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.

Need-to-Know News: White Male Cohort in Georgia Tech MOOC Degree & Surprising Data on Student Tech Use

MP900405500This ‘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.  Note: This is a re-posting of a blog article published on January 18, 2014.

Cohort Begins in the First-ever Massive Online Degree Program 
Georgia Tech in conjunction with Udacity launched its first cohort of 375 students in its MOOC-inspired Masters of Computer Science 100% online degree program. Readers may remember the headlines, a computer science Master’s Degree from Georgia Institute of Technology, offered 100% online for less than $7,000. The program, inspired by MOOCs and with start-up funds from AT&T was voted as a ‘go’ by Georgia Tech faculty last year.

We now have a profile of enrolled students in the first cohort which started this week—there is little diversity; the vast majority are white males, who work and live in the United States. Yet Sebastian Thrun described the cohort in his blog post quite differently,  “This is a very big day for us. Udacity’s mission is to democratize higher education. With this program, we are making a top-notch computer science education available to a much broader group of students… I believe this is a watershed moment for students around the world. ” What exactly does Thrun mean by ‘much broader group of students’? Ironically, there is more diversity in Georgia Tech’s on-campus Master’s of Computer Science Program than in this one.

Online Degree Program Applicant Demographics:

  • 2,360 applicants: 86% male, 14% female
  • 514 applicants from AT&T
  • Over 80% resided in the United States: Most represented states:  343 from California and 336 from Georgia

There is a disconnect between the final numbers in the cohort, 375 and what a Udacity spokesperson said this past October, “450 of the applicants will start the program in January, but every qualified applicant will be accepted and may start next summer“.

Final Cohort Student Demographics:

  • 375 students: 82 work at AT&T
  • 330 or 92% are from the US, in contrast to Georgia Tech’s on-campus comparable program, of which 90% are International
  • Average age is thirty-five, eleven years older than the on-campus program

Insights: The demographic profile of the programs’ applicants, and enrolled students are worth examining as stand alone data, and in comparison to Georgia Tech’s traditional degree; it provides a window into the potential and pitfalls associated with offering a fully online, Masters degree offered at a cost that requires considerable scale.  In order for the program to be sustainable, it requires 10,000 by the third year. Is this feasible given the student profile where there are so few students from outside of the United States?

2) Report Suggests Higher Education and MOOCs like Oil and Water
This week Babson Survey Research Group released its eleventh annual report about the state of online education in the United States, Grade Change, Tracking Online Education in the United States. The report collected data from 2800 colleges and universities in the US and provides a readable summary of critical issues in online education: perceptions of online education, enrolled student data, and online as a strategy. I find the Babson reports helpful in identifying patterns and trends in online education.  This is the  second year MOOCs data is included, and this year’s data is more telling and potentially helpful for institutions and organizations involved in higher education given the comparison to last year’s numbers . Highlights:

  • The top three reasons that institutions site for offering MOOCs
    • increase the institution’s visibility: 27.2%
    • to drive student recruitment : 20.0 %
    • innovative pedagogy: 18.0%
  • How well are MOOCs meeting institution’s objectives
    • too early to tell: 65.8%
    • meeting very few:  1.3 %
    • meeting some: 17.2%
  • Only 23 percent of academic leaders believe that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses.

Insights: It’s apparent that the profile of the typical MOOC student is not the undergraduate student profile—an example is Udacity’s experience with San Jose State University, where Thrun called his course a lousy product [to explain the failure of the program], which isn’t quite accurate. MOOCs [offered through MOOC platforms, i.e. Coursera, Udacity] are not the best vehicles to serve the needs of undergraduate students. Institutions have invested considerable resources in MOOCs, it’s time to move on.

3) Students and Technology— It’s Not What You Think 
The report by EDUCAUSE about higher education students’ and their technology use as it relates to their education is enlightening. It includes their perceptions, usage patterns and needs when it comes to technology—it’s a must read. The info graphic [below] gives a good summary of the findings. Other highlights:

  • Students recognize the value of technology but still need guidance when it comes to using it more effectively for academics
  • Students prefer blended learning environments
  • Students are ready to use their mobile devices more for academics, and they look to institutions and instructors for opportunities and encouragement to do so.
  • Students value their privacy, and using technology to connect with them has its limits.

References:

Insights: Student patterns—their behaviours, and interaction with technology give institutional leaders and educators a glimpse into how to effectively provide support and make education relevant. I wrote a post about this very topic last week.

To keep up with other developments in online learning, you can follow me on Twitter, @onlinelearningi.