Saturday, April 15, 2006

Crimson: Some virtual Extension School students outperform Harvard College classmates

Elizabeth Doherty of the Crimson Magazine has written an article about distance education students at the Extension School. One of her angles, backed up by multiple sources, finds that in several classes in the Distance Education Program, Extension School students who take the class online are besting their Harvard College classmates who attend in real life (emphasis in the following excerpt is mine):
Several DEP courses—including CSCI E-2, “Bits,” and GOVT E-1045, “Justice” -- are the same classes that students sit (or sleep) through in the Science Center or Sanders Theater. Online students take the same exams, write the same papers, and are graded on the same curve as “real” Harvard undergraduates. And, according to some faculty, many of these Distance Program participants are more dedicated than the average student.


Brian M. Greenberg ’04, the Distance Program TF for CSCI E-2 (also known as Quantitative Reasoning 48), says that HES students can actually be “more fun” to work with than undergraduates. He says that College students often “take the learning process for granted,” adding that “the people in the Distance course are paying money out of their own pocket to complete the process. They will go out of their way to make sure they understand.”

Some students go far out of their way, even if it means crossing state borders. According to Greenberg, one of his past students from Albany, NY, wanted to drive to Cambridge to go over course material.

Even oceans can’t stop the DEP students’ commitment to learning. According to Greenberg, one student from the United Arab Emirates dealt with an eight hour time difference by watching lectures in internet cafes between two and three AM his time.

Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Paul G. Bamberg Jr. ’63, whose class on classical geometry is open to both undergrads and Extension School students, echoes Greenberg’s positive experience with HES. Bamberg emphasizes that everyone is held to the same standards, saying that, “they all sit in the same classroom and take the same exams, and over the past three years the Extension students have done as well as the undergraduates.”

According to Bamberg, the two highest grades last year were earned by Extension students. For the past two years Extension students outperformed their peers on his midterm -- one even earning a perfect score.
Doherty's article also touches upon a few other Extension School issues, ranging from the makeup of the student body, to the University's reaction to the nasty Crimson editorial about Hillary Duff attending the Extension School.


Some reaction to Doherty's Crimson article in the letters to the editor:

Online Education, Even At Harvard, Is Inadequate

Harvard Distance Education Is A Valuable Initiative

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This shouldn't be too surprising. By the time they have been admitted to a degree program Extension students will have had to jump through many of the same hoops as those from Harvard's other schools, a winnowing process that will have ensured that some perform at the same level - or above, as in this case. And many Extension students may have an edge with regard to life experience or professional expertise, a considerable advantage in some courses.