Monthly Archives: October 2012

Reflections from the Sloan-C Conference on Online Learning


Earlier this month, the 18th Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning was held in Orlando, Florida.  The theme of the conference was entitled ‘At A Crossroads: Online Education in a Complex World’ and throughout the event, that intersection between online instruction and the complexities of the age in which we live were repeatedly brought to the fore. From revelations of Chief Academic Officers in the Sloan-C Online Learning Report which has been monitoring the pulse of CAO’s across the country for 10 years to sessions entitled ‘Designing a Faculty Online Teaching Prep Program for Multiple Audiences’, the conference continually focused attention on the difficult, yet exciting road ahead for education.


For those not familiar with the Sloan Consortium, it is an organization dedicated to promoting and integrating the emergent aspects of online education into the established realm of higher education. Their stated goal to “help institutions and individual educators improve the quality, scale, and breadth of online education” is a mission for which they are passionate. Membership is primarily made up of public and private universities and colleges, community colleges, and other accredited institutions as well as organizations and suppliers that support the principles and practice of online education. A product of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, it is now sustained by its members as a non-profit organization and with 18 years of conferences, it has grown steadily right alongside the World Wide Web.

Which brings us to the current crossroads that those of us in higher education face. A crossroad, an intersection, however we define it, the online higher-education landscape is changing rapidly and we have many important questions to consider. How do we incorporate new social models of online learning into an industrial age system of instruction? What will be the ramifications for every facet of traditional higher ed institutions if we do? Can universities so firmly established be expected to make such sweeping changes? If they try, will they be able to do so quickly enough or will new ventures similar to the Khan Academy swoop in to become the premier method of instruction for an evolving educational market?

Higher education is not just looking at a shift in the market we serve, but a completely new paradigm for delivery. This paradigm shift is currently in full swing and while many will argue that nothing could possibly threaten, in any meaningful or permanent way, the time honored halls of the educational elite, we would do well to remember lessons from the past. Should we require a wakeup call for the future of higher education in the face of technological innovation, we need look no further than our wrist.

For over 300 years, watchmaking had been dominated by the Swiss, but in the span of little more than one decade, a revolution in that industry upended the established order in a spectacular way and sent Switzerland from undisputed king to dazed and confused pauper. Quartz timepieces primarily from Japan flooded the market and left Switzerland in a state of collective shock. What happened to their market? What was so special about quartz watches? Why would so many people the world over, many of whom had never bought a watch that was not Swiss made, suddenly turn their backs on them en masse? Most importantly to the reputation of the Swiss, did the Japanese make watches better than the Swiss?

These are questions that our industry could soon be asking and the answers may prove to be ironically similar. Undoubtedly, we will continue to debate whether online offerings are better than face-to-face and whether bits and bytes can replace touch and feel, but we must bear in mind that such reflections will not curtail a mass exodus should it occur. Nevertheless, not every Swiss clockmaker closed their door and assuredly many of our institutions will weather the storm. Rest assured though, when the dust settles, the landscape will chiefly consist of those that saw it coming.




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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Uncategorized


Thoughts from Gartner Symposium ITExpo 2012 – 1

This will be a growing entry….
An overall theme is 'The Nexus of Forces'.? Wha forces you ask? Good because I wanted to tell you.
There are 4 forces at play.
1. CLOUD.? The cloud has not really formed completely yet. But we are at the end of the beginning of cloud formation.
2. MOBILE.? This is now the entry point of services for most people, which in turn changes the way most services are delivered. Mobile sharply presents the idea of 'the internet of everything' where everything is connected; from running shoes to power turbines!
3. SOCIAL. Social marketing is a discipline in many organizations now! One question posef by this was; 'is LinkedIn more accurate than your HR data?' Interesting thought.
4. INFORMATION. This is specifically thinking of big data.? Data becomes a revenue source. Reinforces the significance of the cloud.

This nexus of forces makes the role of IT crucial. Every budget in an organization will be sn IT budget. It has been estimated that up to 6mill jobs will be created globally as the nexus is formed. How are education systems preparing people for these jobs? They postulated that they are not. What an amazing opportunity.

Where are you in the nexus?

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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


Flipped classroom, increased test scores. From Chronicle of Higher Ed…

San Jose State U. Says Replacing Live Lectures With Videos Increased Test Scores

October 17, 2012, 2:01 pm

In an effort to raise student performance in a difficult course, San Jose State University has turned to a “flipped classroom” format, requiring students to watch lecture videos produced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and using class time for discussion. And initial data show the method is leading to higher test scores, university officials announced this week.

The class, “Engineering Electronics and Circuits,” has been “one of the most-hated courses in the college,” said David W. Parent, a professor and undergraduate coordinator in the electrical-engineering department. The course has a historically low passing rate—40 percent of students in the class received a C or lower last semester—and change was needed, said Khosrow Ghadiri, an adjunct professor who teaches the flipped-classroom version.

“We were concerned about this class,” Mr. Ghadiri said. “We wanted to revamp it in a fashion that would enable the students to pass this course and continue with their education because this is a gateway course required to continue in the major.”

Over the summer, four San Jose State professors went to MIT to work with its edX team and adjust the course to the campus’s needs. edX is a partnership of MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin to offer massive open online courses, or MOOC’s.

The 85 students in the flipped course at San Jose State watched the edX lecture videos at home and attended class twice a week to practice what they had learned and ask questions. Two other sections of students took a traditional version of the course.

The midterm-examination scores of students in the flipped section were higher than those in the traditional sections, said Mr. Ghadiri. Although the midterm questions were more difficult for the flipped students, their median score was 10 to 11 points higher.

