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.

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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.

Need-to-Know MOOC News: MOOCs Find Their Niche & Business Model in 2016

This is a special issue of the ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series featuring the latest developments in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by providers: Coursera, iVersity, edX, and Udacity.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 1.04.41 PM1. Coursera’s Business Model Taking Shape
Coursera is finding its niche and business model. The MOOC provider is moving towards three revenue-generating strategies: 1) fee-based courses which require students to pay a fee for access to graded assignments, 2) Specializations, a sequence of courses with a capstone project, and 3) Course Certificates (formerly known as Signature Track).

Signature Track, launched in 2013 was Coursera’s first (significant) revenue generating strategy. Students paid a fee in exchange for the opportunity to earn a verified certificate. Initially only a handful of courses featured the certificate option. Signature Track has since expanded, had a recent name change to Course Certificate and features a flat fee of $49. The Course Certificate option is now available across numerous courses. Revenue estimates suggest Certificates generated between $8 and $12 million in 2014 (Shah, 2014). 

Specializations feature a sequence of courses (typically four to six) with a capstone project where students apply the skills learned in order to earn a certificate. Launched two years ago, the program appears successful given the number of Specializations offered—in the hundreds according to Coursera. Fees range between $300 and $600. Tuition is determined by the price of each course (which range between $39 and $79), the number of courses within each, and the fee for the capstone project. If there is even modest student demand for Specializations as Coursera founder Daphne Koller indicates, revenue opportunity is significant (Bogen, 2015).

The Purchase Course strategy announced last week requires that students pay to gain access to graded assignments. There is an option to ‘audit’ the course where students have access to course materials only. An excerpt from Coursera’s blog (below) outlines the strategy:

Starting today, when you enroll in certain courses, you’ll be asked to pay a fee (or apply for Coursera’s financial aid program) if you’d like to submit required graded assignments and earn a Course Certificate. You can also choose to explore the course [audit] for free, in which case you’ll have full access to videos, discussions, and practice assignments, and view-only access to graded assignments. — Coursera Blog, January 19, 2016

This format is similar to what’s offered at iVersity, a Europe-based MOOC provider. Tuition at Coursera ranges between $39 and $119 per course. Below is a screen shot showing the options presented to students enrolling for a course on Coursera’s platform.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.39.49 AM
Fee-based courses appear linked to courses that are part of the Specializations programs. The screenshot above is an image of what is presented when enrolling for ‘Understanding Financial Markets’

2) iVersity’s Pay-for Certificate Program & Udacity’s Nanodegree Plus
iVersity, one of Europe’s MOOC platforms launched it’s own version of Coursera’s Specializations—The Business Communication Programme. It’s targeted to working professionals seeking skills in business communication and marketing. It’s iVersity’s first venture into bundled programs. Yet the Programme is more similar to Udacity’s new Nanodegree Plus program, given it offers enhanced customer service—support and resources to help students find a job.

Udacity’s program goes further by guaranteeing that students find a job within six months, or their money back. Fees at Udacity are monthly—$299. With an estimated program length between six and eight months that brings the cost between $1,794 and $2,392.  iVersity’s tuition model takes a different approach but the price is similar (see screenshot below)—iVersity’s Programme at its regular price  is $1,704 (approximate US funds), and the enhanced model is $2,611.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 5.22.15 PM
Screenshot above: Prices for iVersity’s ‘Business Communication Programme’ as displayed on the webpage at iversity.org. Sales prices still appear on site, February 2, 2016

iVersity also offers corporate learning services to companies looking for support in creating their own professional development courses. It’s promoted on their site as “a new form of professional development“.

