, can spell problems down the road.

“There is a persistent perception among faculty across the University of Texas system that those students who experience the greatest difficulty with writing and critical-thinking assignments are most often students who took the balance of their core curriculum classes in high school within dual-credit programs,” the university system’s report notes.

Despite faculty members’ misgivings, the university-system study found, taking dual-credit classes helps students succeed in college. But taking too many classes in a rush to get coursework out of the way can backfire by causing them to be stressed and overworked, students told the researchers in focus sessions.

“Students were saying, I just want to get my degree as fast as possible and be out in the work force,” said David R. Troutman, associate vice chancellor for institutional research for the University of Texas system and a lead author of the study. “There’s a sense of urgency.”

With so many of the system’s students coming from low-income families, it’s understandable, he said, that many would consider how free classes could help their families.

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While the coordinating board defines college readiness as an SAT score of 1070, high-school counselors pointed out the difficulty of determining which students also have the emotional maturity and time-management skills to do well in college-level courses.

Texas law requires public colleges to give students credit for courses they’ve taken at another college, but the credit doesn’t have to count toward their major. So students who aren’t adequately advised might end up taking courses that won’t count toward their college degree, and not save themselves the time or money they had expected.

Katherine Mangan writes about community colleges, completion efforts, and job training, as well as other topics in daily news. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineMangan, or email her at katherine.mangan@chronicle.com.

Poll: Most Americans See Higher Ed Headed in Wrong Direction

August 1st, 2018

Democrats worry about tuition rates; Republicans say professors bring their politics into the classroom and colleges have excessive concern about shielding students from ideas they find offensive. Older Republicans are the most critical.

By Inside Higher Ed

Scott Jaschi

A new survey of the U.S. public suggests continued problems regarding the image of higher education — and negative perceptions are not limited to Republicans.

A solid majority of all adults (61 percent) believe that higher education is headed in the wrong direction, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. But that view is much more likely to be held by Republicans or those who lean Republican than by Democrats or those who lean Democrat.

While both Republicans and Democrats express skepticism about higher education, they do so for different reasons — Democrats are more concerned about tuition rates, and Republicans are more concerned about their perceptions of campus politics.

The survey is among a series in the last two years in which the public has been asked about impressions of higher education. The questions haven’t all been identical, so comparisons may be difficult, but many of the findings suggest doubts about higher education.

A year ago, Pew released a survey showing that — in a dramatic shift from past surveys — most Republicans believe higher education is having a negative impact on the United States. A Gallup survey in February found that Americans believe more in “higher education” than in “colleges and universities.” That poll also found that skepticism of higher education is deepest among white men without degrees. A New America survey in May found a partisan divide on paying for college but a generally positive view of higher education.

When Pew analyzed why those who believe higher education is headed in the wrong direction hold that view, the answers were different (generally) for Democrats and Republicans. For both groups, concerns were evident about tuition and about whether students are being trained with the skills they need for the workplace, with Democrats more concerned about the former and Republicans about the latter.

But wide gaps can be seen in the large share of Republicans who believe there is “too much concern” in higher education “about protecting students from views they might find offensive” and who believe that “professors are bringing their political and social views into the classroom.” Only minorities of Democrats have those views.

When it comes to the issues of “protecting students” from views they may find offensive and from professors’ politics, the skeptical view among Republicans about higher education gets stronger the older the Republicans are.