The final reckoning of whether the students have learned better through the flipped classroom will come in the class’s last week. Professors plan to give the same final exam to all of the sections. Researchers will then control the data for grade-point average and prerequisite knowledge to “prove to ourselves and fellow faculty that we didn’t stuff the classroom with dead ringers,” Mr. Parent said.

The university will also survey students’ views of their experience in the alternative format before deciding whether to develop more flipped-classroom courses. “I think, in a way, that’s more important,” said Ping Hsu, interim dean of engineering. “If students feel this is a better way to learn, then that says a lot, perhaps more than exam scores.”

Some students have complained about the fast pace of the flipped course and the demands of more-frequent quizzes, Mr. Ghadiri said.

Adam T. Allen, a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering, was curious about the flipped-classroom method but nervous about signing up for the course because his friends had had to retake it. He likes the format but said the pace could “slow down a bit” to align with the other sections. “We do have to learn more, but I don’t mind too much,” he said.

“The flipped classroom receives a lot of resistance upfront,” Mr. Parent said. “What the students didn’t say, but were effectively saying, was that they had to learn at the rate which the classroom was going rather than letting it slide and cramming at the last moment.”

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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized


Interesting report from Sloan International Conference on Online Learning

At Conference, Leaders of ‘Traditional’ Online Learning Meet Upstart Free Providers

October 11, 2012, 9:20 pm

Orlando, Fla. — A longtime online-learning pioneer sounded a note of frustration at a national cyberlearning conference here this week. The complaint was over the perception that MOOC’s, or massive open online courses, run by highly selective universities are the biggest drivers of innovation in online learning.

“The hyper-prestigious universities” are not driving the change, said Jack M. Wilson, president emeritus of the University of Massachusetts, who founded UMass Online some 10 years ago, in remarks during a kickoff panel at the Sloan Consortium’s International Conference on Online Learning. He said that institutions like his and others represented at the conference, which is in its 18th year, have been slowly improving the quality, credibility, and enrollment of online courses for decades.

Mr. Wilson suggested that some new providers appeared to think they’d invented something new rather than drawing on the experiences of earlier projects. And he noted that dropout rates in some MOOC’s are as high as 90 percent, with only a tiny fraction of students actually completing the material.

“If we had 10-percent completion rates at UMass Online, I’d be in the Massachusetts jail instead of the Massachusetts university,” he joked. He praised the new entrants for bringing attention to the value of online education, but said that “is not who has led online learning, or who is going to lead online learning.”

One of those MOOC pioneers, Sebastian Thrun, had a chance to give his side of the story in a keynote address on Thursday. Mr. Thrun is the Stanford University professor who landed on the front page of The New York Times when he co-taught a free course that enrolled 160,000 people, and he has since founded Udacity, a company working with professors to offer similar large-scale free courses.

Mr. Thrun admitted to the crowd that when he conceived the idea of opening his Stanford course to the world, he was “pretty much ignorant of your work.” But he struck a humble tone and told the audience that he has “admiration for what you do.”

He stressed that he and others at Udacity were working to quickly improve their platform and teaching methods as they learned from their mistakes. “I’ve been a teacher all my life, at Carnegie Mellon and Stanford, and I’ve never been taught how to teach,” he said, noting that even in his in-person classes he has always tried out different approaches. Now he has a chance to experiment with hundreds of thousands of students.

Udacity has found that “existing college professors are not our best teachers,” and that those with the least classroom experience appeared to adjust most readily to the online format.

That comment sparked immediate reaction from one online teacher on Twitter, though: “Wait, aren’t we all existing college professors/instructors? Wasn’t that a slap in the face?”

But a majority of participants here appeared more excited by the MOOC provider than skeptical of him. When the floor was opened to questions, one Ph.D. student in the audience gave Mr. Thrun her telephone number and asked for a job. And after his talk, Mr. Thrun was mobbed by dozens of participants, with some asking for his autograph.

Kevin Wilcoxon, an instructional designer at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, was among those in the audience who agreed with Mr. Thrun’s comments. Mr. Wilcoxon said that even though online education has been around for decades, about 80 percent of professors who try it model it too much on their classroom experience. “They want to take the traditional classroom online,” he said. “What Mr. Thrun’s message is, is you’ve got to make a clean break.”

Even Mr. Thrun agreed that MOOC’s would work only for certain types of highly motivated learners, and that free classes were not the answer to all of higher education’s problems.

“The medium doesn’t fit everybody, that’s very important,” said Mr. Thrun in an interview with The Chronicle after his talk. “Dropout rates for courses of this type are still on the order of 90 percent. Some people say it doesn’t matter because there are still 50,000 people graduating, but I think it matters greatly.”

“Students have vastly different states of knowledge, motivations, and objectives,” he continued. “If you don’t do a better job of lining up what we do in the online world with student objectives, prior knowledge, and learning styles, I think we’re going to continue having large dropout rates.” He said his goal was to get completion rates in free Udacity courses to about 50 percent.

During his talk, Mr. Thrun noted some new directions to come for the company. He said Udacity would soon announce a new way to make money, by getting “companies to finance the development of classes they care about.” And he estimated that the cost of running free courses was about $1 per student per course.

In the opening panel of the conference, José L. Cruz, vice president for higher-education policy and practice at the Education Trust, stressed that a major concern for traditional colleges offering online education is increasing access to high-quality education. He and other panelists said that many students need the hands-on approach and care that can be given only by a professor teaching a small group of students, not tens of thousands.

Mr. Young moderated the opening panel of the conference.

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Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized