Higher Ed’s Digital Skills Gap: Faculty & Students

railway-1758208_1920“Digital technology is an ally for higher education” —Professor Mary McAleese, Teaching and Learning in Irish Higher Education (2015)

Most educators today possess the digital skills needed to function in academic life. There’s the basics—managing email, using the Learning Management System (LMS), uploading papers to plagiarism checkers among others. Yet some faculty still struggle with basic LMS functions (Straumsheim, Jaschik & Lederman, 2015). Then there’s the ever-expanding array of apps, online platforms, collaborative digital tools to consider and the latest trend—messaging platforms that are replacing traditional methods of communication like email and face-to-face meetings. The skill level that’s required of faculty to keep current with the changes in technology is expanding. There’s a gap between existing skills and what’s needed; there’s a pressing need for educators to learn how to harness the best of digital technology in order to remain relevant, improve leaning outcomes for students and to manage their teaching practice efficiently and effectively. But it’s not just faculty lacking digital skills.

The Student Skills Gap
Intuitively we think it’s faculty over students who need the most support for expanding their digital capacity. It’s tempting to say so when students appear more tech savvy than us. Though students may have mastered social media quite well they lack the breadth and depth of skills to thrive in a global economy where there’s an abundance of knowledge and digitization is transforming business and social institutions. A survey by the Association of American Colleges and University lays bare skills students lack. Employers and college students surveyed on their perceptions of how prepared college graduates were for the workplace reveal that students lack skills in: i) locating, organizing and evaluating information, ii) staying current on technologies and iii) staying current on global events; a significant shortfall (chart below).

survey data from report Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success
Chart from “Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success” by Hart Research, 2015

The Skills Needed
What then is the answer? I suggest the skills gaps need to be addressed at the institutional level for students and educators. The goal should be for students and faculty to thrive in a digital and social economy. The starting point for closing the gap is articulating what faculty and students should be able to do;  what digital skills they need to thrive.

Below are lists of digital skills for both students and faculty. They are designed as starting points; the goal is to get institutions thinking about how to raise the skill level of their students and faculty. The lists are inspired from a variety of sources: i) OECD’s Ministerial Declaration on the Digital Economy; a set of recommendations established by the group of 41 countries to support the recent (and significant shift) to a digital economy and a handful of reports surveying faculty digital skill level (Straumsheim et al. 2015, Wise & Meyer, 2016). 

Digital Skills Required of Students in order to:

  • Locate, curate and organize digital information for academic, personal and/or professional use
  • Create digital web content, websites, blogs, artifacts etc. to communicate concepts and messages effectively
  • Discern credible news from digital sources to keep current on scientific, business and political events from the global to community level
  • Leverage employment opportunities and explore career paths across digital platforms
  • Participate in professional development and lifelong learning using online platforms and digital applications
  • Contribute to and engage in community and national events, causes and initiatives
  • Protect digital identify and privacy, determine how personal data is used and protect accordingly
  • Create and participate in a personal learning network leveraging digital platforms

Digital Skills Required of Faculty/Teachers in order to:

  • Locate, curate and organize digital information for academic, personal and/or professional capacities
  • Leverage digital tools and online platforms following sound pedagogically principles to support student learning
  • Locate and implement open education resources to support student learning
  • Use digital tools, platforms and institution’s learning management system (LMS) to support efficient and effective teaching activities
  • Use LMS and other platform data to identify students requiring additional services and learning support (services provided by institution or faculty)
  • Participate in professional development and lifelong learning using online platforms and digital applications
  • Create and participate in a personal learning network leveraging digital platforms

