Here’s a roundup of some events planned for Martin Luther King Day - The Boston Globe

Here’s a roundup of some events planned for Martin Luther King Day - The Boston Globe Here’s a roundup of some events planned for Martin Luther King Day - The Boston Globe Posted: 15 Jan 2021 12:01 PM PST Museums, community organizations, and schools are all putting together events in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday. The federal holiday is also a designated "day of service" by the US government, which is encouraging citizens to "volunteer to improve their communities." Each of the events seek to honor Dr. King, the civil rights hero who was assassinated in 1968, and his legacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of these events online. Here are highlights of some events: The Museum of Fine Art is hosting a virtual celebration titled "Voices from King" from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday with performances and speeches from notable people across the state. Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins,

Website Helps Texas Students Find Best In-State Online College Programs -

Website Helps Texas Students Find Best In-State Online College Programs -

Website Helps Texas Students Find Best In-State Online College Programs -

Posted: 22 Jul 2020 03:17 PM PDT

Although online higher education is not new, the pandemic has most students moving to online learning which might prompt more students to consider digital education as a way to earn their degree or certificate. But how do you research all of the options?

Enter a new website focused entirely on Texas schools that offer online degrees and certificates:

"Though the events of 2020 may have complicated the usual college choice decision, simplifies that search while keeping the focus on the great higher education institutions in the Lone Star State," Brian Langhoff, the company's Chief Technology Officer, said in a statement.

The site provides information from 67 colleges and universities offering more than 1,500 online degrees, including costs, top-ranked programs, details on the percentage of students fully online, the student to faculty ratio, and graduation rates.

While an online degree is obtainable from almost anywhere, seeking one close to home from an established university might save students money on tuition, allow them to visit campus to meet professors or participate in some aspects of college life, and give them an advantage with prospective area employers who value local schools.

Langhoff says is the first online college information site to focus on a specific state.

"Students share that they feel inundated by information that doesn't apply to their needs. By concentrating on the state level, we use our knowledge of higher education to help students and working adults in Texas focus on the best local schools and improve their career options," he says.

According to the company website, it partners with to obtain rankings on schools' influence and desirability while also gathering data from governmental and collegiate sources.

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  • Take a look back on the stories that grabbed our readers' attention last month.

Google announces 100,000 scholarships for online certificates in data analytics, project management and UX - CNBC

Posted: 13 Jul 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Today, Google announced three new online certificate programs in data analytics, project management and user experience design. 

The certificates are created and taught by Google employees, do not require a college degree, can be completed in three to six months and are offered through the online learning platform Coursera. Google says it will consider all of its certificates as the equivalent of a four-year college degree for related roles at the company.

"This is not revenue-generating for Google," says Google vice president, Lisa Gevelber, who leads Grow with Google and Google for Startups and serves as the company's Americas chief marketing officer. "There's a small cost from the Coursera platform itself — the current pricing is $49 a month — but we want to ensure that anyone who wants to have this opportunity, can have it."

The tech giant has committed to funding 100,000 need-based scholarships for individuals enrolled in any of these career certificate programs and will be awarding over $10 million in grants to YWCA, NPower and JFF — three nonprofits that partner with Google to provide workforce development to women, veterans and underrepresented Americans.

Gevelber says Google chose the specific fields of data analytics, project management and user experience because they can lead to "high-growth, high-paying careers."

Google's announcement comes as the United States grapples with historically high unemployment levels. According to most recent data from the U.S. Labor Department, 33 million people were collecting unemployment benefits as of June 20 — five times the previous high of 6.6 million hit during the Great Recession. 

And while some of these jobs may return over time, the coronavirus pandemic has heightened fears that some jobs may not return for a variety of reasons, including cost-cutting measures, closing of businesses and also automation.

Coronavirus "has caused an acceleration of some labor trends like automation," Karen Fichuk, CEO of Randstad North America told CNBC Make It in April, adding that out-of-work Americans may need to develop new skills in order to find new jobs. "What we're seeing is this significant need for massive up-skilling and retraining, especially for workers who have been laid off." 

Some believe that low-cost certificate programs may be a possible solution, as well as a tool to combat historic inequality in fields such as tech and improve prob prospects for those who do not have a college degree. 

"While college degrees have tons of value, they are not accessible to everyone," says Gevelber. "And we believe that the absence of a college degree should not be a barrier to economic stability."

In 2018, Google launched a similar certificate program for those interested in IT. 

"When we first built the IT certificate, we built it for our own use," says Gevelber. "We wanted to diversify our own workforce and we knew to do that we needed to create an on-ramp for underrepresented and 'nontraditional applicants.' We thought a certificate would be a way to accomplish that goal, and it did." 

Google says that 58% of those who take its IT certificate identify as Black, Latino, female or as a veteran and that 45% of enrollees make less than $30,000 per year. The company claims that 80% of participants say the program helped them advance their job search or career within six months, including getting a raise, finding a new job or starting a new business.

