Posts tagged ‘e-learning’

January 16, 2014

SUNY online program aims for 100,000 new students within five years

by Grace

“Open SUNY” is the new online system for New York state universities.

BUFFALO — New York state’s 64-campus university system is undertaking a major virtual expansion, adding new online degree programs and enhancing academic and technical support for students taking classes via computer.

In what it’s calling “Open SUNY,” the State University of New York goes live Tuesday with eight new online degree programs at six campuses and plans to add more in September. SUNY currently offers more than 12,000 courses and 150 degree programs online.

Students will be able to complete degrees online or through a combination of virtual and brick-and-mortar classes.

The goal is to make the online segment of the SUNY student body grow to about 15% of its total enrollment, with a particular focus on practical career preparation.

The new offerings will be aligned toward jobs in high demand. They include a clinical laboratory technologies degree program at SUNY Broome, an electrical engineering degree program from Stony Brook and an informations systems program through Empire State College.

Cost savings is another goal of Open SUNY.

  1. Are we trying to reduce costs for students through Open SUNY?

    Yes, we are looking to reduce costs for students. These savings can come in various forms such as reduction in text book costs to students through the adoption and creation of open education resources. If we can save each of our 469,000 plus students $30 in textbook costs, we will generate over $14,000,000 in savings. Online courses also allow students to save on costs associated with commuting and child care. During the Open SUNY development process costs and cost sharing will be reviewed with the goal of creating a rich, rewarding, and affordable experience for all students.

    Additionally, we will provide technical platforms and services so that campuses and faculty can openly share the materials and courses they create with learners throughout the world.  These open environments will provide free learning opportunities for anyone in the world.

Related:

August 14, 2013

Can online courses work for struggling students?

by Grace

Can online instruction provide struggling students with the “human component and support” they need?

A local high school that experimented with online summer classes for students who had failed courses during the regular school year found it didn’t work out very well.

“It was interesting, but it didn’t work (because) they didn’t have that human component and support,” said Pelham’s interim superintendent, Charlie Wilson. “The kids who had failed it to begin with still weren’t able to pass it on the computer…

They had tried the online option as a way to save money, but now they have returned to traditional summer school classes.

New York Times editorial reiterates this issue in “The Trouble With Online College”:

… courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed.

Maybe “emotion-sensing technology” can substitute for a portion of the “human component and support” that struggling students need.

Facial Analysis Software Spots Struggling Students

A computer can learn to recognize, and respond intelligently to, users’ emotional state.

A recent study from North Carolina State University shows how this might work. Researchers there used video cameras to monitor the faces of college students participating in computer tutoring sessions. Using software that had been trained to match facial expressions with different levels of engagement or frustration, the researchers were able to recognize when students were experiencing difficulty and when they were finding the work too easy.

The project suggests a way for technology to help teachers keep track of students’ performance in real time. Perhaps it could even help massively open online courses (or MOOCs), which can involve many thousands of students working remotely, to be more attuned to students’ needs (see “The Crisis in Higher Education”).

It also hints at what could prove to be a broader revolution in the application of emotion-sensing technology. Computers and other devices that identify and respond to emotion—a field of research known as “affective computing”—are starting to emerge from academia. They sense emotion in various ways; some measure skin conductance, while others assess voice tone or facial expressions (see “Wearable Sensor Knows What Overwhelms You” and “Technology that Knows When to Hand You a Hankie”).

Hybrid learning
Even with sophisticated emotion-sensing technology, the suggested solution still involves a human who can respond to a student’s difficulties.  This is consistent with other research that shows hybrid learning holds the most promise for incorporating technology into education.

However, I don’t think a computer has been developed that can fully replace the parent who needs to get her kid out of bed on a summer morning to attend class.  For the most part, this still requires human intervention.

August 7, 2013

Did Udacity online class pilot see poor results due to bad planning?

by Grace

Poor planning appears to be a factor in the disappointing outcome of one Udacity pilot program.

San Jose State suspends collaboration with online provider

San Jose State suspends its project with Udacity to offer low-cost, for-credit online courses after many students fail to pass them.

San Jose State University is suspending a highly touted collaboration with online provider Udacity to offer low-cost, for-credit online courses after finding that more than half of the students failed to pass the classes, officials said Thursday.

