Posts tagged ‘MOOC’

April 28, 2015

New Arizona State University program lowers freshman year cost to $6,000

by Grace

A noteworthy initiative by a major university has the potential to cut costs dramatically for a student’s freshman year of college.

Arizona State University, one of the nation’s largest universities, is joining with edX, a nonprofit online venture founded by M.I.T. and Harvard, to offer an online freshman year that will be available worldwide with no admissions process and full university credit.

In the new Global Freshman Academy, each credit will cost $200, but students will not have to pay until they pass the courses, which will be offered on the edX platform as MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses.

“Leave your G.P.A., your SATs, your recommendations at home,” said Anant Agarwal, the chief executive of edX. “If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself, and you can get a year of college credit.”

Students can complete their freshman year for “less than $6,000”.

The new program will offer 12 courses — eight make up a freshman year — created by Arizona State professors. It will take an unlimited number of students. Neither Mr. Agarwal nor Mr. Crow would predict how many might enroll this year.

The only upfront cost will be $45 a course for an identity-verified certificate. Altogether, eight courses and a year of credit will cost less than $6,000.

Two common questions about online courses are addressed by this new venture.

Wednesday’s announcement, Agarwal said, is edX’s response to the two major points of criticism that have dogged MOOCs: that the completion rates are too low, and that the courses mostly benefit learners who have already earned advanced degrees.

The expectation is that motivation for credit will spur completion rates, and freshman courses will not attract college graduates.

How much human involvement will be required?

… Freshman composition will probably be one of the last to launch. Right now, he said, the university is planning on having “actual people” grade however many thousands of student essays such a MOOC would produce.

Other issues remain, including the problem that Freshman Academy does not qualify for federal financial aid.  The outcome for this new venture remains to be seen.  If it is successful, it could serve as a model for many other universities.

———

Tamar Lewin, “Promising Full College Credit, Arizona State University Offers Online Freshman Program”, New York Times, April 22, 2015.

Carl Straumsheim, “MOOCs for (a Year’s) Credit”, Inside Higher Ed, April 23, 2015.

September 1, 2014

Will today’s families regret that they “grossly overpaid” for college?

by Grace

20 years from now, people who grossly overpaid for their bricks & mortar college experience and are still paying off their massive student loans, will feel like incredible chumps.

Looking at families digging deep into their pockets to pay exorbitant college tuition, this same thought has crossed my mind.  As college administrators ponder the rough road ahead, Stuart Butler of the Brookings Institution advises that it will take more than a few tweaks for some institutions to survive the coming years.

…  if today’s college leaders—even at the Ivies—believe they can merely tweak their business models to carry them into the future, then they are in for an even more unpleasant surprise. They should ponder the still recent experience of the music industry, film and television, booksellers, and news media. If they did, they would soon recognize that the higher education industry is encountering a multi-pronged and existential threat composed of successive waves of disruptive innovation. This disruption will force top-to-bottom changes in the very concept of higher education and its relationship with the broader economy.

Butler sees a pattern affecting many industries, including higher education.

1. The underserved consumers are targeted first, “leaving the upstarts to occupy a sector of the market of little interest to industry leaders”.  Online news aggregators looked to “young people with distinct tastes and only casual interest in the news”.

…Early versions of online courses appealed to students who could not easily maintain a regular schedule, or who needed more time to understand material….

2. The initial product is substandard.

… The Apple I, introduced in 1976, hardly seemed a harbinger of doom to the managers of IBM’s mainframe monsters. So it is no surprise today to read college presidents denigrating MOOCs and the cheap, no-frills degrees being rolled out in Texas and Florida….

3. Episodes of adaptation and refinement occur amid harsh criticism.

… The clunky Apple I sold just a couple hundred units, but the elegant Macintosh, introduced twenty years later, ransacked the computing industry.

That’s why the shortcomings of MOOCs today should be of little comfort to the higher education establishment….