Yves Cooper took Google's IT certificate in 2018 through a workforce-development program run by the nonprofit Merit America. Cooper had dropped out of Coppin State University and was working as a van driver for adults with developmental disabilities. Today, Cooper works as an IT help desk technician for Prosperity Now, a D.C. nonprofit and is earning "much more."

He says the Merit America program offered in-person support, encouraged his class of six students to complete the certificate in 10 weeks and that he and three others graduated from the program.

Before the program, Cooper says he did not hear back from any organizations he applied to. "A couple of days after I finished the Google certification, I applied to the job I currently have now and they got back to me maybe four or five days later," he says.

Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, says more than 250,000 people have taken Google's IT certificate, 57% of whom do not have a college degree, making it the platform's most popular certificate. He suspects the new certificates will be similarly popular — especially in light of recent events.  

Maggioncalda says the coronavirus pandemic has created "unprecedented demand" for online courses

"There's a course from Yale on the science of wellbeing that saw 2 million enrollments just in 2020 alone," he says. "We have a course that was launched in May from John Hopkins called 'COVID Contact Tracing.' Within four weeks, it had 400,000 enrollments."

Some are skeptical of the grand promises of online learning and certificate programs.

Todd Rose, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, argues that learning online is significantly easier for students that have strong academic backgrounds, reliable internet connections and sufficient technology.

"The students that will do well online are people who are already prepared. You have to be pretty self-directed," he says, noting that in-person support for students learning online can help close these gaps. "Poor students and first-generation students often don't do as well online."

But Maggioncalda is bullish about the opportunity that online learning may provide. He says because the coronavirus pandemic has forced students to embrace online learning, and forced companies to embrace remote working, he is more optimistic than ever that certificates like Google's will be used as tools to increase opportunity. 

"The college degree requirement excludes lots of people who could do the job if only they had a different way of getting the skills. Online learning is a necessary, but not sufficient, ingredient to creating more social equity," he says. "Our 'new normal' where I can get skilled to do a job without leaving my community, and I can get the job and do the job and get paid for doing the job without leaving my community, I believe that this will create more economic opportunity than anything we've seen before."

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California’s online community college still has much to prove - EdSource

Posted: 22 Jul 2020 12:04 AM PDT

Calbright College staff at Future LA in October 2019.

Calbright College, California's online community college, may have survived elimination in the state's budget, but the pressure is on to prove its value to the state.

The college faces a state audit and has yet to announce any employer partnerships it promised a year ago. Questions also remain whether Calbright's students, the first of whom are 10 months into the program, will complete and find the employment the college promised. These are the issues awaiting newly-appointed Calbright President Ajita Talwalker Menon.

Menon, who was unanimously selected by the college's trustee board Monday, said that despite the criticism, Calbright remains "an innovation engine" for the state's other 115 community colleges. Calbright opened in October as the state's 115th community college to deliver training to approximately 8 million of the state's "stranded workers," between 26 and 34, who are seeking credentials and training to advance. (The system Monday added its 116th college.)

Calbright remains well-positioned to lead the state in rebuilding California's economy and helping adults transition into better-paying jobs, Menon said.

Menon, who replaced Calbright's first president Heather Hiles in February, said the college could prove itself to lawmakers. "It is a mistake, as some have tried to characterize the college, as a silver bullet, single online solution," Menon said in an interview with EdSource. "They need to understand the role it can play in innovation across the system and research and development for the community."

In comments to the board Monday, Menon acknowledged that developing the college hasn't gone perfectly, but Calbright's staff is working hard to make critical changes to its operations and instructional efforts.

The college is redesigning the online student portal, for example, and administrators are rethinking parts of the entry-level course that will help students move into the program paths quicker, Menon said. But that will require more hiring.

Calbright also hired eight new full-time instructors and counselors on Monday. Menon said the new staff will help increase interaction between students and the college.

Menon said the college up until this point was simply a pilot to study the adult learners and what works to help them complete the certificate programs. Now, Calbright administrators are winding down from the pilot, analyzing the results and "launching the next phase of improvements in July," she said. Students and faculty will soon see improvements to the college's website and programs.

Helping adults who need more skills to earn higher pay is a role that former Gov. Jerry Brown envisioned when he pushed for Calbright's creation in 2017. Nonprofit and for-profit colleges like Western Governors University and the University of Phoenix have thrived by offering Californians a non-traditional online education. Brown and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley pushed for a public and lower cost option for adult learners.

Since opening, the tuition-free college has enrolled 545 people, with at least 80 of them completing the entry-level course, according to Calbright's data. The college's education model requires students to show they've mastered a particular set of skills or competencies, rather than complete a certain number of hours or achieve a grade to complete the courses.