Preliminary results from a spring pilot project found student pass rates of 20% to 44% in remedial math, college-level algebra and elementary statistics courses. In a somewhat more promising outcome, 83% of students completed the classes.

The San Jose State experiment with online education was being closely watched by other universities as they begin to step farther into the virtual classroom.

Udacity, a private Silicon Valley education group, and San Jose State announced jointly that they have agreed to pull the courses this fall to examine results in greater detail and fine-tune many aspects of the project.

“There are many complex factors that relate to student performance, and we’re trying to study the factors that help or hinder students in this environment,” said San Jose State Provost Ellen Junn.

Since the pass rates for students in traditional classes was not disclosed, it’s unclear how the online classes fared in comparison.

Udacity students were not typical San Jose students.

… Fewer than half of the Udacity students were enrolled in San Jose State; many were high school students from low-income communities.

Many Udacity students did not even have access to a computer.  Yeah, that might be a problem.

Provost Junn admitted the pilot program had some difficulties.

She acknowledged that educators did a poor job of explaining upfront what students should expect.

“We learned that we could have prepared them better about what it means to take an online course and that this is a university course with real faculty teaching for university credit,” Junn said. “Maybe some students didn’t take it quite seriously.”

It appears San Jose State rushed into this new venture unprepared.  After changes are made, San Jose State will again offer the Udacity online classes next spring.

Related:

April 24, 2013

Quick Links – Online learning similar to charter schools; financial literacy instruction doesn’t help much; high school grads avoiding college

by Grace

‘ Online learning faces many of the same obstacles that charter schools do.’

… It also has to overcome the same legitimate concerns about how to assess quality of a product offered by largely untested companies. Skeptics are right to note that many, perhaps most, of the online education providers out there won’t survive the decade—competition is intense, the technologies are new and changing rapidly, and not everyone can be a winner. Someone will be the Pets.com of the ed-tech boom. That prospect is alarming to the traditional school bureaucracy, which tends to make contracts with vendors that span years or decades. They’re not set up to contract with firms offering services for a monthly fee that can be canceled at any time. And parents are rightly concerned about the long-term value of a degree from Pets.edu.

In a perfect world, both online learning and charter schools would only be imposed on our children after rigorous testing and screening to be assured of their efficacy.  But in the real world, repeated unproven “innovations” are inflicted on students – No Child Left Behind being one of the latest examples.  So it is inevitable that some lucky students will continue to reap the benefits from the best of education’s innovations (think Amazon) and some unfortunate ones will suffer from the worst (think Pets.com).

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Financial literacy education doesn’t seem to work.

U.S. students who’d taken personal finance or money management courses weren’t more financially savvy than those who hadn’t, according to a study by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

Maybe innumeracy is part of the problem, and schools should focus more on better math education.

New York State requires some personal finance instruction as part of its Economics, the Enterprise System, and Finance, a half-semester high school course taken senior year.  It uses course content from the Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

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Smaller Share of High School Grads Going to College

The college enrollment rate — the share of recent U.S. high-school graduates enrolling in college or a university in the same year — dropped in 2012 to 66.2%, the lowest level since 2006, the Labor Department said in a report on Wednesday. For 2012 graduates, the rate dropped for both men and women, to 61.3% from 64.6% in 2011, and 71.3% from 72.3%, respectively.

The findings suggest some high-school graduates are becoming more confident about their job prospects after years of hiding out by going to college. When the economy sank into recession between 2007 and 2009, the college enrollment rate rose steadily to a record high of 70.1%. The implosion of America’s construction industry, for example, meant fewer jobs for young men looking for work right out of high school. Now it appears some of these young graduates are going on the job market again.

Of course, finding a job isn’t that much easier. America’s job-market recovery remains uneven: The unemployment rate is still unusually high at 7.6%, and the economy added only 88,000 jobs last month — the weakest job gains since June 2012.

Perhaps the rising cost of higher education is a factor.

March 26, 2013

California public colleges and universities will be mandated to give college credit for online classes taken elsewhere

by Grace

California is moving ahead with plans to force University of California and California State University campuses to give credit for online classes taken elsewhere if students are wait-listed for those classes at the state schools.