3) Udacity for Business
Udacity also targets the corporate training market (tech-companies specifically) via its business webpage promoting “Hands-on Training. Done Online”. The courses and programs promoted are identical to Udacity’s existing ones, but are packaged to appeal to company and human resource executives as a solution to meet skill gaps among employees and as a tool for succession planning. Screenshot below from Udacity’s site:

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 9.59.48 AM4) edX CEO: “edX offers complete programs online, not just individual courses
EdX, an open source platform and one of the few non-profit MOOC providers,  also has revenue generating strategies, though not for profit. The strategies are needed to support edX’s goal of sustainability in order to achieve its mission of offering “access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere”. Some of edX’s programs are similar to Coursera and Udacity—certificates with fees typically of $50 per course. Another is the XSeries program, a group of bundled courses. Students receive a Xseries Certificate upon completion, though unlike Coursera’s Specializations or Udacity’s Nanodegree, there is no final or capstone project. Another revenue strategy is licensing edX courses to countries such as China, India, France, the Middle East who have adopted Open edX (Young & Hobson, 2015).

EdX also offers Professional Education Courses targeted to students looking for skills training and professional development. Courses are stand-alone and online, some are self-paced and others have a start and end date that span between four and six weeks. Fees can be hefty, ranging between $89 and $949, as this one “Yield Curve Analysis”.

Insight:  Offering free, high-quality content on feature-rich digital platforms is not free for the MOOC provider or the partnering institutions. Even though free appeared to be the end-goal of MOOCs at the time of their launch in 2012.  But free is not sustainable. The concept of MOOCs is shifting to where the demand is—fee-based certificate courses and programs in skill-specific areas, and corporate learning. In between are programs offering MOOCs for higher education credit, as with courses for ECTS credit at iVersity, edX’s Global Freshman Academy, and Malaysia’s national credit recognition policy for MOOCs. Even degrees (Georgia Tech’s CS Master’s degree) and mini-degrees based on MOOCs as with MIT’s Micro-Masters. There still are courses for free for the life-long learner, like myself, looking for high quality, online courses not for credit. I view this as a win-win-win for everyone; the platform providers, the institutions and the students. Who says MOOCs weren’t disruptive?

Further Reading:

Three Trends that Will Influence Learning and Teaching in 2016

Top-2016-Social-Trends-to-Watch-ForWhat will 2016 hold for education? There’s no shortage of articles and reports with predictions describing what to expect for the coming year. It’s tempting to be dismissive—scanning the headlines knowing that predictions are far from a sure bet. Yet for educators, considering trends across industries in conjunction with current developments in education is constructive, strategic and provides an edge; it gives insight, helps us prepare and be proactive. In this post I share my analysis of current trends and developments within higher ed and k-12 and outline what to expect in 2016.

There’s a spate of articles on the Web across all sectors: education, business, consumer and design, all describing what to watch for—micro-credentialing, wearable technology, mobile, augmented reality and a host of others. Yet how are these trends applicable or relevant to educators? I analyzed numerous sources, some specific to education and many not, to determine what will affect the education sector in 2016. I consulted New Media consortium’s collaborative Wiki for the 2016 NMC Horizon report, Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report (2015), and Fast Company’s Future of Work Trend Report along with several articles and reports from this past year*.

I identified three themes: 1) Alternative credentialing, 2) Experimentation in new teaching models and learning spaces, and 3) Student-driven personalized learning. Two other themes are worth noting, Gamification and Augmented Reality. Yet I don’t see these as influencing education for the short or medium term given the challenges with implementation, and with augmented reality, the uncertainty of its effects on users’ health and cognitive state.

  1. Alternative Credentialing and Pathways to Higher Education

I don’t buy the argument that MOOCs haven’t disrupted higher education. MOOCs have led to significant discussions about alternative learning pathways and institutions have responded with education programs that not only provide a variety of learning options, but embody alternative credentialing. Alternative credentialing can be described as alternate methods of assessment for learning (with the traditional degree as the metric), and recognition of that learning in credentials other than a degree. Badges was one of the first alternatives. Now we have programs by MOOC providers such as Udacity with their Nano-degrees, Coursera with its Specializations, and edX’s Professional Certificates. What’s new this past year is the increase of alternative programs offered by higher education institutions, such as Bootcamp programs, MOOCs for credit, and mini degrees as in MIT’s MicroMasters.

Drivers of Alternative Credentialing

  • Student demand: With increased Web-connectivity, students have access to learning platforms, informal learning using social media platforms, and learning-specific apps. Access via mobile devices continues to grow; connectivity via smartphones has increased in the US from 18% in 2009 to 64% in 2014 (Meeker, 2015) and in other nations (Pew Research).
  • Increase in non-traditional students. A huge market exists—adults in the work force who are looking for opportunities to learn new skills to improve their career options.
  •  Employer Support: Employers within the technology and financial sector claim there is a skills shortage which explains why several have partnered with MOOC providers and education institutions to create programs, as AT&T did in support of Georgia Tech’s online Master’s degree in computer science.
  • Government support: Governments seek opportunities to lower costs of education and increase access which translates into funding for alternative education pathways. This quest often involves grants and funding programs for digital learning, flexible degree pathways that may involve recognition of work experience in competency-based programs.

Developments in Alternative Credentialing

2. Experimentation in New Teaching Models and Learning Spaces

There are claims that the education system is ‘broken’, a term that is not constructive or accurate. A more fitting description is one that outlines how the traditional education model is transforming in response to digital technology and culture. As a result there are a variety of new models; school models in the K-12 sector that aim to adapt to the changing culture and improve a system that is not serving students adequately, as well higher education institutions who are reinventing their learning spaces—a more subtle approach to changing the traditional learning model from one that is instructor-focused and passive to one that is student-centered and active.

Examples of new models: Sal Khan’s Lab School, a school to ‘investigate and explore new methods of learning and teaching’,  Mark Zuckerberg’s The Primary School geared to low-income children where health care and education are combined under one roof.  In higher education there’s Purdue University’s IMPACT program, which includes new classrooms and active learning spaces that support blended learning. Others, Vanderbilt University with their emphasis on creating new learning spaces, and University of Central Florida’s large-scale program that is increasing the number of students it serves while lowering costs by offering students F2F courses along with an ever-widening menu of online and blended courses.

Drivers of New Teaching Models and Learning Spaces

  • Under-performing K-12 schools and poor performances in international tests via OECD PISA testing
  • Pressure on higher education institutions to reduce costs, increase access to under-served groups, and improve performance
  • Our digital culture where students have 24/7 access to information, can learn anytime and anywhere, in conjunction with institutions that are struggling to leverage the culture shift
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Purdue University’s Active Learning Classroom http://www.lib.purdue.edu

Developments in New Teaching Models and Learning Spaces

3. Student-driven Personalized Learning

Personalized learning is one of the top buzzwords in education now; it suggests a host of different learning methods that are typically institution-driven. Yet I suggest that personalized learning is, and will continue to be learner-driven where learners control their learning and become not just consumers of content but active creators of content, building knowledge through collaboration and connectivity via smart phone apps.

Students will be in control not only of when they learn, but will demand that they contribute to their learning through discussions and collaboration, creating content while doing so. This student-driven phenomenon suggests that schools and higher education institutions will need to respond by creating learning programs that acknowledge that the learner is seeking this kind of personalized learning experience.

Drivers of Personalized Learning

  • Learners…because of their ownership of mobile devices with Web access
  • Learners…given the abundance of phone apps that allow them to create content and collaborate
  • Learners…communicating within messaging apps, which Meeker suggests will evolve into major communication hubs (slide #53)

Developments in Personalized Learning

Conclusion
Though we can’t predict exactly what will happen in 2016, we can make informed decisions and be strategic for the upcoming year. Nothing is certain in the future except change as the saying goes, yet being proactive rather than reactive will put educators in the best position for a successful 2016.

References *

Need-to-Know News: 8 Cutting-edge Tech Trends, MOOCs in 2016, Engaging Sites Featuring Books-of-the-Year

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.

MOOC-newsIf you are looking for some light reading over the holidays or ideas for some good reads for yourself or others, look no further. I’ve rounded up some articles of interest and a couple of good websites that feature books-of-the year in an interactive and creative format.

