Last week, I wrote a post about MOOCs’ potential in boosting college readiness. The idea here was primarily academic—judging by recently released ACT scores, only about 40% of students hoping to attend college are academically prepared to do so.
But there is another aspect to college readiness: understanding how the whole college thing works to begin with.
In a recent article for The Evolllution, University of South Carolina’s Susan Elkins describes four challenges rural high school students face in getting a college education. Two of the challenges she identifies are comfort with college and underpreparedness. Many of these students are first-generation college students and have not had the same access and exposure to college students or graduates as their more urban, second- or third-generation counterparts. She notes that “students in underserved populations often do not know ‘how to go to college,’” and that for them the experience can be “as daunting as traveling to a foreign country without knowing the language or having an interpreter.”
The University of Pennsylvania has a MOOC aimed at international students called “Applying to U.S. Universities.” What about a similar course for underserved students in the United States on “How to Go to College”? Something that could help rural and other underserved students bridge the gap, perhaps through interviews and discussions with current students and alumni. The course could include information about what college is like, what is expected of students, and probably much of the material from UPenn’s course on how to navigate the application process.
Taking the course may also help expose underserved students to the types of technologies they will be expected to use in college, as well as start to develop a support network, which are both challenges Elkins identifies.