Online Shorts: Summer 2012

Note: With this post, I am starting a new format; namely, short summaries and commentary on a series of recently published reports and articles.  The sheer volume of newsworthy academic and press reporting about online learning makes this new format a necessity for covering a wide array of interesting developments in this field.


The Rise of Online Universities

Comment: The first of many articles trumpeting how many prestigious universities are exploring how free online courses can enhance outreach and access to quality instruction.  The issue of how students can get credit for these courses is still in development. I will further address this issue of massive open online courses (MOOCs) in a future blog post.

Intellectual Property

Who owns the intellectual property of an online course?  This article reveals some of the emerging fault-lines regarding ownership of online courses within the context of higher education.  This is a cautionary tale for professors looking to put the time and effort into customizing their courses with original content.

Science Labs and Online

In educational circles, particularly the STEM disciplines, you often hear the view that online can never be used since there is a hands-on lab component to the course. However, a post from Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor published an excerpt from a recent book that challenges this assumption. It argues that online science labs can provide greater student access, reduce lab costs, and even build superior learning outcomes than traditional labs. Traditionally, science courses with a lab component have been the most expensive courses to deliver. An online approach to such courses makes increasing sense in these budget-restricted times.

100% Mandated LMS Usage

This is an important article about a small liberal arts college that essentially is mandating all faculty to use their (Moodle) course management system. The college’s administration believes strongly that this online component mandated for all classes will produce better learning outcomes and bring their teaching more in line with 21st century skills that students need for employment. When I worked at Adelphi University, a forward-looking Dean of Nursing also mandated that all nursing courses have a Blackboard (Bb) component. Although there was some initial resistance by faculty, in short order it was accepted and many faculty saw the benefits of the mandate.

Within CUNY, such mandates would never work since the union would argue that it is a negotiated item for contract talks, and faculty governance bodies would claim it’s an infringement on their academic freedom by the administration. However, at institutions where there is more cooperative ethos at work, a strategy can be worked out to ensure such a mandate serves a real instructional purpose and is not too onerous on faculty.

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