A Digital Framework In Action
As mentioned, the aim of this post is to get institutions thinking about creating their own framework and strategy for building the digital capacity of faculty and students. Many are already well on their way. A group of universities in Ireland for example have built a digital skills framework, All Aboard, an initiative funded by Ireland’s National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in partnership with a handful of universities. The goal of the program “to increase digital capacity, not only of students but teachers and staff, by empowering students and their educators to flourish in digital world”.  They’ve created an interactive map modeled after a metro map that sorts the competencies of major skill sets into branches, where branches are like routes on a subway. For example there’s Tools and Technologies skill area (grey), Teach and Learn, (blue) and Identity and Well being (black). Along the route of each branch, are sub-sets of skills that support each skill area.

map_no_topics-1024x724This type of visual map is a good tool; it makes sense of the breadth and depth of skills needed for digital proficiency. It’s a good starting point for the novice outlining the skill paths, but it still serves as a tool for planning and organizing how to advance the experienced person’s skills, or for developing a framework for professional development.

Closing
Closing the digital skill gap for faculty and students appears a daunting task—daunting, but not impossible. The starting point is determining the skills needed then creating a plan to tackle each, ideally within a framework as the All Aboard initiative did. Easier said than done, but it’s critical for supporting faculty and college graduates so both groups can thrive in a digital world.

References

Need-to-Know News: A Radically Different Transcript in Higher Ed & LinkedIn Launches Personalized Learning Platform

light-bulb-978882_1280The Radical Transcript
For its Spring graduating class, Elon University of North Carolina is launching a radically different student transcript—the Visual Experiential Transcript or Visual EXP.  It’s a significant departure from the traditional. This document aims to provide a holistic snapshot of a student’s undergraduate learning, on and off campus extracurricular activities and leadership experience. All are encapsulated into five domains: internships, research, leadership, service and global education (page 2), in addition to a student’s course work (page 1). So what’s so radical? Student grades aren’t the focus, nor are credit hours.

Elon University’s Two-Page, Visual EXP Transcript

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-2-18-36-pm
Screenshots (above and below) Elon University’s ‘Visual Experiential Transcript’ launched to its graduating Class of 2016. Transcript development initiative funded by the Lumina Foundation.

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-2-18-23-pmElon University’s revision to the traditional transcript is an exercise other higher education institutions may want to consider in the near future. Institutions need to show value of the undergraduate experience; value over and above courses completed and grades earned. This new transcript aligns with what many scholars are calling for in higher education—innovation and transformation. This was the message at the recent ‘International Seminar on Innovation in Higher Education’ held last month. Panelists discussed how higher education institutions need to transform and innovate their traditional practices. One example of transformation is demonstrating the value of an undergraduate education; value not only in terms of value to employers, but the contributions undergraduates can make to their field and to society.

Talking about the fact that it’s not that we are preparing students for a career, but we are adding value to their lives, we are adding to society, we are adding to the corporate sector. We need the metrics at hand, showing the real contribution of higher education to society — International Seminar on Innovation in Higher Education (2016)

Elon’s transcript is an excellent example of transforming traditional practices in academe. Conventional transcripts need an overhaul given the narrow emphasis—grades and credit hours. Stanford University’s registrar went on record last year stating the transcript is “a record of everything the student has forgotten” (Mangan, 2015). Another reason for a revamp is to highlight students’ value to potential employers. Employers want to know more than a student’s GPA. They are increasingly interested in what a student can do, what knowledge and skills a student developed while working through his or her undergraduate education (Davidson, 2016). It’s time for a transcript overhaul and Elon University is a good example of how an institution aligned its transcripts with their core values. Other schools can do the same.

Further Reading:

NEW: Personalized Learning on LinkedIn

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-9-44-50-am
Screenshot of LinkedIn’s new Learning Lab interface

Personalized and lifelong learning is an expanding market as evidenced by the rise of MOOCs, offerings of nano degrees, micro masters, and alternative credentials. LinkedIn is getting in the game with a new platform Learning Lab, launched last week. Last year LinkedIn purchased Lynda.com for $1.5 billion (Kosoff, 2015); it’s now the foundation for LinkedIn’s new platform. It consists of a suite of learning videos on a variety of topics, from web development, to digital marketing to leadership. But LinkedIn Learning is adding another layer to the 9000+ videos. It’s developing algorithms with the data they’ve acquired from the millions of LinkedIn members to personalize learning for premium subscribers.