4. Unbundling is to be expected, as both hospitals and newspapers have discovered.

As with hospitals and newspapers, bricks-and-mortar institutions of higher education are particularly vulnerable to unbundling. Universities are modular institutions, and lower-cost competitors can easily siphon off customers and revenue from individual modules. For instance, universities are partly a hotel and food service industry, and partly sports and entertainment centers. They have invested heavily in buildings and services that package these elements together at essentially one price. But this makes them vulnerable to competitors that find much less expensive ways to provide discrete modules like housing or even basic first-year classes—or that simply shed costly facilities like libraries or student centers, as online colleges have done.

While credentials are highly valued, academic information is priced at nearly zero.

Indeed, the most challenging and decisive feature of unbundling and competition for the low-cost parts of the college bundle of services comes from the fact that the price of academic information is falling nearly to zero. Why pay a ton of money to sit with 300 other freshmen, listening to a Nobel Prize winner you will never actually meet on campus, when you have access to everything he has written, maybe even video versions of his lectures, free of charge on the internet?…

Even the social part of college can be unbundled.

But what about the social “college experience”? Well maybe that can be unbundled, too. Does undergraduate college have to last four years, or could the residential, networking, or sports elements occupy just part of the period of study at much less total cost? Britain’s Open University has for years brought students on campus for just a few weeks each year. It retains a similar model today using online classes instead of its original televised courses. Yet it is number three in the UK for student satisfaction, tied with Oxford. Moreover, for many young people today online networking provides the relationship of choice for professional purposes, not just for social life. For them, Facebook, LinkedIn, and texting can be a more efficient and even more personal way of building and maintaining future career contacts than paying for a dorm or hanging out at a college gym.

How should universities respond?  Brooks recommends that they need to “price discriminate” in a way that supports what they are selling.  And “they will have to determine their true competitive advantage”.  So some schools, Ivies and other elite institutions, will be able to maintain high prices for the exclusive campus experience they are selling.  Other schools will drop their prices for the cut-rate learning experience they provide.

How should families respond?  Butler’s forecast is consistent with other predictions of sharper class distinctions and a  ‘growing bifurcation between elite universities and “trade schools”‘.  So families should be careful about paying premium prices today for what may be heavily discounted 20 years from now.

———

Stuart Butler, “Tottering Ivory Towers”, The American Interest, August 11, 2014.

November 25, 2013

MOOCs have not lived up to expectations, at least so far.

by Grace

Online education continues to evolve after first-generation MOOCs falter.

After a year of setback after setback, the hype around MOOCs is settling down a bit. The latest evidence of this comes courtesy of an interesting profile piece at Fast Company of Udacidy CEO Sebastian Thrun, a man who is in many ways the godfather of the MOOC concept.

Instead of his original goal of offering a “Stanford-quality education to millions of students around the world”, Thrun is shifting to “more vocational-focused learning”.

MOOCs have been a “lousy product“.

… Thrun highlights his disappointments with MOOCs’ record: 90 percent drop-out rates with only half of the remaining 10 percent actually earning a passing grade; the student demographic overwhelmingly populated by well-educated, college-degreed professionals rather than the underprivileged students he had hoped to reach; the San Jose State University debacle, in which San Jose students taking Udacity-delivered MOOCs performed significantly worse than their peers in physical classrooms; and the unexpected failure of Thrun’s interventions intended to raise passing rates. Thrun tried adding mentors and TAs to provide personalized attention and interaction with students, incorporating immediate feedback and rewards in the forms of badges and progress meters, and partnering with schools such as San Jose to provide college credit, which Thrun expected to ramp up student interest. “We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished,” Thrun remarked. “We have a lousy product.

Online education will clearly continue to change higher education, and the first wave of MOOCs were only part of this evolution according to Walter Russell Mead.

Thrun’s change of focus may not be as big a shift as it appears on its face. It’s been apparent from the beginning that the format is better suited for some subjects than others. Math, science and business are easier to teach online than liberal-arts subjects like English and philosophy that rely more heavily on in-class discussions. And while a liberal arts education remains a good option for many people, the vast majority of American college students are choosing majors that are tightly linked to future careers: only 7 percent of all students major in the humanities. On the other hand, subjects like business, science, nursing and computer science are among the most common majors in the country. Even if MOOCs only impact the “vocational” side of the higher-ed world, this still amounts to a pretty sizable chunk of the industry.

