Instructional technology / distance education

Online education may solve problems facing liberal arts, advocates say

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Advocates for new teaching technologies say liberal arts institutions should flock to, not fear, online education.

Essay on online learning strategies for black colleges

Sometime in the next few months the Digital Learning Lab that I manage at Howard University will survey the websites of the 105 officially designated historically black colleges and universities, just as it has done in previous years, in order to determine which HBCUs are offering online degrees that are based on credit courses that deliver at least 80 percent of their content via the Web.

The higher education media have interpreted our previous reports as showing that HBCUs "lag" non-HBCUs in their production of online programs -- which is true.

The media have then explicitly stated or strongly implied that this "slow" pace was "bad" and that HBCUs should produce more online degrees at a faster pace -- which, IMHO, is a highly counterproductive value judgment.

Contrary to the torrents of hype about how online programs will save higher education that have filled the media in the last year or so, especially in the wake of the MOOC tsunami, online courses -- i.e., courses that deliver more than 80 percent of their content over the Web -- and online degree programs aren't good enough for everyone... yet.

Please note the qualifiers "good enough" and "yet." Even the best-designed online courses still require students to have higher motivation, a greater capacity to study alone, better time management skills, stronger fundamental math and language skills, and stronger study skills -- e.g., organizing notes during reviews for homework and tests, extracting correct interpretations from reading texts, listening to audio, viewing video presentations, etc. -- than do face-to-face or blended courses.

These prerequisites for online success will surely fade in the coming years as adaptive e-learning technologies enable online courses to be tailored to the prior knowledge, aptitudes, and learning styles of individual students, and as social media and other support tools become as effective as office hours and face-to-face tutorials. But at the present time colleges and universities should actively discourage students who lack these prerequisites from taking online courses and actively encourage them to take blended or face-to-face courses.

Given their historic commitment to providing opportunities for higher education to black students who have been academically handicapped by circumstances beyond their control, HBCUs should deliberately "lag" non-HBCUs that have not made such commitments with regard to the percentage of HBCU courses and degrees that are offered in online formats. This is not to say that HBCUs should not produce online courses and degree programs, just that they should not be as quick to do so as non-HBCUs because they have deliberately enrolled a higher percentage of students for whom online formats are not good enough ... yet

HBCUs should invest a higher percentage of their limited resources to provide training and financial incentives for their faculty members to upgrade traditional face-to-face courses to blended/hybrid formats. Recent research confirms expectations from common sense that blended courses are more effective for a higher percentage of students than either traditional face-to-face courses or courses offered in online formats.

Online courses and programs are the most advanced segments of a broad array of rapidly evolving e-learning technologies that are generally characterized as "disruptive." The descriptor is apt, but misleading. Too often the term is used to describe profound innovations that organizations fail to adopt, rather than strategic opportunities that were seized. Existential threats are nothing new to HBCUs. Each generation of HBCU leaders has taken office with a clear understanding that their success or failure would determine whether their institutions would survive into the next generation.

So the current leaders understand that they have no choice but to act on the certain knowledge that their HBCUs must disrupt or die. More specifically, they must embrace the mix of new e-learning technologies that will work best for their HBCUs as fast as possible, but no faster -- regardless of what Harvard or Stanford or MIT is doing.

Roy L Beasley is a member of the senior staff of Howard University, but the views expressed here are his own.

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The Pulse podcast explores handwriting and voice capture services

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This month's edition of The Pulse podcast examines various services that instructors can use to capture their handwriting or voice to embed into learning modules for the flipped classroom or massive open online courses.

Stanford teams up with edX

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Stanford University, birthplace of two MOOC companies, decides to work with a nonprofit started by MIT and Harvard.

Florida and New York look to centralize and expand online education

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Florida and New York try to expand their online course catalogs while consolidating authority.

Noodle buys Lore LMS to help colleges take programs online

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Company established by founder of Princeton Review buys nascent e-learning platform, as part of plan to help colleges use technology to lower tuition.

Company to help institutions embrace open educational resources

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Open education advocates launch Lumen Learning, which aims to help institutions replace expensive textbooks with open-source solutions.

A poem inspired by MOOCs

(with apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

There was a giant MOOC, based on a little book
when MOOC hype was trending torrid,
And when MOOCS were good, they were very, very good,
But when they were bad they were horrid.

Profs stood on their heads, "students" watching from bed,
With nobody by for to hinder;
Peer-graded squalor, plagiarized in the hollers,
And drummed all their palms against Winders.

Foundations heard the noise, and thought it was the boys
playing Coursera and edX,
They funded and Ventured noncredit adventures,
While we all suffer the headX.

Sherman Dorn is professor and chair in the department of psychological and social foundations at the University of South Florida College of Education.

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Researchers explore who is taking MOOCs and why so many drop out

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Are only 10 percent of students finishing courses? It depends on how you count.

Pulse podcast features interview with undercover online student

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This month's edition of The Pulse podcast features an interview with Gwen Burbank, an administrator at St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies, who went undercover as an M.B.A. student in the university's online program.

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