LinkedIn Learning creates personalized recommendations, so learners can efficiently discover which courses are most relevant to their goals or job function. Organizations can use LinkedIn insights to customize multi-course Learning Paths to meet their specific needs. We also provide robust analytics and reporting to help you measure learning effectiveness. – LinkedIn, The Learning Blog (2016)

LinkedIn plans to expand its focus beyond individual subscribers and reach the corporate sector. Businesses will be able to buy subscriptions for employees and customize ‘Learning Paths’—multi course bundle courses targeting a specific skill set. Human resource managers will be able to use LinkedIn’s analytics tools to monitor employees progress, recommend learning paths, as well as look at which courses their employees are engaging with.

With Learning Lab, LinkedIn is going beyond it’s role as a professional networking site to a skill and career development platform. Sound familiar?  Coursera recently launched ‘Coursera for Business‘ , as did Udacity, with Udacity for Business and edX with Professional Certificates. MOOC providers are already tapping into the employee development market with skill specific, just-in-time learning that is available anytime, anywhere. This type of skill development—personalized learning that is accessible and inexpensive is essential for developing skills and preparing a workforce for economies moving towards automation and sectors that are focused on technology and energy. LinkedIn’s new Learning platform might be part of the solution to meet the challenges of delivering just-in-time learning for focused skill development to meet the needs of a new workforce.

Further Reading:

Image credit: Light bulb, by geralt on Pixabay

Need-to-Know MOOC News: New Business Model for Corporate Learning, Human Graders and Self-Paced Formats

cropped-mooc-banner1

1. MOOCs Scale Up with New Model
The search for a business model may soon be over for major MOOC players such as Coursera and Udacity. Udacity was the first to create partnerships between (mostly tech) companies to cover some of their course development costs. They’ve since moved to offering micro-credentials where students pay for Nanodegrees—focused skill training with a certificate-type credential upon successful completion. Students can also opt to pay even more for personalized services with Nanodegree Plus which includes career support and mock interviews. Coursera has something similar, minus the personalized services, with its ‘Specializations‘. But recently Coursera made another significant move—targeting the corporate sector. Smart. The learning and development market in the United States is vast; according to the 2015 Training Report there was a 14.2% increase in corporate training expenditures bringing the total budget for US companies to 17.6 billion. That’s big. Coursera is aiming to get part of the pie and fill the employee learning gap with “Coursera for Business”.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-3-00-27-pm
Screenshot of “Coursera for Business” home page at coursera.org/enterprise

Today, we are taking yet another important step in our effort to expand the Coursera learner community. I am excited to announce Coursera for Business, our enterprise platform for workforce development at scale. We see Coursera for Business as a natural extension of our vision, and as a powerful way to help leading companies around the world address the rapidly evolving training and development needs of their employees. (Levine, 2016)

Insight:  Given the size of the corporate employee learning and development market and the need for Coursera to generate revenue, it’s a logical move. More so given a recent study by McKinsey which suggested that companies are struggling to deliver relevant, just-in-time skill-training that fits in with the drive for productivity and need for employee-directed learning. Over 40% of companies surveyed indicated their current capabilities of meeting employee skill gaps are ineffective (Bensen-Armer et al). Coursera is on to something. MOOCs are not ‘free’ to produce or sustain;  partnering with corporations is a win-win for everyone.

2. MOOCs with Human Graders
When students sign up for the edX MOOC, “Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge and Consciousness”, they’ll have the option to have their essays graded by a real person. This was unheard of when MOOCs first came on higher education’s radar in 2012. MOOC critics took issue with the automated and peer-review grading process—this undermined the learning process, comprised student learning according to the most vocal critics. This Fall MIT is experimenting with a new model for MOOCs with this particular course where essays are graded by a graduate assistant of MIT.

….the model is still a work in progress, and that details may change. This time around, MIT is paying one of its philosophy graduate student to serve as a course facilitator. The facilitator will effectively run the MOOC, moderating the discussion forum and grading papers. Hare declined to say how much the facilitator is paid, but added that it is a flat fee and more than what an adjunct instructor is paid to teach a residential course at MIT. (Straumsheim, 2016)

The cost for this MOOC that includes a Verified Certificate and personalized grading is $300, about $200 more than a Verified Certificate for other MOOCs in the same category (Philosophy & Ethics).

Insight: This story is yet another example how MOOCs are bringing awareness to online education, yet this recent development highlights how the MOOC label is misleading and needs to change. Lines are blurring between the many versions of online courses:  1. open and free courses, 2. online courses with a cost and no-credit (as the one in this article), 3. online courses for credit with a fee, and 4. online courses for a fee with conditional credit  (students need to apply to institution to receive MOOC credit upon completion). Students need to be clear on the conditions when signing up for an online course, just as institutions need to be clear on what they are offering.

3. Self-Paced MOOCs on the Rise
September is a big month for MOOCs and September 2016 is shaping up to be the biggest yet; at least since 2013 according to Class Central (Shah, 2016). But the big shift in MOOCs is the self-paced format which allows students to participate in MOOCs on-demand. Yet something is lost—the synergy of students working through the concepts at the same time (synchronous format) leading to discussion forums that fall flat.

qiz00qvayllcse4kqjq02chpyt8ddn_qo22n7fzjtk0xoqykzj1ze-zeiehv3eef6q5tcvnb9n2orokkbxsf-pgenevyt4wl-pauyzkzrvqk_zkksdopf0_mmrg9gvdjsomhdck9
Table (above) from “MOOCs no longer massive, still attract millions” (Shah, 2016)

Coursera has a workaround though, offering MOOCs within a cohort system, with courses that start back-to-back (see screenshot below) which allows students to transfer into the next class keeping their course-work intact.

screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-1-46-06-pm
Screenshot showing Courera’s new MOOC format that offers cohort-MOOCs more frequently meeting students’ needs for self-paced format

Closing Thoughts
The MOOC concept is transforming online education, yet the new formats are a far cry from the MOOC of 2012 which were Massive Open Online Courses.

References

 

 

 

How & Why to Use Social Media to Create Meaningful Learning Assignments

I recently completed an online workshop through Online Learning Consortium (OLC) “Exploring Hashtags for Learning”.  We learned how to use hashtags, but also strategies to incorporate social media into activities and assignments to engage and involve students in meaningful learning. Following is the assignment I developed  (using Instagram) as part of the workshop, but first I discuss the rationale to answer ‘why’—why use social media in learning activities first place? 

Students Learning

WHY Use Social Media to Support Learning
The next phase in course design, for online and face-to-face, will involve developing methods that integrate tools (e.g. smart phones) and applications (e.g. Twitter or other social media platforms) that students use daily, if not hourly. It’s inevitable if we want to make learning relevant, practical and effective. Not only is learning moving towards a student-centered model but students are now expecting to be contributors to their learning—to be involved in their education by contributing to course content.

Yet I want to emphasize that using social media does not mean that learning is not rigorous. Going forward educators will need to determine how to leverage digital delivery platforms creatively to facilitate learning of course concepts and to foster critical thinking among students of all ages. Research suggests that student involvement leads to higher levels of learning and contributes to outcomes that include persistence, satisfaction, and academic achievement (Astin, 1985; Kruase, 2005). The research was published well before Facebook and Twitter, yet social media by the behaviours it generates, lends itself to involving students in learning when used as a tool, not as technology that teaches.