Furthermore, while MOOCs as they’re currently offered may not be enough to upend the higher-ed system on their own, there’s lots of promise for “blended” courses in which the online material is supplemented by regular meetings with teachers or tutors who lead discussions and proctor exams. These meetings could be handled remotely using teleconferencing technology, or they could be done in person at local testing centers, in either case adding that human component that remains the weakest link in how these courses are offered today.

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:

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.

October 10, 2012

Quick links – entitled kids, Moody’s on MOOCs, learn fractions before algebra

by Grace

—  Do kids today have a heightened sense of entitlement?

Ann Althouse wrote about a mother seeking advice on how to handle her “daughter’s ongoing disappointment” because her dream college was unaffordable.  Althouse recalls her own situation about 40 years ago when she felt bad about having to attend a public university instead of a more expensive private college.

My parents paid all my college expenses, and the notion of taking loans to make up the difference never came up. It was a different culture back then, at least at my house. You understood that you bought what you could afford, and it showed bad character to mope about it, and you didn’t want to be ungrateful or selfish. And if I had crossed the line into a display of such bad character traits, my parents would never have considered writing to an advice columnist about what to do about their complaining, ungrateful daughter who won’t value what is good about the college we are able to pay for….

The culture has truly tipped, with everyone feeling entitled to things they can’t pay for and assuming somebody else over there will pay somehow, some time, and I shouldn’t have to think about them.

This reminds me of a line I learned from another parent that I used with my kids when they were little.

You get what you get and you don’t get upset.


—  Moody’s on MOOCs

A new report by Moody’s Investors Service suggests that while MOOCs’ exploitation of expanded collaborative networks and technological innovation will benefit higher education in the United States as a whole, their long-term effect on the for-profit sector and smaller not-for-profit institutions could be damaging.

Moody’s takes the perspective of how MOOCs affect credit rating – good for elites, not so much for lower tier colleges and for-profit schools.

In the end, elite institutions are positioned to capitalise most effectively on the MOOC platform, by increasing their global presence and deriving greater credit benefits from new markets. Those institutions with limited brand identities, however, will have to compete more intensively to retain – or develop – a competitive edge.

MOOCs – The revolution has begun, says Moody’s (University World News)

—  Knowledge of fractions and division predicts success in algebra

Elementary school students’ knowledge of fractions and division uniquely predicts their high school mathematics achievement, even after controlling for a wide range of relevant variables, suggesting that efforts to improve mathematics education should focus on improving students’ learning in those areas.

Siegler, R. S., Duncan, G. J., Davis-Kean, P. E., Duckworth, K., Claessens, A., Engel, M., Susperreguy, M. I., & Chen, M. (2012). Early predictors of high school mathematics achievement. Psychological Science, 23, 691-697

Knowledge of fractions and division at age 10-12 was determined by testing students’ computational proficiency.

This finding is consistent with the recommendations of the 2008 National Mathematics Advisory Panel Final Report.

Fluency with Fractions. Before they begin algebra course work, middle school students should have a thorough understanding of positive as well as negative fractions. They should be able to locate positive and negative fractions on a number line; represent and compare fractions, decimals, and related percent; and estimate their size. They need to know that sums, differences, products, and quotients (with nonzero denominators) of fractions are fractions, and they need to be able to carry out these operations confidently and efficiently. They should understand why and how (finite) decimal numbers are fractions and know the meaning of percent. They should encounter fractions in problems in the many contexts in which they arise naturally, for example, to describe rates, proportionality, and probability. Beyond computational facility with specific numbers, the subject of fractions, when properly taught, introduces students to the use of symbolic notation and the concept of generality, both being integral parts of algebra….

Difficulty with the learning of fractions is pervasive and is an obstacle to further progress in mathematics and other domains dependent on mathematics, including algebra. It also has been linked to difficulties in adulthood, such as failure to understand medication regimens. Algebra I teachers who were surveyed for the Panel as part of a large, nationally representative sample rated students as having very poor preparation in “rational numbers and operations involving fractions and decimals” (see Panel-commissioned National Survey of Algebra Teachers, National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008).

