Which New Ideas to Use

Survey of community college leaders in distance education finds some interest and some skepticism about MOOCs and open educational resources.

April 23, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO -- Some community colleges are exploring ways to use massive open online courses and open educational resources in their curriculums, but plenty are skeptical. Those are among the findings of a new survey of distance education officials at community colleges, released here on Monday. The survey was conducted by the Instructional Technology Council and was released at the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges.

The council, an affiliate of the two-year-college association, conducts annual surveys on a range of distance education and technology issues at community colleges. This year's was the first to ask about MOOCs and open educational resources, free online resources that can be used in teaching. Both MOOCs and OERs have been promoted as ways to help cash-strapped community colleges educate more students, many of whom themselves are cash-strapped.

On MOOCs, the survey found that only 1 percent of community colleges are offering course credits or certificates for MOOC completion. While another 44 are "beginning to explore options" that might incorporate MOOC content into programs, 42 percent reported that they had no plans to do so.

"As would be expected with something so new, campuses are cautious in their approach. Many community colleges are skeptical that a large-enrollment solution is appropriate for campuses that believe in smaller, more personalized instruction," says a report on the survey.

On OERs as well those surveyed include enthusiasts and skeptics. Only 36 percent anticipated a "significant impact" of OER at community colleges. Asked about roadblocks to using OER at community colleges, survey respondents cited the following (they could cite multiple reasons):

  • The time faculty members need to locate and evaluate OERs (67 percent).
  • Lack of faculty awareness (66 percent).
  • Concerns about the credibility of some resources (45 percent).
  • Lack of related materials (21 percent).
  • Resistance from the administration (14 percent).

In looking at other trends, the council survey found respondents reporting increased growth in online enrollments, but at lower rates than in years past. Much of the growth is coming in hybrid or blended courses.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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