Instagram_Icon_LargeCourse Assignment
For the workshop assignment in “Exploring Hashtags for Learning” I chose Instagram— mainly because I’ve little familiarity with Instagram in an education context and wanted to determine if it could be applied to foster learning. Instagram is a social media platform where users share images, typically their own pictures taken with their phone, through an Instagram app. Pew research shows that Instagram is the third most popular social media site after Facebook and Twitter, though Instagram has been growing exponentially.

Assignment Details: “Hashtags for Learning” Workshop
Below are the (summarized) directions for the workshop assignment:

“Design a specific example of activity or activities that utilize a hashtag with the purpose to engage your students…Include the following information: What is your learning objective? How does it include engagement? How will it be assessed?”

Though I don’t teach a course currently, I work with faculty to help develop active learning activities designed to engage students, and to ensure it aligns closely with one or more course learning objectives.  To that end, I selected an art history course, which is similar to a course I worked on with a professor last year. Instagram lends itself well to an assignment where pictures can communicate concepts, and the comment feature in Instagram allows students to articulate which concepts are featured in their image and how.

HOW: “Hashtags for Learning” Assignment
Developed for Undergraduate Online Course “ARC112: Art History Survey II”.

Following is the background information on the course, its description, the learning objective the assignment is designed to meet, and a description of the activity.

Course Description: This course offers an introduction to Western art history. It has two primary aims: to learn the skills necessary for visual literacy; and to acquire a broad knowledge of the important themes, movements, and individuals in Western art history. Attention will be given primarily to analysis of the form and content of work of art and to understanding how they fit into a historical context.

Activity Description: Using Instagram students will, through images of sculpture, architecture, paintings or other art forms they encounter in everyday life, identify major art styles and movements. This activity supports one of the learning outcomes of the course that aligns with communication skills: “to include effective development, interpretation and expression of ideas through written, oral and visual communication.”

Students are engaged by actively seeking out art forms in their everyday lives to post to Instagram and by engaging with classmates’ posts and commenting on them, which encourages students to apply course concepts.

Instructions for Students:
Following are the instructions for students. The course hashtag #ARC112;  created specifically for this course. Providing clear, concise instructions for students is critical; doing so encourages students to focus on applying and learning concepts, and not focusing on the technology.

Overview of Activity[for students]:
The purpose of this activity is to apply concepts learned in the course about the movements in Western art studied in this course by analyzing art forms and determining the influence of movements and styles on the artist’s work.

To accomplish this you’ll use Instagram, either your own account (see instructions here to create an account), or you can create an alternate Instagram account for the purpose of this course (see instructions here). You will take photos of art forms that represent or reflect a movement of art studied in this course. You can choose any art forms—sculpture, mural, paintings, street art, collages, etc. encountered in your everyday life which could be in a museum (though not necessary), in a park or public place, on campus, or other place.

Directions

  • Post 2 images between week 2 and 5, of a work of art, sculpture, painting, or architectural detail, using the tag #ARC112 that reflect one of the art movements listed below. Each image must represent a different movement and include a caption that describes: the movement the work represents, how the work represents the selected movement, and why you chose it.
  • Post a 3rd image in week 6 with the caption “What am I” in using our class tag #ARC112. The image can be partial image of the art form. The purpose of this activity is to have your classmates identify the art from, and determine which movement or style the art form represents.  Engage with classmates who provide comments: giving hints or suggestions. Reveal the full image in week 8.
  • Respond to 2 or more classmates’ “What am I” images in week 6 and 7 with your guess of what the art form is, the movement or style the artwork represents and how.

Assessment:
This activity is worth 10 points—10% of your course grade.

Art Movements:
Renaissance  •  Baroque •  Romanticism • Realism  • Impressionism  • Post-Impressionism  • Modernism

Closing
By searching the web and from my classmates in the workshop I learned of creative and unique ways that educators are using social media for learning.  Yet, the most important factor when integrating any tool is considering the learning objective first, then determining which tool and activity will support learning and engage students.

