Posts tagged ‘Distance Learning’

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.

June 13, 2013

Will runaway college costs be reined in by year 2020?

by Grace

Vance H. Fried has written College 2020, a paper that outlines how runaway college costs can be reined in by combining online and residential learning.

College in America will look very different in just a few years, thanks to remarkable innovations taking place in technology and business models in higher education. The advance of Online 2.0 will trigger structural changes in what we mean by a “college education.” Students in the future will be more likely to pursue their studies in an “unbundled” system in which different institutions provide different parts of a student’s higher education experience. Students will be more likely to learn through a blend of online coursework and a residential experience and will likely assemble a guided and rounded transcript of courses and experiences that are independently credentialed, allowing future employers to have a better measure of their skills.

Online 2.0 will evolve from the existing online environment.

The real technological change … is the use of data mining to create an adaptive learning platform. As a student uses the rich media content, various programs run behind it. These programs include “automated monitoring (the injection of small questions to assure learners are progressing with the content), assessment (quizzes that assure a minimum level of retention and understanding), and remediation (the additional content assigned to learners to make up for any shortcomings in that understanding and retention).”[7]

A hallmark of Online 2.0 is the enhanced ability for self-pacing, which “substantially benefits students of all types by providing total scheduling flexibility”.  The role of academic advising will become more important as students will need help in structuring their college experience.  Fried contends that this will actually serve to improve upon the current system, a notion that initially might seem counterintuitive, but actually makes sense considering the strong criticism of  the limited learning going on in college today.

Curriculum goes from being a somewhat random combination of discrete disciplinary courses to a coordinated set of competencies.

Students will spend only one or two years on campus.

While some colleges will preserve the four-year residential “college experience”, most will shorten the time a student spends on campus  This is key to saving costs while maintaining some elements of the traditional experience that students value:

  • A rite of passage performed with a group of peers,
  • A time for personal exploration,
  • A laboratory to develop leadership and personal relationship skills,
  • A supervised coming of age, and
  • Fun.

One model for this is the “flipped curriculum”.

… While most courses in the college of the future will be self-paced, some will be fully synchronous. Students will do self-paced online work focused on acquiring several different competencies and then take a synchronous class (or mini-class) aimed at integrating and applying multiple concepts through discussion or projects.

In addition to their direct impact on learning, a limited number of campus-based classes foster learning communities among students….

Unbundling will grow – universities will give credit for courses from many other  institutions.

While not all colleges will replace their courses with “competencies,” there will be more emphasis on taking courses from a variety of universities, says Fried. With courses available at low cost from many institutions, “the college experience can be unbundled from instruction.“ …

A university will become more like a travel agent than like a packaged tour.

“Unbundled college is analogous to putting together your own vacation to Europe or asking a travel agent to do it for you rather than buying an all-inclusive, prepackaged tour,” writes Fried. There is no reason why students can’t combine evidence of their competence into portfolios that will interest employers and no reason why entrepreneurs won’t become the packagers of those portfolios, possibly without any degrees at all.

Many of these changes seem realistic, but the actual cost savings are hard to predict accurately.
They could turn out to be marginal — maybe under 10%.  Online classes are not always that much cheaper than campus classes, and paying for more academic advising would add costs.  The scaled-down residential experience does seem like a reasonable compromise for middle-class families.

Related:

October 30, 2012

Does hybrid learning hold the most promise?

by Grace

Hybrid learning, combining online and face-to-face instruction, would seem to hold the most promise in incorporating technology into higher education.  A recent study supports this promise.

Monitoring 605 college students taking the same introductory statistics course at six public universities—including the University at Albany—SUNYSUNY Institute of Technology—Utica/Rome, the University of Maryland—Baltimore CountyTowson University,  CUNY—Baruch College, and CUNY—City College—during fall 2011, researchers split the students into two groups. One group completed the course in a traditional format, while the second group completed an online component complemented with an hour of in-class instruction each week.

Students were asked to complete a series of tests before and after the course, and researchers found that “hybrid-format students did perform slightly better than traditional format students” on outcomes including final exam scores and overall course pass rates, according to the report.

Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials (Ithaka S+R, May 22, 2012, William G. Bowen, Matthew M. Chingos, Kelly A. Lack & Thomas I. Nygren)

The better performance of students in the hybrid-format group was not statistically different and the study did not control for differences in teacher quality.  Still, it’s easy to imagine how the powerful combination of a strong teacher with a well-designed online component would deliver superior results with lower costs.

Meta-Analysis: Is Blended Learning Most Effective? (2009)

The United States Department of Education reported recently that it’s found some evidence to support the notion that blended learning is more effective than either face to face or online learning by themselves. Further, between online and face to face instruction, online is at least as good and may even have the advantage in terms of improving student achievement and potentially expanding the amount of time (and quality time) students spend learning.

Blended Learning Models Generating Lessons Learned (2012)

Since blended learning exploded onto the K-12 scene with promises of personalized and student-centered learning, it has proliferated into dozens of different models, with educators continually tweaking and changing those methods to find the perfect balance of face-to-face and online instruction to meet the needs of their students.

Interest in blended education remains high, spurred partly by research offering support for advocates’ claims that blended learning is more effective than either online or face-to-face instruction on its own.

But more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of the evolving blended learning models, including best practices and which models work best for which types of students . . .

Related:  Hybrid learning breaks down geographic barriers for Northeastern University (Cost of College)

November 11, 2011

How to get a free education

by Grace

Unfortunately, this free education comes without the credentials.  Only traditional institutions of higher learning can offer those.  For now.

Marc and Angel Hack Life put together a list of 12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free, ranging from Khan Academy  to Open Yale Courses  to my new favorite, Bio’s Best.

Those people who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.  Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.  Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

Have fun!

Related:  Is higher education on track to lose its credentialing monopoly?

September 20, 2011

High school online classes expand in Westchester County

by Grace

Eight school district in Westchester County are participating in a pilot program offering BOCES-sponsored online classes to their high school students.  The courses were designed by local teachers and make use of  “blended” learning, including both virtual and in-person experiences.  Initially limited to four elective courses, plans call for expansion in future years.

Although this might seem like a low-risk way for the schools to try online learning, I am left with some questions about this initiative.

  • What are the costs, both in terms of money and lost opportunity?
  • How will results be assessed?  Is saving money the main criteria?  Will the outputs be measured in quantifiable ways?
  • Although it seems like a good idea to try online teaching with what appear to be relatively light-weight electives, are there plans to go online with core courses also?  What about AP courses, where offering students more options could be a real way to take advantage of the efficiencies of technology?

It turns out that New York lags behind some other states in K-12 online learning initiatives, which actually could be an advantage if it means that we will learn from the experiences of other states who have taken a leading position in this area.

A reason for New York’s relatively slow start in online learning

Nationally, online learning is taking off. As of late 2010, online learning opportunities were available to some students in 48 states and Washington, D.C., according to the nonprofit International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Twenty-seven states plus Washington also had at least one full-time online school operating statewide. New York was one of the last states to finalize a set of distance-learning standards in 2011.

Martabano said that as a result, students in New York have had limited access to online courses compared with their peers around the country — though there have been recent advances.

You can read the article after the jump.

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