September 20, 2012

A critical look at educational technology – are MOOCs losers?

by Grace

Arnold Kling gives his opinions on educational technology, labeling each option he reviews as either a Loser, Winner, or Magic Bullet.  His evaluations are based on his preference for a  many-to-one model.

… I believe that the future of teaching is not one-to-many. Instead, it is many-to-one. By many-to-one, I mean that one student receives personalized instruction that comes from many educators. To make that work, technology must act as an intermediary, taking the information from the educators and customizing it to fit the student’s knowledge, ability, and even his or her emotional state.


MOOCs – LOSER

Kling believe MOOCs are not working out, an opinion partly supported by the fact that over 90% of students who enroll do not finish the course.  This particular bit of data doesn’t necessarily persuade me since I think a free “Stanford” course will attract many curious people who just want to see what it’s about and who feel no urgency to complete it.  But I do like this argument – that it is misguided to believe one particular course will always find acceptance among hundreds of thousands of students scattered across the globe.

We should not be surprised that MOOCs do not benefit most of those who try them. Students differ in their cognitive abilities and learning styles. Even within a relatively homogenous school, you will see students put into separate tracks. If we do not teach the same course to students in a single high school, why would we expect one teaching style to fit all in an unsorted population of tens of thousands?

An online course that has been designed at Stanford is likely to best fit the students who are suited to that particular university. The other beneficiaries are likely to be students who have the right cognitive skills and learning style but happen to be unable to attend college in the United States.

Tablets – WINNER

Although I do not even own an iPad, I am optimistic that tablets can be winners in education. It strikes me that a tablet can replace anything students carry today in their backpacks, other than lunch. You can read your textbooks in electronic format. With the right app, you have a scientific calculator. With another app, you can have a day planner, and it is easy to imagine enhancing such an app so that teachers can access it to add assignments and reminders.

Adaptive Textbooks – MAGIC BULLET

… an electronic textbook that adjusts to the cognitive ability and learning style of the student. Adaptive textbooks will query students in order to make sure that they understand what they have been studying. They will also respond to student queries. Adaptive textbooks will implement the many-to-one teaching model.

More opinions from other writers

Not so fast on the “adaptive” power of technology –  Katherine Beals writes that there is still a signficant “feedback gap” in educational technology, so far failing to give the personalized feedback provided by a good teacher.  Kitchen Table Math

A bad review for a MOOC course  – A college math teacher finds that “Thrun was a terrible lecturer and that the Udacity Statistics 101 course was badly structured and poorly taught—nowhere near the quality of a standard community college offering of the similar courses”.  Gas station without pumps

May 14, 2012

Harvard online learning: ‘five years from now will look very different from what we do now’

by Grace

Last week Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced their new partnership, known as edX, will offer free online courses.

Harvard’s involvement follows M.I.T.’s announcement in December that it was starting an open online learning project, MITx. Its first course, Circuits and Electronics, began in March, enrolling about 120,000 students, some 10,000 of whom made it through the recent midterm exam. Those who complete the course will get a certificate of mastery and a grade, but no official credit. Similarly, edX courses will offer a certificate but not credit.

Coursera and Udacity, two other MOOCs (massively open online courses) from elite universities have also recently been announced.  This online thing seems to be taking off, accompanied by ardent predictions from educators.

“My guess is that what we end up doing five years from now will look very different from what we do now,” said Provost Alan M. Garber of Harvard …

“Online education is here to stay, and it’s only going to get better,” said Lawrence S. Bacow, a past president of Tufts who is a member of the Harvard Corporation.

President John Hennessy of Stanford summed up the emerging view in an article by Ken Auletta in The New Yorker, “There’s a tsunami coming.”

Online learning is not brand new, but David Brooks makes a point about the recent entry by the most selective institutions:

But, over the past few months, something has changed. The elite, pace-setting universities have embraced the Internet. Not long ago, online courses were interesting experiments. Now online activity is at the core of how these schools envision their futures….

What happened to the newspaper and magazine business is about to happen to higher education: a rescrambling around the Web.

Rescrambling.  Makes me think of this.

You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

%d bloggers like this: