Need-to-Know-News: BBC gets into MOOCs, Global MOOC Report for $2,500 & Competency Education gets Boost

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.

1) BBC gets involved with MOOCs
Four universities in the United Kingdom are partnering with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to include never seen before film footage from World War One via its archives. Times Higher Education reports that FutureLearn will host the four MOOCs. The venture with BBC promoted as a creative approach, will be different from the traditional lecture format typical of the majority of xMOOCs:

“FutureLearn chief executive, Simon Nelson, said that many Moocs had been “rightly criticised as just being a repackaging and redistribution of the traditional lecture format, and that some universities were using the internet to “pump out videos”, rather than using their courses to tell a story. He said he hoped that working with the BBC would help institutions to be more creative.” 

Insight: This venture is a great opportunity for institutions to demonstrate they can reach non-traditional xMOOC students (traditional MOOC students: holding an undergraduate degree or higher), and engage learners not familiar with online learning or self-directed education. Not to mention introducing a novel method for delivering content. The four MOOCs launch soon—in October so we won’t have to wait long to see the response.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 11.14.36 AM
Image from “BBC helps produce First World World Moocs” by Chris Parr

2) Report on MOOCs for $2,500
It’s not only Udacity and Coursera that are starting to make money from xMOOCs. It seems that there’s even demand for research reports about MOOCs—$2,500 a pop, or $10,000 for enterprise wide access. The report, published by Research and Markets, The World’s Largest Market Research Store described as follows:

“The report, the Global Massive Open Online Courses Market 2014-2018, has been prepared based on an in-depth market analysis with inputs from industry experts. The report covers the Americas and the EMEA and APAC regions as well as the key leading countries in this market. It also provides in-depth overview of the revenue generation models adopted by the vendors in the market and discusses the key vendors operating in this market It also includes discussions of  “…the market segmentation based on student demographics and course preferences, as well as the market landscape and its growth prospects in the coming years.” 

Insight: xMOOCs are big business, though not necessarily for higher education institutions.

 3)  Competency Education Gets a Bigger Boost
There’s bi-partisan support for competency-based education in the United States, a bill passed this week by the senate will allow student aid to go towards thirty academic programs that are experimenting with a range of innovative higher education academic programs that lead to degrees, many including degree-tracks grounded in competency-based education. According to sources of Inside Higher Ed,  there are nearly 350 institutions that do offer, or plan to offer a competency-based degree track (Fain, 2014).

Representative John Kline of Minnesota, the Republican who chairs the House education committee, called the legislation a “good first step” to figuring out what works and doesn’t work for competency-based education.Inside Higher Ed

The programs fall under the Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI), funded by the Department of Education. The program is still accepting applications.

Insight: The idea of experimentation with students pursuing higher education makes me uneasy. If such programs enroll students at risk for not completing a two or four-year degree, I would hope that the programs do not further jeopardize the students’ chances of success.  I think back to the Udacity and San Jose University experience with MOOCs, where one of the pilot programs was a MOOC format for remedial math.

“Another factor in the disappointing outcomes may have been the students themselves. The courses included at-risk students, high school students and San Jose State students who had already failed a remedial math course.” Inside Higher Ed

Failure rates were higher in the MOOC experiment than in the face-to-face class.  What about those students?  Granted new programs have to be piloted in some way, I would hope however, that there is a plan in place to address any negative outcomes students may experience as a result of the experimental programs.

You can keep up to date with developments in education and related sectors by following me on Twitter, @OnlineLearningI 

Pearls of the Week: News you can use in Higher Ed and Ed Tech tools

Image representing Pearltrees as depicted in C...This week was an interesting week for Pearls. For those of you new to my Pearls, Pearls are bookmarks; noteworthy articles, blog posts and resources which I’ve gathered and then organize into a Pearltree. Pearltrees is my application of choice for archiving and collecting digital content. Note: In a previous post I described how I use Pearltrees – for cataloguing and archiving digital information for work and personal projects, click here to read the post.

In this post I’ll share a selection of pearls [bookmarks] from this past week that focus on 1) Higher Ed, the challenges, storms and more, and 2) what’s new in Ed technology tools.  A summary of each article/resource follows, with the corresponding link.

Higher Education News: Challenges, storms and more

  1. Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute recently released a significant and weighty report on the state of higher education. The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm sought to answer the question, ‘what effect has education had on employment in the current Global economic crisis’? The results are interesting. So much so, I believe the report has achieved one of its objectives which was to stimulate dialogue about that state of education and its role today in job creation and economic recovery. Key Findings:
  • The job recovery numbers (2012) from the latest recession has increased the divide between the less educated and more educated.
  • The most significant job losses (2008 – 2010) were among the group with a high school diploma or less.
  • Post secondary enrollment spiked during the peak recession years (2009 – 2010).
  • Men’s enrollment numbers in Higher Ed programs are increasing, and males are entering fields traditionally dominated by women such as nursing, and life sciences.
  • To download the 46-page PDF report and/or for more information, visit the The College Advantage homepage, click here

Reaction and Commentary
A Degree Still Matters, Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed
College Degrees Aren’t Umbrellas, George Leef, Minding the Campus
Podcast: Discussion on The College Advantage, Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed

2. A Strategic Vision for Universities in 21st Century. The Bain Report completed in conjunction with University of North Dallas Texas was not well received by some upon it’s release. Apparently, the results and recommendations did not sit too well with an advisory panel of faculty and staff at the University, who had some very different views of what a 21st century university would look like. So much so, that there was a call by the university to suppress the results of the report. An interesting read for sure.

No Thanks Bain, Kevin Kiley, Inside Higher Ed
UNT Dallas Doesn’t Want you to see this Report, Holly Hacker, Dallas Morning News

Ed Tech Tools in the News

1. UnderStoodit. This app was launched in May 2012, yet I read about it just this past week. More applicable to in-class education, I believe it has great potential in Higher Ed traditional classroom settings. Understoodit is a web app that runs on virtually any smart phone, tablet, or notebook that is connected to the Internet. It allows students to anonymously, and in real-time, indicate if they understand a portion of a lecture when polled by the professor.

The potential is great for in-class professors to engage students and get a ‘read’ on whether students are understanding lecture content. Teachers get instant feedback using their own devices and can modify their lectures in the moment to increase understanding.

2. Zoom Conferencing.  I am big fan of Walt Mossberg’s column in the WSJ, Personal Technology. This past week he reviewed a new video conferencing application, Zoom. He compares Zoom to Google + Hangouts which I’ve been testing with my team at our workplace. Zoom is appealing as users do not require an account or sign-up to participate [as long as they are not the initiator of the call]. I’ll be testing this tool over the next month. Click here for the article from Walt M.

If interested in viewing more of my bookmarks, please visit my Pearltrees, click here.

Online Learning is not Simple or ‘Sinister’

Online education is neither simple nor sinister. John Thelin (July, 2012).

An astute [and amusing] observation by Professor Thelin in his essay Professors and Online Learning featured recently in Inside Higher Ed; more for his choice of the word ‘sinister’ in his description of online learning, which is how numerous faculty view online learning in higher education – bad, threatening, dark, even frightening. I am not exaggerating. The word ‘fear’ was used in the latest report on online learning, Conflicted: Faculty and Online Education 2012, conducted by Babson Research which reported 58% of faculty [4,564 respondents] had more fear than excitement when asked the question “Does the growth of online education fill you more with excitement or with fear?”  In all fairness, faculty had a choice of only two responses to the question; the purpose of the question was to identify the level of optimism among faculty members. However it does provide a benchmark for the mood of faculty in regards to online learning, which Thelin addresses in his article.

Dr. Thelin, a professor at University of Kentucky describes in detail his own experience with the process of developing a 100% online course, including the arduous review procedure he went through for its approval. Interesting, is that the delays were caught in a bottleneck, at the top, barriers put forth by the higher level members of the board who Thelin aptly describes as obstinate luddites. Often the case in higher education circles, barriers to online education are not usually about the quality of the instructional strategy, but is the obstinacy of faculty opposed to the idea of an innovative form of education that differs from the traditional method.

What makes this article so relevant and noteworthy is the perspective that Thelin brings to this ‘new’ way of teaching, not only as PhD professor but also as a historian of higher education. In this post I’ll share the highlights of the essay and results from the report Conflicted, which complement each other beautifully, though I encourage readers to read both works.

The report Conflicted provides a snapshot of how faculty view online learning, which unfortunately as already mentioned, is with pessimism. Skepticism reigns not only about the learning outcomes, which 2/3 of faculty surveyed view as inferior to face-to-face learning, but also have doubts about online programs currently offered at the faculty’s respective institutions. The collective outlook is not good. However, we could attribute this ‘fear’ and pessimism to a fear of change, resistance to something different that challenges the status quo. Dr. Thiel gives a historic example from his archives that mirrors the current situation, a series of letters from 1891 between two prominent scholars:

“To discover that Ely [an influential scholar and professor of Economics] found time to teach in a new format and took seriously the evaluation of student correspondence courses was a revelation. It showed that more than a century ago, a famous professor took the plunge to participate enthusiastically in an innovative format for college level teaching and learning.  It would be comparable today to having the Nobel laureate and Princeton professor Paul Krugman responding individually to an undergraduate’s e-mails as part of Krugman’s online course.” (Thelin, 2012)

Online learning is the modern day correspondence courses of the late 19th century. Yet how much richer the experience is today, how much closer a well-designed online course is (and in some cases superior to) the face-to-face experience. Thelin highlights another crucial point about online education that is often misconstrued, which is the cost of online education. It is not less of a financial commitment or less time intensive, in fact the investments are equal to or exceed traditional education. However, what online education brings into the equation is efficiency – more students can be reached with high quality education than with the traditional classroom in a brick-and-mortar school. Thelin ‘gets’ online education, as do many excellent professors and instructors of higher education. It’s up to these educators and administrators to break down the barriers that stand in the way of online education and educate others to discard the notion that learning online is something to be afraid of. It’s time to break down the walls.

Thelin, John. (July, 2012). Professors and Online Learning. Inside Higher Ed. Views

Kolowich, Steven. (June, 2012). Conflicted: Faculty and Online Education, 2012. Inside Higher Ed, Surveys

John Thelin, professor at the University of Kentucky, is the author ofA History of American Higher Education’ (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).