The Continuing Controversy Over Online Education part 3

Prepare for College and Advance Placement Tests Online?

Some of our experts are flatly negative towards the idea of taking individual online courses to prepare for college or as preparation for AP tests. They also look at the recent negative news stories about disreputable financial practices of some for-profit and online educational providers and conclude that they are endemic, rather than the actions of a few bad actors.

Nold-Glaser is emphatic. “I would never advise a student to take classes at non-accredited ‘providers’. That is a total scam and a way to let non-accredited providers milk unsuspecting students for money. No way!”

Hays, does not approve, either. “The online courses are not a solution, to this concern,” he says, “even though the courses are online the course content is not going to be easier and the cost of each class is not going to be less.”

But others on our panel think online courses may play a role in college prep, at least some role under some circumstances.

Davis says, “Our school doesn’t put online AP courses on our transcript. Students are encouraged to submit the transcript from the online provider as well as a copy of the AP Exam scores along with their application materials. Also of note: I do not consider ‘credit recovery’ to be the same thing as an accredited distance program. Typically, an accredited distance program will have regular instructor feedback and contact. The NCAA has recently made this distinction in coursework that they will accept for athletes trying to meet their requirements on the high school side of coursework. On the collegiate side, typical ‘distance’ courses have interactive class discussions, regular assignments with feedback, etc.”

Greenbaum, won’t rule it out entirely, either. “For any difficulties getting into college: It’s certainly a solution for some students, though that’s not what my clients are looking for... they want to go away to school. And, some colleges do not want students going to a community college because that experience will not serve them if they want to go to that more competitive school. Students need to check in with the college they want to go to and discover what is recommended... maybe it’s a gap year...”

Forman does not think online AP courses are for students who are behind in their studies. But she does believe that they can be useful for a strong student trying to get a leg up: “The only way I would recommend AP/ college level courses is if the student is currently on track with a GPA of 85% in their majors and with recommendations from at least two of their teachers from that content area.”

Appel advises a cautious approach. “In regards to AP courses and taking college level courses as a high school student: I think that students need to build a relationship with their high school counselor. Hopefully, parents are speaking with each other to keep track of what their child should be taking when, so that they and the school counselor can work with the student to guide them through the high school experience. If the course is an AP class on the student’s high school campus, the student may already know the teacher and can often decide based on earlier interactions with that teacher or what other students on campus have to say.”