Problem:

Nearly half a million students are on waiting lists for basic courses in California’s public colleges, increasing the cost and duration of college and reducing the number of students who go on to earn degrees. This is a human tragedy and a policy failure on an enormous scale.

Solution:

Under the proposed plan, wait-listed students would be able to take online classes that have been approved by California’s Open Education Resources Council, a faculty-led body that was created by recent Steinberg-sponsored legislation (which also authorized free, open textbooks). Students would have to take proctored, in-person exams to pass the courses. Public colleges and universities in California would be required to accept those courses for credit.

Kevin Carey notes that this “change is consistent with the policy ideas put forth by President Obama in his State of the Union address” and represents a “reordering” in higher education.

… In the long run, however, this kind of plan represents an undeniable reordering of long-established regulatory, financial, and institutional arrangements. It’s a move closer to a time when traditional colleges are only a subset of the larger world of higher education

While some applaud this move, the University of California faculty have expressed “grave concerns”.  In addition to criticizing the state’s  failure to adequately fund higher education and the profit motives of alternative providers, professors are unhappy about losing their primary role in approving course credits for outside classes.

As goes California, so goes the nation?

Related:

February 28, 2013

‘The smart high school grad no longer just picks a school, borrows money and wings it.’

by Grace

Mark Cuban gives advice to high school students on the importance of preparing a “college value plan”.

Unless your parents are wealthy or you quality for a full ride or something close, the days of picking a school because that is the school you always wanted to go to are gone.

The class of 2014 and beyond now has to prepare a college value plan. What classes are you going to take online that enables you to get the most credits for the least cost. What classes are you going to take at a local, low-cost school so you can get additional credits at the lowest cost.

A major hurdle is that this requires “the smart student who cares about getting their money’s worth from college” to exercise “personal discipline”.

Then, with your freshman and sophomore classes out-of-the-way, you can start to figure out which school you would like to transfer to , or two years from now, which online classes you can take that challenge you and prepare you for the areas you want to focus on. If you have the personal discipline you may be able to avoid ever having to step on a campus and graduating with a good degree and miracle of miracles, no debt.

For the smart student who cares about getting their money’s worth from college, the days of one school for four years are over. The days of taking on big debt (to the tune of 1 TRILLION DOLLARS as I write this ) are gone. Going to a 4 year school is supposed to be the foundation from which you create a future, not the transaction that crushes everything you had hoped to do because you have more debt than you could possibly pay off in 10 years. It makes no sense.

Slackers without wealthy parents do not fare well in this scenario.

Cuban still believes in college.

College is where you find out about yourself. It’s where you learn how to learn. It’s where you get exposure to new ideas. For those of us who are into business you learn the languages of business, accounting, finance, marketing and sales in college.

The question is not whether or not you should go to school, the question for the class of 2014 is what is your college plan and what is the likelihood that your college or university you attend will still be in business by the time you want to graduate.

He compares the newspaper business to higher education, and he sees a shakeout with schools that do not adapt falling by the wayside.

The newspaper industry was once deemed indestructible. Then this thing called the internet came along and took away their classified business. The problem wasn’t really that their classifieds disappeared. It was more that they had accumulated a ton of debt and had over invested in physical plant and assets that could not adapt to the new digital world.

For newspapers, higher education, and many other industries, the old ways no longer work.

Related:  Nathan Harden’s take on the big changes ahead for higher education (Cost of College)

February 1, 2013

Nathan Harden’s take on the big changes ahead for higher education

by Grace

Nathan Harden, a leading voice for a new generation of young conservatives,  predicts The End of the University as We Know It

In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.

… The most important part of the college bubble story—the one we will soon be hearing much more about—concerns the impending financial collapse of numerous private colleges and universities and the likely shrinkage of many public ones. And when that bubble bursts, it will end a system of higher education that, for all of its history, has been steeped in a culture of exclusivity. Then we’ll see the birth of something entirely new as we accept one central and unavoidable fact: The college classroom is about to go virtual.

The shift of power to consumers should appeal to many worried parents and students in the college application process.

… Power is shifting away from selective university admissions officers into the hands of educational consumers, who will soon have their choice of attending virtually any university in the world online….

Blended learning holds the greatest promise for leading the way.