1. HBR Tech Review: Eight Trends to Watch
An article in this month’s Harvard Business Review “8 Tech Trends to Watch in 2016” written by CEO and founder of an international digital strategy firm, is not your average trends-to-watch for article. It’s cutting edge stuff. Of the eight tech trends only one, blockchain was somewhat familiar (used by Bitcoin, it’s a complex transaction system that enables buyers and sellers to engage in “trustless” transactions). The article describes up-and-coming technology such as drone lanes, glitches and algorithmic personality detection. Fascinating stuff.

Insight: The education sector isn’t always on the cutting edge of technology, as we’ve seen with MOOCs, e.g. an innovative delivery system delivering education via traditional methods, yet there is potential in some of the technologies mentioned for application to education. For instance algorithmic personality detection might be used for student services such as career planning and academic support, bots as personal tutors, and augmented knowledge also known as digital telepathy which may make us question ‘what is learning’?

2. MOOCs: (Not just) From a European Perspective
The open journal, International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL) features a special issue this November with it’s a collection of papers that explore the MOOC phenomenon from the perspective of the higher education community in Europe. Though the majority of papers focus on the European perspective, a handful address themes universal to the MOOC phenomenon such as open access and course design.

The paper “MOOCs and the claim of education for all: A disillusion by empirical data explores the controversial claim that MOOCs are vehicles that democratize education, which as we know now, hasn’t quite panned out. The excerpt below summarizes the paper:

Despite the hope for more equal access to education through MOOCs, the empirical data show (section 4) that MOOCs potentially reinforce inequality. In this article we will give a theoretical background to explain why MOOCs are mostly used by more highly educated people (section 2) and stimulate a discussion on if and how MOOCs can contribute to equal access to education promoted by Open Educational Resources. (Rohs & Ganz, 2015).

Another, “Dimensions of Openness: Beyond the Course as an Open Format in Online Education” argues that openness in education via MOOCs should not only be viewed as opening access to existing resources and courses for a broader audience, but as the removal of barriers for interaction and exchange (Dalsgarrd & Thestrup, 2015).

Another paper with universal applicability is “Theories and Applications of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs): The Case for Hybrid Design“. This paper outlines a hybrid design model and discusses appropriate application as well the significant design challenges specific to MOOCs.

Insight: The term MOOCs now covers a breadth of education programs that are not always open, massive or meet the definition of a course (with a start and end date). The articles in this special issue are a good representation of the current themes. Though I go further and suggest that 2016 will be the year of the MOOC reckoning, as alluded to in a recent post on the Ed Techie blog, “2016 – The year of MOOC hard questions”.

3. Nifty Sites featuring Books-of-the-Year
I came across a couple of engaging, interactive sites by NPR, The Guardian and The Globe and Mail featuring best books of 2015 in various categories. These sites go beyond the traditional, static webpage; they invite the user to engage with the content.  We’ll likely be seeing more of this interactive home page format in 2016, as according to Fast Company this is the new look of webpages.

Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 2.08.47 PM
NPR’s Book Concierge features an interactive site where you can filter by genre, read highlights, and look at NPR’s Best-Book lists for each year starting in 2008

Closing Thoughts
Speaking of books, I’ll be publishing “Seven Must-Read Education Books for 2016” by the end of the year. Stay tuned. Following that I’ll also share my views in a post on the ed tech trends that will affect education in 2016.

Happy Holidays to all and thanks for reading and making Online Learning Insights happen by your continued reading and sharing!

 

 

Need-to-Know-News: New Online Platform MasterClass, Emerging Battles over OER, & Salman Khan’s Lab School

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.MP9004055001. Classes Taught by a Master
What happens when a pop icon like Christine Aguilera meets an online learning platform? You get a ‘Masterclass’. A master—expert, one at the top of his or her field teaching a craft to others. That’s the rationale behind a new for-profit platform MasterClass.com. The concept is quite brilliant. MasterClass has taken the idea of the MOOC, leveraging a digital technology platform to bring experts to teach courses to the masses. But MasterClass courses appear more celebrity-focused rather than subject-focused.

