Online Shorts: Late Fall 2012

Note: This is a continuation of a new format for my blog, 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 wider array of interesting developments in this field. The theme for these short synopses is open online education and future online trends.

Online Learning Organizations Ban Together to Promote Online Agenda

This article indicates that several distance-learning organizations have put aside their differences for the common good—the advancement of online. With a unified voice, this group can speak with legislators and policy makers to better ensure that these programs get supported and recognized. For example, regarding employment, this group seeks to:

Make the connection between online learning, the economy, workforce development, and access, and communicate that connection to policymakers and higher education leaders.”

Competition in Online Space

Non-profits are starting to compete with for-profit online organizations in terms of dominance in the online space.  As online becomes more mainstream, increasingly price and reputation are attributes of non-profit programs that may provide a competitive advantage. The days of online programs being associated primarily with the University of Phoenix or similar for-profit institutions may soon be over as other players challenge their dominance in this marketplace.

Democratizing Higher Education: Sebastian Thune

This video summarizes the importance of MOOCs (massive open online courses) in the entire educational space by the founder of Udacity.  Sebastian is truly a visionary, and in this video he explains the genesis of his company and MOOCs, and their potential to radically change the educational experience of future generations of students. His approach is “student-centered” as opposed to the “instructor-centered” model of traditional teaching.

10 Universities Team Up to Offer Credit for MOOCs

Several universities are banding together to offer MOOCs for credit for students, both within their institutions as well as those not currently enrolled.  This and other similar efforts represent a “shot across the bow” of traditional colleges who might think they are immune from competition. The concept that you achieve credentials only from enrolling at a traditional college is starting to erode.  Quality instruction will increasingly be offered outside the ivy-halls of academia, and challenge the concept of place-based education to its core.

Low-Risk E-book Platform for Utica College Library

Traditionally, libraries have been one of the slowest sectors in higher education to change. Most libraries today are being built without the traditional “stacks”  where books are housed off-site. Instead they typically have computers with access to an array of digital books, articles and resources. This article reflects another step in this trend whereby libraries are using e-books with pre-loaded content as a substitute for expensive journal subscriptions.

MOOCs and Employers: A Win-Win

Another barrier to the acceptance of MOOCs is about to fall.  Coursera, a company specializing in massive open online courses, is getting into the headhunter business. For example, a software company interested in hiring a programmer may now have access to successful students completing a MOOC in Artificial Intelligence. So the connection between online learning and employers is beginning to be made without the traditional institution of higher learning as an intermediary.

The Carnegie Credit Hour—Being Re-evaluated

The long-held standard, Carnegie credit hour—is now up for re-examination and change. This measure, also associated in a pejorative sense with “seat time,” has been made obsolete with increasing content delivered outside the classroom, and lack of effective “quality control” of traditional instruction. In other words, the lecture is dead, or at least on its last legs, and generations of bored students will be happy to hear it’s gone.  However, the new performance-based model will make it more difficult for students to sit through classes and think they can pass the course with minimal effort. At the same time, a new generation of faculty will need to be trained in whatever pedagogical and assessment tools will replace the traditional classroom experience. This credit-hour development is reflective of how significant “disruptive technologies” have been in higher education in terms of institutional change.


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