One of the biggest barriers to the mainstreaming of online education is the common assumption that students don’t learn as well with computer-based instruction as they do with in-person instruction. There’s nothing like the personal touch of being in a classroom with an actual professor, says the conventional wisdom, and that’s true to some extent. Clearly, online education can’t be superior in all respects to the in-person experience. Nor is there any point pretending that information is the same as knowledge, and that access to information is the same as the teaching function instrumental to turning the former into the latter. But researchers at Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative, who’ve been experimenting with computer-based learning for years, have found that when machine-guided learning is combined with traditional classroom instruction, students can learn material in half the time. Researchers at Ithaka S+R studied two groups of students—one group that received all instruction in person, and another group that received a mixture of traditional and computer-based instruction. The two groups did equally well on tests, but those who received the computer instruction were able to learn the same amount of material in 25 percent less time.

Even though we may be sad because of what is being lost, is college as it now exists really worth preserving? 

… At its best, traditional classroom education offers the chance for intelligent and enthusiastic students to engage a professor and one another in debate and dialogue. But typical American college education rarely lives up to this ideal. Deep engagement with texts and passionate learning aren’t the prevailing characteristics of most college classrooms today anyway. More common are grade inflation, poor student discipline, and apathetic teachers rubber-stamping students just to keep them paying tuition for one more term.

Prestigious institutions will be winners while second-rate colleges and universities will be losers in the new paradigm.  Fewer professors will be needed.

Prestigious private institutions and flagship public universities will thrive in the open-source market, where students will be drawn to the schools with bigger names. This means, paradoxically, that prestigious universities, which will have the easiest time holding on to the old residential model, also have the most to gain under the new model. Elite universities that are among the first to offer robust academic programs online, with real credentials behind them, will be the winners in the coming higher-ed revolution….

The open-source educational marketplace will give everyone access to the best universities in the world. This will inevitably spell disaster for colleges and universities that are perceived as second rate. Likewise, the most popular professors will enjoy massive influence as they teach vast global courses with registrants numbering in the hundreds of thousands (even though “most popular” may well equate to most entertaining rather than to most rigorous). Meanwhile, professors who are less popular, even if they are better but more demanding instructors, will be squeezed out. Fair or not, a reduction in the number of faculty needed to teach the world’s students will result….

January 29, 2013

University of Wisconsin to offer lower-cost online bachelor’s degrees

by Grace

University of Wisconsin to Offer a Bachelor’s to Students Who Take Online Competency Tests About What They Know

No class time will be required for most degrees as Wisconsin begins “decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting”.

Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity.

No classroom time is required under the Wisconsin program except for clinical or practicum work for certain degrees.

Competency tests will determine if course credit will be given.

Under the Flexible Option, assessment tests and related online courses are being written by faculty who normally teach the related subject-area classes, Mr. Reilly said.

Officials plan to launch the full program this fall, with bachelor’s degrees in subjects including information technology and diagnostic imaging, plus master’s and bachelor’s degrees for registered nurses. Faculty are working on writing those tests now.

A way to lower college costs

The charges for the tests and related online courses haven’t been set. But university officials said the Flexible Option should be “significantly less expensive” than full-time resident tuition, which averages about $6,900 a year at Wisconsin’s four-year campuses.

There is concern that programs will be “watered down” versions of traditional degrees.  I think they’re making a mistake by not requiring proctored testing.

Based on the examples given in the article, this new degree option will mainly attract older students.

Beth Calvert, a 35-year-old registered nurse at a Milwaukee hospital, hopes to enroll in the program to earn her bachelor’s in nursing. Between working overnight shifts and caring for her 3-year-old daughter, Ms. Calvert said she has little time to move beyond her associate degree but knows that it increasingly is important to her employer, which she said offers a pay raise to nurses with higher degrees.

January 25, 2013

Teachers should harness technology to find gaps in student knowledge

by Grace

So do we all agree with edX president Anant Agarwal that technology might be the “single biggest innovation in education” in the last 200 years?  It certainly seems possible.

Technology ‘will topple many ideas about how we teach’.

Because education is economically important yet appears inefficient and static with respect to technology, it’s often cited (along with health care) as the next industry ripe for a major “disruption.” This belief has been promoted by Clayton Christensen, the influential Harvard Business School professor who coined the term “disruptive technology.” In two books on education, he laid a blueprint for online learning: it will continue to spread and get better, and eventually it will topple many ideas about how we teach—and possibly some institutions as well.

My observation as a parent is that technology is unlikely to make human teachers obsolete any time soon, but the opportunity for schools to use data more efficiently screams out as a way to improve human teachers.

Technology will define where online education goes next. All those millions of students clicking online can have their progress tracked, logged, studied, and probably influenced, too. Talk to Khan or anyone behind the MOOCs (which largely sprang from university departments interested in computer intelligence) and they’ll all say their eventual goal isn’t to stream videos but to perfect education through the scientific use of data. Just imagine, they say, software that maps an individual’s knowledge and offers a lesson plan unique to him or her. Will they succeed and create something truly different? If they do, we’ll have the answer to our question: online learning will be the most important innovation in education in the last 200 years.

Teachers should harness technology to find gaps in student knowledge.

I recently heard a local high school teacher claim he did not have time to conduct formative assessments*.  Part of the school’s explanation for this was that excessive mandatory testing requirements left no time for teachers to find student’s gaps in knowledge.  I’m not buying this, because Khan Academy and other sources offer “software that maps an individual’s knowledge”.  I’ve had a brief glimpse of education software used in our public schools that also does this, generating data similar to that provided by KA.

20130124.COCKhanTeacherTool1

Personalized data like this would enable a teacher to use his time more efficiently, even making differentiated instruction more feasible.  But instead, a school that claims it is teaching 21st century skills is letting its instructors rely on clunky data-gathering methods that shortchange its students.  Unfortunately, it’s going to take a little while for technology to disrupt this school’s hold on teaching methods.


* Formative assessment or diagnostic testing is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures employed by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.[1] It typically involves qualitative feedback (rather than scores) for both student and teacher that focuses on the details of content and performance.[2] It is commonly contrasted with summative assessment, which seeks to monitor educational outcomes, often for purposes of external accountability.[3]

January 18, 2013

‘SUNY to boost online offerings, push early graduation’

by Grace

The State University of New York (SUNY) is taking a leadership position regarding online education.

For the first time, SUNY students will be able to complete a bachelor’s degree online, Zimpher announced. Three degrees in high-demand fields like information technology and health care will launch this fall, and seven more will be available in fall 2014. SUNY will be a leader in online education.

Additionally, students will be able to take online courses from any other SUNY college while earning credit and paying tuition to their home campuses.

“No institution in America – not even the for-profits – will be able to match the number of offerings and the quality of instruction,” Zimpher said. “In three years, we will enroll 100,000 degree-seeking students in Open SUNY, making us the largest public online provider of education in the nation.”

Credit for MOOCs

As part of SUNY’s online efforts, top professors will begin to provide “massive open online courses.” Many of the country’s most prestigious universities present such courses, which are online for free with the aim of extending access to education. Generally, these courses are not credit bearing.

The system will develop a system of assessing higher-learning experiences, so students who’ve taken some courses, such as free courses online from accredited institutions, can get credit for their work.

Credit for internships

SUNY will also focus on providing experiential education to students — even those enrolled only in online courses — helping them to secure internships, research or volunteer opportunities during their studies. These experiences will be recorded on an extracurricular transcript and be designated on their diplomas.

Encouraging early graduation as a way for students to save money

“We are committed to the idea that students should have the choice to graduate in three years,” she said during the speech. “We believe that by 2015, 25 percent of SUNY students will be able to do this.”…

“It allows students to reduce their student loans. It reduces their tuition because they’re only paying three years of tuition instead of four,” Stenger said. “The students can stay and get their master’s degree in an accelerated fashion and have a little extra value at the same time.”

Even assuming that online courses will cost the same as classroom courses, online students should be able to save money on transportation, housing, and other costs.

My future online scholar?
Even though she’s never taken an online course*, my high school daughter has lately mentioned that she might be interested in attending an online college.  I’m not completely sure why she’s interested and I’m not sold on the idea, but it looks as if SUNY might soon be able to accommodate her.

In related news, a hip hop music video promoting the SUNY system will be released to the public next month.

* I was recently told that our local high school expressly forbids students from taking any online course for credit, a rule that also applies to staff.  At a state level, New York does allow schools to grant credit for online courses.

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