A few days ago, I reported on how MITx could revolutionize higher education by offering free online classes along with a new benefit: credentials. Beginning this spring, students will be able to take free, online courses from MIT, and if they prove they’ve learned the material through an assessment, they can pay a fee and receive a certificate from MITx. In a related recent development, Felix Salmon and The Chronicle of Higher Education report this week that Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun, who taught an online artificial intelligence course to more than 160,000 students in the fall through Stanford, has given up his tenured teaching position there to go full-time with Udacity, a new start-up firm he co-founded that offers low-cost online classes.
Electronic books, or e-books, have changed the way many of us read for pleasure. Now digital text books – educational volumes which are read online – are transforming the way many students learn. The Washington region’s largest school system, with 175,000 students, has begun using online course material for its middle- and high-school students. History teacher Luke Rosa wheels his cart filled with laptops into a classroom at Falls Church High School in Virginia. He asks his students to look to Chapter 6, Section 1, on Jacksonian America. Rather than using a regular textbook, it’s all online.
It’s news that shouldn’t surprise anyone that read the fine print on the registration for Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence class offered last fall: Professor Stanford Thrun has announced he is resigning from the university to launch an online learning startup. Unlike the Machine Learning and Database classes — the other two in the trio of Stanford’s free online engineering classes last fall — the Artificial Intelligence class was run by Know Labs in partnership with the university. Know Labs has now rebranded to Udacity, and this will be site where Thrun will offer his online CS courses, separate from the Stanford University umbrella.
The Indiana University eText initiative has saved 5,300 IU students as much as $100,000 by allowing professors to select eTexts instead of traditional textbooks to teach in class. eTexts first became available for faculty to consider for classes in September 2011 but are now available for all classes to use this spring semester. After the IU fee model was developed to charge each student who takes a class using eTexts, an agreement was issued between five publishers to supply eTexts to these students. “Essentially what we’ve done is negotiate a very favorable pricing for students where the publisher drops the price substantially if each student pays for it when he or she takes the course,” Wheeler said. “So if the textbook is originally $100, you would often see an eText fee of $30 to $40.”
Canadian schools have failed to embrace the internet and are falling behind in the number of online learning opportunities available to students, according a report released Monday. Web-enabled distance education holds particular appeal for Canadian school districts that serve remote and widely dispersed student populations as a way of minimizing commutes and providing access to wider selection of courses.
What will the next generation learning management system look like? What do we expect or want or need it to do? I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately as the promises to reinvent the LMS (and by extension “reinvent the classroom”) continue to be made by companies and institutions old and new. Of course, it’s not an LMS per se, of course, but I think Apple’s revamped iTunes U (one that I described as a “pseudo-LMS”) is an interesting example of one version — and old version too — of what it means to package educational content and manage a course. The new iTunes U now bundles materials into one place, sticks them into an app (inaccessible if you don’t have the latest iOS 4 devices), and adds some new features like task lists and links to “further reading” (and more apps to buy). Key functionality that almost every LMS touts is missing from the new iTunes U: there’s no way to really “administer” a course. Instructors can pull together all their materials, sure, but then once published to iTunes U, that’s really the extent of it.
Renowned Harvard business professor and acclaimed author Clayton Christensen addressed the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee this morning in the Senate building at the Utah Capitol. A Utah native, Christensen is a world-renowned expert on how disruptive technologies alter entire industries. Drawing instructive comparisons with the steel and technology sectors, Christensen specifically addressed the disruptions taking place in higher education and how legislators can work with higher ed to help it adapt and better educate students. Christensen said online learning is an essential component in the disruption that is taking place in education, an industry that has been highly resistant to disruption previous to the fairly recent advances in online learning.