San Francisco-based MasterClass was founded by David Rogier and Aaron Rasmussen on the idea that everyone should have access to genius. MasterClass makes it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to learn from the best through immersive online classes from the world’s most esteemed authors, actors, performers, athletes and more. MasterClass pairs world-class instructors with Hollywood directors and Silicon Valley engineers to create a brand new type of learning experience. PR Newswire, August 31, 2015

The platform launched in May 2015 and currently features six classes with celebrities teaching a subject (not the other way around, e.g. a subject being taught by an expert). For example Dustin Hoffman teaches acting, James Patterson teaches writing, Serena Williams teaches tennis, etc. The classes are fully online, self-paced and priced at $90.

  Tweet Below From Masterclass’ Twitter Feed

Insight: I first scoffed at the idea primarily because of MasterClass’ overt emphasis on the celebrity over the educational aspect. But after reading an article by a writer who took a class with James Patterson, I see instructive takeaways for educators and institutions involved in online education specific to technology, pedagogy and instructor-approach. MasterClass’ platform is user-friendly, appealing and according the student mentioned earlier, “extremely well-designed” (Maynard). Active learning seems to be a cornerstone to the pedagogy—embedded exercises in each lesson. For example in Serena Williams’ course on tennis, students are encouraged to take the course to the court and to “submit videos of your forehand for feedback from other students taking the class (and possibly Serena herself!)”. Instructor approach appears remarkably personable—James Patterson for instance through the videos appears engaged in the course and interested in the students. In one video he reads from a student assignment: discusses it, compliments it and suggests how to make it better. Impressive.

5093053155_515aedf1e82. Emerging Battles over OER
In October an associate professor of mathematics at California State Fullerton University, Alain Bourget, received a reprimand for deviating from department policy by assigning a course textbook different from the department-adopted textbook for an introductory algebra course. The department textbook cost $180; Bourget’s option $75 that included a textbook and a collection of (free) online resources (OER). Bourget filed a grievance over the reprimand citing academic freedom in his defense. The reprimand was upheld, yet Bourget battles on, “I am fighting for academic freedom, lowering the cost of education and especially to give a better education to my students — I will not abandon this fight” (Jaschik, 2015).

Insight: Bourget and Cal State Fullerton’s battle may be a sign of more power struggles ahead over textbooks, though I see it more as an indicator of battles ahead over use of Open Education Resources (OER). There’s been several articles and blog posts about OER of late, and according to the most recent Campus Computing Survey project: (81 percent) of the survey participants [417 university CIOs and senior IT officers] agree that “Open Source textbooks/Open Education Resource (OER) content “will be an important source for instructional resources in five years.” Time will tell.

3. Khan Lab School
Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy has started a new school based upon the ideas put forth in his book “The One World Schoolhouse”. It’s a privately funded, tuition-free school in Mountanview California. There are no grade-levels, and it currently serves children ages 5 through 13, and has expansion plans to accommodate children up to age 18.

The lab school is a school dedicated to research-based instruction and furthering innovation in education. The school has processes and strategies for studying and sharing lessons learned regarding new educational practices.

Insight: I admire and respect Khan for his passion and commitment to education and for what he has done to move education forward by providing Khan Academy as an open platform. I do however, feel uncomfortable with the ‘lab’ concept of his school—the experimental nature of the approach using children, who due to the concept of ‘lab’, inherently become test subjects. In an article in Wired magazine about the school, it describes how companies that donate products or software are allowed to come in and observe children, “the stools and tables were donated by a furniture company, which in exchange gets to observe how the students interact with them” (Tanz). I see so many things wrong with this, besides it being just weird.