But only having about 80 students complete the entry-level class has opened Calbright to criticisms including some from lawmakers who tried to cut off its funding during recent state budget talks.

Calbright marshaled its own supporters who insisted that the college be given more time to show its worth allowing the college to emerge in the 2020-21 state budget with a renewed life, but operating with about $45 million less in state funding from the legislature.

Menon said she wants the next phase for the college to address why students aren't progressing more quickly through the entry-level class and their need for staff guidance.

One way they want to fix the problem is by increasing interaction between students, teachers and staff. So, at each time students come across a barrier and stop, such as completing the application or failing to move forward in an online lesson, an instructor or a student support coach will contact them, Menon said.

Phil Hill, an online education consultant, who has helped the state's community college system with its Online Education Initiative, enrolled in Calbright last year as a student on his own to see how it measures up to similar online college programs.

Hill said he wasn't paid by the system or the college to test Calbright, and he doesn't describe himself as a critic or advocate of the online college. As an online education expert and California taxpayer, he was curious. But what he found was a poorly-designed and confusing class that could hinder students' and Calbright's success.

"The course is overly extensive without much real value," said Hill, who enrolled in Calbright's cybersecurity program. The entry course covers resume building and assesses students' math and writing skills. However, many activities or lessons don't happen on the Calbright platform. Students are redirected to other websites, such as LinkedIn Learning, to complete courses.

The course also doesn't follow the main idea of proving what a student knows — testing or demonstrating skills and learning new ones. Hill said the Calbright entry course won't allow students to immediately take an assessment, so they can demonstrate their skills. They must first click through the lessons, which can be frustrating for students who already know the skill.

"The end result is a mess that serves as an obstacle course preventing learners from getting to the academic program that they need," he said, adding that he never made it to the next course and may ultimately drop it.

Another criticism the college has faced — a lack of employer partnerships. Calbright initially promised to connect students directly to employers looking for employees with skills that didn't require two or more years of college. But that hasn't happened.

Calbright had sought a partnership with the Service Employees International Union, as early as 2018, to help working adults in California's healthcare industry earn their medical coding certificate. Instead, the union teamed with the already established Western Governors University and said it would pursue other training partnerships with Calbright.

Menon said the college's previous leaders had underestimated how much time it would take to form those partnerships. Established online colleges took years to develop their curriculums. "We are working to build on others' success, so we're not constantly reinventing the wheel," she said.

Gaining insights from its competitors, like WGU, could be crucial to Calbright's longevity. WGU enrolls nearly 121,000 students across the country, including 10,900 California residents.

"Calbright has the right idea because they can look at WGU and others," said Scott Pulsipher, WGU's president. "But they have to prove quickly, is it delivering the value for students and adults, and are they competing and getting the jobs they need?"

Pulsipher said it took four years before the nonprofit enrolled 1,000 students.

"Those first five years you can have a lot of contrarians and naysayers come out and say it's a debacle," Pulsipher said. And the first run of a new school will have problems, but the goal must be correcting and learning from those issues, he said.

But unlike a nonprofit, Calbright is public and will still have to produce results quicker than WGU. Unfortunately, in a pandemic and economic recession, jobs are scarce and forming partnerships isn't easy.

Menon said the college is rethinking how it can create simulated or remote work opportunities for students to help demonstrate to employers that when the economy re-opens, Calbright's students are ready to work, she said. Calbright recently partnered with Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit connecting students to employers hiring for specific skills.

Building partnerships with other community colleges has been more fruitful. Calbright is partnering with Bakersfield and Compton community colleges so that its students can, one day, earn their degrees.

But Calbright is not alone in California trying to create this connection between adult learners, competency education and certificates.

San Diego Continuing Education, part of the city's community college district, recently launched noncredit career training program that uses the same learning model as Calbright and WGU. The program is called The ICOM Academy, or Interactive Competency-based Online Microcredentialing.

"We've been working over the past year to build the best digital distance learning platform for adults in the United States," said Carlos Cortez, president of the continuing education college.

The Academy is launching three certificate programs in small business entrepreneurship, mobile application development and information technology. By this fall, it will offer 11 certificates. The programs are free and take five to 10 months to complete. So far, about 280 students have enrolled in the three pilot programs.

But the Academy raises questions about whether it competes with or complements Calbright.

Menon said programs like ICOM aren't competitors and should be strengthened statewide, she said.

That's the same view WGU takes to a start-up college like Calbright. Pulsipher said one reason he doesn't view Calbright as competition is the millions of Americans who need higher education. Calbright expands the number of options available to California students and workers, he said, referring to the 36 million Americans who left college without a degree.

Pulsipher said Calbright can succeed moving forward. "It's about the design, the value to students, and being able to execute and grow," he said.

To get more reports like this one, sign up for EdSource's no-cost daily email on latest developments in education, click here.

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