There are also practical advantages for MIT in moving first. Already, the elite Indian Institutes of Technology has announced plans to join MIT’s open-education consortium. Building MITx on an open platform could make the university the global nexus of online higher education, which is the way most people are likely to access higher learning in the future. In the hunt for the best and brightest students around the globe, MIT won’t need to guess who’s in the top 1 percent of 1 percent—it can simply pick them out of the millions of students who will enroll in MITx. Meanwhile, it will be fascinating to watch MITx mint a brand-new form of academic currency. What happens when it enters circulation? Will other universities accept it as transfer credit, or employers as proof of skills? How will those credentials affect the fast-growing market for online credits and degrees, much of which is driven by the expensive for-profit sector? There is, of course, a great deal of work to be done before those plans are fully realized. University officials emphasize the need to monitor the results of the new classes to make sure the learning experience is up to par. Prices for students in impoverished regions will have to be worked out and protocols for minimizing fraud established.
For students looking to learn skills and land jobs, might the good word of a highly regarded instructor count as much as the imprimatur of a highly regarded institution? The question arose in the fall, when a handful of professors at Stanford University decided to teach free courses online to tens of thousands of students who were not enrolled at the elite California university. The students would receive no Stanford credit; only a signed letter by the instructor, acting apart from the university. The pair of part-time Stanford instructors who co-taught the most successful of the open courses, on artificial intelligence, now intend to put the importance of the institutional brand to the test. They are co-founders of a company that will offer two similarly “open” courses beginning in February, this time independently of the Stanford name.
Do you feel like you are being more efficient and productive when learning online? Are you maximizing your capacity to retain information? Or are you feeling the extreme opposite? Are your brain and eyes on overload from viewing everything via online? According to recent studies, our brains love learning online. Columbia neuroscientist, Betsy Sparrow, states, “We are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools”. There is no fact in denying that people today are constantly glued to their computer, Smartphone, tablet, or other electronic gadget. Although some may argue that it is a bit excessive, being one with our computer tools allows our brains to become like online memory banks. Within seconds, we can work through a problem with the help of the Internet; which in turn allows our brains to offload some information, and create more room in our brain to focus on areas of other interest. Studies have shown that the action of “googling”, “may actually engage a greater extent of neural circuitry” than paper-based complex reasoning, states neuroscientist Gary Small.
Tucked away in a newly renovated building of Bainbridge College’s main campus is a center devoted to supporting instruction at the college -but not the type of instruction from yesteryear. The Center for Teaching Excellence, which is located in a recently renovated building that used to house the Continuing Education Division on the main campus, is developing and supporting teaching excellence in all BC courses, but here in the early days of its existence, is devoting much of its resources to improving online learning. Online courses at Bainbridge College have increased from 20 five years ago to 146 this spring semester. The subjects may range from accounting, biology, English Composition to technical mathematics.
The university unveiled last-week a new strategic plan to further develop its online programs, which aim to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world. According to the Strategic Vision, USC will offer access to education to more people in order to meet the growing demand for educated workers. “New modes of learning and societal needs require that we reinvent undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral education,” the Strategic Plan states. “Changing demographics and public demands require we provide greater access to, and accountability in, higher education.”
We should take into account the research of Justin Reich, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. In a lunchtime talk at the Berkman Center on Tuesday titled “Will Free Benefit the Rich? How Free and Open Education Might Widen Digital Divides,” Reich made the case that, in the “profoundly inequitable” United States educational system, free technological resources favor those students who are already at a socioeconomic advantage. “There’s clear evidence that those who consume open courseware are predominantly affluent people,” Reich told me after his lecture. That’s not a bad thing— if education technology doesn’t benefit the middle class, he says, it won’t gain traction. “When great universities put their course materials online, it expands the opportunities for students to get access to that kind of education — I think there are very few readily apparent drawbacks,” he said. But it’s worth checking who’s taking advantage of this kind of opportunity.”
Low-skilled community college students should take classes that teach study skills, time management and “college knowledge,” according to a recommendation from the California Community Colleges says Success Task Force. Their theory is confirmed by a considerable body of research. Students who complete study and life skills courses were more likely to earn a community college credential, transfer to the state university system, or still be enrolled in college after five years, according to a 2006 study conducted by the Florida Department of Education. A later study showed a “positive relationship between taking a student life skills course and various student success indicators — credential completion, persistence, and transfer.”
The Marietta school board intends to require all students who enter high school as freshmen next year to have completed at least one online class by the time they graduate. “In general, technology continues to evolve, and we just have to be willing to evolve with it,” school board Chairwoman Jill Mutimer said. The board took the first step in revising its graduation policy to reflect the new requirement in a unanimous vote during its meeting on Tuesday. The policy will “lay on the table” for public input for the next month before the board votes to approve or reject it. Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck said she’s been considering the idea for several years now. “I felt that at this point in time since we just enabled Marietta High School for wireless capacity, and students will soon be bringing their own technology to school that it was really an appropriate time for our students to have the kind of experience in learning that they were going to have when they went to college or the military or to work,” Lembeck said. “Learning and working on an online platform is something that all of our students should feel comfortable doing.”
Sebastian Thrun in Germany three days ago, explaining why he is leaving Stanfard and how he sees the impact and potential of open online learning. This may be remembered as a watershed moment in the advent of open online learning. Enjoy the video; it is time well spent. There is a red pill and there is a blue pill….
Professors use discussion forums to implement alternative strategies to teach, expand student interaction beyond classroom. In a coffee shop, in a dormitory bedroom and overseas, students and faculty are gaining different perspectives on online courses. Patricia Bender, associate director of the University’s Writing Program, brought China to the United States and a piece of America to China last semester in her online “The Ethics of Food” course. Students communicated consistently in an online setting — even though they were divided by thousands of miles — to create a large virtual classroom. “I team-taught it online using Sakai, with a friend and colleague Chunyan Xu, who is from Jilin University in China,” she said. “We had 10 students from Rutgers and 10 from Jilin.”
Digital learning represents wide-open terrain for K-12 education reform. Several states — Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Michigan and Minnesota — require students to take an online course to receive a high school degree. Twenty-seven states have established statewide full-time virtual schools since the first opened in 1997 in Florida, according to a report by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, an indication of virtual education’s growing appeal. As with all innovations, though, there is always a question of cost for providing such new technologies, especially when states are providing less per-pupil funding. A study released last week by the Education Center of Excellence at the Parthenon Group (commissioned by the conservative education think tank, the Fordham Institute) suggested that the costs of digital learning could be significantly less than more traditional modes. The authors cautioned that its findings must be interpreted with some caveats: costs vary across digital education platforms and different entities pursue online learning for different reasons (cost-savings versus enhanced offerings, for example).
A sluggish economy has been a major factor in leading to Purdue’s growth and expansion in the area of online education. The University’s distance learning department is where potential students, students and graduates can go to take online courses and earn credits towards degrees. According to department officials, the demand for more course and degree programs is steadily on the rise. This demand has prompted the distance learning program to keep a constant lookout for ways to grow and improve in order to remain a top option for current and potential students. Mickey Latour, associate dean of distance learning, contributes the increased interest in online courses partially to the poor economy that the United States has faced in recent years.
Question: What do algebra and online learning have in common?
Answer: Most kids would not experience either if not required.
Graduation requirements translate society’s expectations to the young. It’s our collective best guess at the knowledge and skills they will need to participate in the society they will inherit. If we did not require algebra, not many students would take it. Low-income, minority, and struggling students would be steered away from advanced math. Setting minimum education requirements promotes equity and participation. All high school students should take at least one course online while in high school, according to Digital Learning Now!, the state policy project co-chaired by former governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise. This recommendation, and all 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning, resulted from the vigorous discourse of 100 experts.
Florida might be getting a new university, but this one wouldn’t have a football team or athletic facilities, or a physical campus for that matter. Florida House Speaker Designate Will Weatherford on Thursday pitched the idea of creating a completely online university to the Florida Board of Governors. The Wesley Chapel Republican said an online university would address the state’s growing demand for college degrees and comes as students are increasingly taking online courses. “I think we’re on the frontier of online learning. I think it’s going to change the way that our country works. I think it’s going to change the way our world works,” he said. “And I think Florida should lead the country in that endeavor.” With state funding drying up for the construction of educational buildings, Weatherford said an online university would not require an investment in facilities.