The learning platform edX has released free lessons for high school Advanced Placement courses on calculus, physics, and macroeconomics under the umbrella of Davidson Next.
EdX, a free learning platform with courses that span a variety of academic topics, was founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. These AP lessons, collectively called Davidson Next, were developed by Davidson College and the College Board, which is the arbiter of the AP program, and high school teachers primarily in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.
The lessons are intended by their creators to be supplementary practice, not to replace traditional AP classes. The units include "myth-busting" video segments, interactive activities and simulations, and colorful infographics. Davidson and their associates chose the topics of these units based on the College Board's assessment of which topics are the hardest for students, writes Nick Anderson of the Washington Post.
In a statement, Davidson College quotes its President, Carol Quillen, on the enrichment's value to the AP process:
We know that online AP courses have long been available to students who lack access to an AP teacher, but many students– including underserved and under-represented students– struggle to complete such college-level coursework on their own. This project helps to make equal educational opportunity real for all students. I applaud my Davidson colleagues and our partners– edX, the College Board, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools– for their leadership in helping to develop a blended learning initiative that is data-driven, scalable, and accessible to a much wider audience than we normally serve.
The lessons were piloted in 26 high schools in the 2014-2015 academic year, and students gave feedback in preparation for this month's launch. Funding came from a $1.8 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
Traditionally, online education targets adults who are looking to expand their professional skills or obtain a higher education degree, but the Davidson Next courses are not the first online education programs to reach out to high school students. Other "massive online open courses," or MOOCs, have dealt with AP courses like biology, computer science, and chemistry.
Stephen B. Klinsky, a philanthropist, has suggested that with MOOCs, students might someday be able to get their freshman year of college credit for free.