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Internships, Co-op Programs, ELOs, and MOOCs

January 31, 2013

Today’s NYTimes has an article on internships describing their expansion and the complications that occur when businesses require that colleges grant credit for internship experience. Here’s my comment, which is a reprise of earlier posts on MOOCs:

My theory is that MOOCs created in partnership with businesses will make college credentials irrelevant. If the business community wants narrowly trained graduates (as opposed to liberal arts majors) they will partner with a willing college and university to design a MOOC or series of MOOCs that will result in the award of a credential that certifies mastery of the desired skills. If my computer breaks, I’m calling an Apple certified repair person, not a person with a college degree in computer technology.

As one who attended a university that was unashamedly career oriented and has the co-operative work-study program as its centerpiece (Drexel), I am a strong advocate for pursuing work activity that is related to ones major. Had I not spend a year as a management trainee for Ford Motor Company and a half-year as a trainee for Mobil Oil I might well have spent unsatisfying years in the corporate world instead of working as a teacher and school administrator, which I found challenging and rewarding. New Hampshire offers students the opportunity to pursue External Learning Opportunities– or ELOs— that award credits for internships, work study opportunities, or virtually any activity that a student can relate to the high school curriculum. This kind of un-schooling or de-schooling opportunity is rare: to the best of my knowledge few states offer it… For years I expected home-schooling parents and anti-testing parents to seize on ELOs as a way to provide “legitimate” non-traditional schooling for their children… it hasn’t happened yet but may be the trend in the future. It took a while for the private sector to see the value of internships… it may take even longer for them to adopt ELO-like opportunities to provide educational opportunities for students BEFORE they enter college…

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