Need-to-know News: Universities Launch Innovative Programs – MircoMaster’s, Boot Camps that May Qualify for Financial Aid via New EQUIP Program

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.

learning_boot_campMassive open online courses (MOOCs) may soon be eligible for financial aid from the US Department of Education (DOE). So might boot camp-type programs that provide skill development and training in an area of expertise. There are conditions of course, but the pilot program, Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) launched by the DOE is a significant development in higher education. Meanwhile back at some universities like MIT, Rutgers and Northeastern, educators have been busy working on innovative, non-traditional programs that might just qualify.

The shift to embrace non-degree programs or ‘alternative credentialing’ as they are typically labeled, is significant. It indicates an expansion in thinking by government and participating education institutions about what higher education is, how it’s delivered, financed and who it serves. These programs are not a replacement for traditional higher education; they don’t compete with or undermine undergraduate education even though some view it as so. Critics view alternative credentialing as part of the ‘unbundling’ trend of higher education that they deem as undermining the traditional undergraduate degree (Craig & Williams, 2015; Newton, 2015).

Others, myself included don’t see it that way. These programs are a complement to educational offerings of an institution. Boot camps and MOOC-type programs reach a unique segment of the student market—they fill a need for flexible, accessible, just-in-time training that meet student needs for vocational education.

I’ve outlined below the key takeaways of the DOE’s EQUIP program and share three universities’ new and innovative education programs—MIT’s MicroMaster’s, Rutgers Coding Bootcamp and Northeastern’s Data Analytics Bootcamp.

US Department of Education’s Pilot Program: EQUIP
EQUIP launched (officially) on October 14 and is part of the current administrations effort to make higher education more affordable and accessible. According the DOE’s website the pilot is designed to:

“…accelerate and evaluate innovation through partnerships between colleges and universities and non-traditional providers of education in order to equip more Americans with the skills, knowledge, and training they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

It appears EQUIP was driven, at least in part, by data indicating the effectiveness of boot camp-style programs. Effectiveness, when reading between the lines means earned income. The DOE quotes data from Georgetown Center for Education and Workforce which estimates that “men with non-degree certificates in computer/information services earned $72,000 per year, which is on average more than 72% of men with more traditional associate’s degrees” (FACT SHEET).

EQUIP is in the pilot phase—it’s an experiment designed to find innovative programs that provide alternative options and pathways to post-secondary education. The criteria are rigorous as “a limited number of outstanding applicants to participate“. The criteria includes: an accredited post-secondary institution must partner with at least one non-traditional provider of education and a third-party Quality Assurance Entity (QAE) to independently review and monitor the quality of the program.

Examples of Alternative Programs
Numerous innovative programs have been launched by higher education institutions over the last few months. Some leverage digital learning vehicles such as the MOOC format, as does MIT’s MicroMaster, while others are delivered entirely face-to-face.

  • MIT_logo_black_redMIT MicroMaster’s:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched two new programs in: A one-year Master’s Degree program in Supply Chain Management (SCM) with two pathways for completion, on-campus and the other obtained through a 50/50 mix of online and on-campus instruction. The second program is the MITx MicroMaster’s, a credential featuring graduate-level work in SCM—fully online. Read more:
  • Level: Northeastern University: The tag line for the boot camp program is “Real Skills. Real Experience. Two Months“. Northeastern created Level a program in data analytics with the help of four companies (listed as ‘industry’ partners of Northeastern’s website). The program is delivered face-to-face in four locations—Boston, Charlotte, Seattle and Silicon Valley. Though not yet eligible for financial aid, the website offers information for students seeking financial assistance. Apparently there are a host of third-party websites and resources that list lenders that offer boot camp loans.
  • rutgers-central-jersey-callout
    Rutgers Logo for its Coding Boot Camp Program

    Rutgers Coding Boot Camp: An on-campus boot camp program offered at its campus location in New Jersey designed for the working professional. It runs for six months, is a total of 250 hours of instruction, offered two evenings a week from 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM and Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM.

“…we offer all of our students career support and coaching and provide multiple opportunities for students to meet with prospective employers. In addition, we offer students experiential learning opportunities to further bolster their portfolio”.

Further Reading

References