Further Reading on Social Media and Learning

References

 

Need-to-Know News: Chatbots – the New Online Teaching Assistant and Credit-worthy MOOCs Go Global

chatbot_DM1. The Chatbot Teaching Assistant
Colorado State University (CSU) plans to use ‘Intelligent Tutoring’ in two online undergraduate courses this Fall. The goal is to improve learning outcomes, increase instructors’ productivity and enable high-quality personalized education by using  chatbot technology. A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users on a web-based platform. You may have engaged with chatbot without knowing; they’re embedded in banking platforms, retailers sites and others. Companies use chatbot software to respond to customer requests for basic and frequently asked questions. There are benefits—cost effectiveness for the company and improved service levels for customers by reducing wait times for answers and the frustration of automated phone systems. But can learners benefit?

A professor of an online Computer Science course at Georgia Tech thought so. He created a chatbot teaching assistant, Jill Watson. According to Goel his students didn’t even notice:

Jill came to be after Goel decided he and his teaching assistants were being spread thin. Goel’s class was a popular online course, and his teaching team receives over 10,000 online questions per semester. Jill was trained by reading questions and answers from previous semesters, and was set to only respond to new ones if it was 97 percent confident in its answer or higher. — TNW

Insight: The education sector is sensitive to robot technology as a replacement for teacher interaction as we’ve seen with automated essay grading software (Larson, 2013). Yet with the expansion of online learning and it’s potential to reach more students, technology like chatbots and grading software will be the norm. This technology is critical for achieving scale and can be effective for some instructional tasks, while not taking away from value of faculty and instructor expertise.

More on Chatbots:

2. MOOCs become Credit-Worthy, Globally
MOOCs are disrupting higher education if you consider degree-granting institutions awarding college credit for MOOCs disruptive. Over the last year  institutions around the world are moving to integrate MOOC coursework into traditional degree programs. Partnerships between MOOC providers (FutureLearn, edX and Cousera) and higher-ed institutions are allowing students to obtain college-credits easily and affordably. In the UK, Leeds and Open University are granting credit to students who complete certain MOOCs and earn a certificate through the platform. In the US the Global Freshman academy and American Public University offer similar programs.

In the United State the American Council on Education’s (ACE)  ‘Alternative Credit Project’ aims to support students complete an undergraduate degree by using MOOCs as credit.

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 10.49.34 AM
The Alternative Credit Project features 47 partner universities that accept MOOC certificates to degree programs http://www.alternativecreditproject.com/

In India, Bennett University partners with Georgia Tech to support students working through Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS), an entire degree program based on the MOOC-format. The total cost for the program is under $7,000 (US funds). Bennett University provides students based in India, ground support for while they are working through the MOOC degree program.

Governments are also getting involved in the MOOC movement as in South Korea where the Ministry of Education encourages universities to grant credit for MOOC study.  South Korea is a leader in online education, and is actively promoting MOOC study for credit along with its other initiatives, such as the Cyber-University program launched in 2001.

Insight:  Despite what MOOC critics have suggested over the last three years—that MOOCs are not disruptive, they are. The reach of MOOCs, or variations of the MOOC format, is far and wide—bringing education to learners who can not, for a variety of reasons, attend a brick-and-mortar institution. Institutions and governments are seeing the value of the MOOC format; it’s a win-win.

