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(CBS News) After years spent trying to help troubled youths learn their place in their communities, more kids are turning to online courses. But some critics say they encourage students to learn “nothing,” while parents want more guidance and a return to the classroom. And experts say there are no clear answers.
The online course, called “Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Adolescents,” claims its instructors will help students get jobs with low expectations, find work and stay in school.
In addition to learning coding and English, students of the course have to complete tests on a computer, answer several questions and complete homework assignments in response to questionnaires.
The course, which launched in 2008, provides $2.5 million in funding to four colleges under the auspices of a federal grant.
The program says it was developed to help teens who are struggling with school, substance abuse and other problems that threaten their lives.
The course has become popular — with more than 1.3 million students taking it, according to the Coursera site — and a number of colleges and universities are offering similar courses.
Schools have been trying to get into the business since the early 1990s, says David Stoller, founder of the National Center for Education and Research on Child and Youth.
“I think they were very successful at helping kids to develop in their minds and their emotions. That’s much more important in a life, an adult, than just knowing what to do for a job,” says Stoller, author of “The New Mind: How Technology Taught Us How to Think Like Children and How to Be Ourselves – and What It Tells Us About Modern Adulthood.”
But schools, he says, are looking at this kind of program differently.
“We’re very skeptical of these sorts of courses, especially for kids without the support of their parents, who tend to say, ‘If I don’t know how to do this, where does it come from?’ And it’s really very hard to figure out how to answer that question, unless you get somebody to answer it for you,” he says.
“This is all part of a pattern of trying to connect a lot more directly to the
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