More:

For more need-to-know news, you can follow Online Learning Insights on Twitter @OnlineLearningI

 

Need-to-Know-News: Takeaways for Online Educators from LinkedIn’s Students App, Georgia Tech’s MOOC Master’s Degree 3 years Later & Open Textbook ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’

This ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series features noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it.

unnamed1. Takeaways from Career Planning App
College students are digitally connected and social media savvy. LinkedIn is also savvy, they’re capitalizing on this cultural phenomenon among college students with a newly launched app that helps graduating seniors with their career search—now, there’s an app for that. The LinkedIn Students app provides job search checklists, job postings, salary info, profiles of companies that hire from student’s school and profiles of alumni. A key feature—the app sends recommendations daily to the student’s phone.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 1.51.05 PMLinkedIn’s app looks and feels much like other social media apps popular among the college-age demographic, such as Tinder; students can browse through LinkedIn info on their phones with an easy swipe. The marketing is strategic. LinkedIn highlights the app’s relevance, how it fits into students’ lives—conveniently:

You can chip away at your job search checklist in any of your in-between moments – walking between classes, waiting in line at the coffee shop or taking a study break. What initially felt like an insurmountable undertaking will morph into a manageable daily to-do list and, before you know it, you’ll no longer be asking “How do I find a job that’s a fit for me?,” but “Which of these jobs is the best fit for me?” — LinkedIn Official Blog, April 18, 2016

Insight: LinkedIn’s app is smart. It’s thoughtfully designed, meeting a need common to its target group—the career search process for busy, often overwhelmed college seniors. There are takeaways the education sector might consider and apply to online learning programs where retention and engagement is frequently a challenge. LinkedIn designed the app so it’s appealing, meets a need, and meets its users where they are→on their mobile device. Core principles could be applied by education institutions who by analyzing their student populations, can leverage technology and customize delivery of education components to meet the needs of their students. Instructors might also take advantage of existing technology to communicate with students, meeting them on their devices using apps such as ‘Celly’, communication via group text messages, collaborative bookmarking and annotation platforms (e.g. Diigo), or digital  bulletin boards (e.g. Padlet)—all which can be tailored to a group or class.

2. Three years Later: Georgia Tech’s Master’s Degree MOOC
Readers may remember the launch of Georgia Tech’s radical and concerning to many, Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMS CS) program in 2013. It was first of its kind—a master’s program from a prestigious university using the MOOC format (large classes, fully online) at a total cost to students for less than $7,000. Three years later Georgia Tech has graduated it’s first class last year, twenty in total, with another handful this year.

The program has fallen far short of its projected numbers, though Georgia Tech leaders are optimistic, calling it a success. Initially the goal of the program was to have 10,000 students by the third year, a number required to cover costs and generate a profit. The program’s business model was built on the program’s scalability.

“We will start another program,” Georgia Tech President G. P. Peterson said during a recent interview with Inside Higher Ed. “We’re very pleased with the success of the program, and we’re looking to expand it into other areas”. — Georgia Tech’s Next Steps, Inside Higher Ed

Insight: Georgia Tech (GT) is a pioneer. While others took a wait-and-see approach, Georgia Tech chose to lead.  Education institutions can benefit from GT’s initiative if they examine GT’s program in light of advancing their own education programming. The profile of students, enrollment numbers, the cost of course development and technology used by GT can provide helpful insights. Analyzing other institutions digital education initiatives can inform decisions, help create effective and customized strategies that address our digital culture and student demand.

Print3. Open Textbook – “Teaching in a Digital Age”
Tony Bates’ most recent book “Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning” is published under the Open Ed textbook project; it’s free to download in a variety of formats and can be read online. Bates completed the book this April.  I’ve read only two chapters to date, but don’t hesitate in recommending it highly, not only because of Bates expertise in the sector, but because of the books’ comprehensiveness, the breakdown of topics, the ease of navigation, the clean and streamlined interface, the writing tone and style. It’s approachable and accessible. Each subsection concludes with an activity, which usually includes questions to consider and prompts for further research.

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 6.39.49 PM
Table of Contents, “Teaching in a Digital Age”. A.W. (Tony) Bates

Reading the book on my web browser I found several unexpected benefits. The format of open fosters an interactive experience; it allows for sharing on Social Media platforms (Twitter and Facebook), the ability to comment and interact with other readers, and to annotate individually or within groups using the hypothes.is platform. This could be the future for text books.