Hybrid Education 2.0

What if you could teach a college course without a classroom or a professor, and lose nothing?

According to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, there’s no “what if” about it. Earlier in the decade, Carnegie Mellon set out to design software for independent learners taking courses through the university’s Open Learning Initiative, an effort to make courses freely available to non-enrolled learners. But rather than merely making course materials available to non-students, like MIT’s famous OpenCourseware project, Carnegie Mellon wanted to design courses that would respond to the individual needs of each student. It currently has courses in 12 different subjects available on its Web site, mostly in math and science.

In the process of testing the software on Carnegie Mellon students to make sure it would “do no harm” if used, the researchers found that, over a two-semester trial period, students in a traditional classroom introductory statistics course scored no better than similar students who used the open-learning program and skipped the three weekly lectures and lab period. . . .

As intriguing it was to find that a computer program could prepare students to pass tests just as well as a professor, the researchers seem more excited by a hybrid application of the open-learning program that, instead of replacing professors, tries to use them more effectively. By combining the open-learning software with two weekly 50-minute class sessions in an intro-level statistics course, they found that they could get students to learn the same amount of material in half the time.

So what exactly is the pedagogical model Carnegie Mellon has discovered, that has inspired such faith? Essentially, it’s an online
program that teaches students itself, rather than just being the medium a professor uses to teach. Furthermore, it leverages the opportunity to interact directly with a unique student — an opportunity a professor addressing dozens of students in a lecture hall does not have. . . .

In other words, the software acts like a private tutor, quizzing students constantly as they work through linear lessons and adjusting in accordance with how quickly they show they are grasping different concepts. . . .

The virtual tutor takes care of the basic concepts that typically dominate lectures, leaving professors open to plan the face-to-face
component of the course according to what parts of the curriculum the software tells him students are picking up more slowly, and what concepts could bear reinforcement. For example, if a statistics professor notices in the data he receives from activity in the open-learning program that a great number of students struggled with the assessments the program gave while teaching conditional probability, the professor could use the class periods to hold a discussion with his students about that concept until he is confident they get it — a preferable alternative, Thille says, to rolling through concepts didactically and hoping they stick.

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Blackboard Drops Suit Against Desire2Learn

Blackboard, known for its tenacity in the e-learning market, announced on December 15 that it is backing off from its long patent feud with the Canadian company Desire2Learn.

The dispute dates back to 2006, when Blackboard sued Desire2Learn in a Texas district court for 38 counts of patent infringement, seeking millions in damages. The court only upheld three counts, and both companies appealed the parts of the decision they had lost to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which in 2008 dismissed all of Blackboard’s claims against Desire2Learn. But by then the industry giant had filed additional patent-infringement lawsuits against its smaller competitor, which were pending–until December 15, when the rivals announced the détente.

. . .

Many advocates of open source learning management systems strongly backed Desire2Learn in the dispute, and feared that a Blackboard victory might open the way for the company to attack their products and give the giant in the market too much control over it. While Blackboard officials repeatedly said that their actions against Desire2Learn didn’t suggest any course of action against anyone else, the dispute led to much public bashing of the company.

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The Ever-Expanding U. of Phoenix

In the world of for-profit higher education, and higher education in general, the University of Phoenix has historically been viewed as the 800-pound gorilla.

As of Tuesday, it may be more like a 1,000-pound gorilla. As Phoenix’s parent company, the Apollo Group, reported its fourth quarter and annual earnings Tuesday, it announced that the university’s enrollment of degree-seeking students grew to 443,000 as of August 2009, up 22 percent from 362,000 in August 2008. The biggest growth in Phoenix’s enrollments, by far, came among students seeking associate degrees, which rose by 37 percent, to 201,200 from 146,500 in 2008.

About two-thirds of the university’s new students as of August are female, 27.7 percent are African-American, and about half are 30 or over.

The university attributed the sizable increases to a range of factors, including increased efforts in retaining students, expanded marketing, and the “current economic downturn, as working learners seek to advance their education to improve their job security or reemployment prospects.” Many community colleges and several of Phoenix’s major peers in for-profit career education, including Kaplan Higher Education (21.9 percent) and Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (24.4 percent), have reported sharp upturns in student enrollments this fall.

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5 Ways E-Learning Can Improve Your Leadership Development Program

Why Leadership Development is Important
Leadership development is a high priority and increasing as an overall percentage of training delivered in many organizations because of several positive business benefits:

  • Financial return.
  • Employee satisfaction and retention.
  • Building bench strength.
  • Strategic and competitive advantage.
  • Enhanced productivity and faster resolution of problems.
  • Continuous innovation.
  • Organizational agility.

Leaders drive performance, and the higher the leader and the broader the scope of his or her responsibility, the greater the impact that the individual can have on an organization. So while it may difficult to measure exactly now much leadership development programs contribute to something like financial return, it is generally accepted that good leaders and managers produce higher performing teams that produce better results.

Demographic shifts are also forcing companies to focus on their leadership development efforts. With almost 80 million baby boomers approaching retirement in the next decade, there will be significant impact on pipeline of available leadership talent, and the cost of recruiting and retaining competent managers is going to increase.

E-Learning Can Improve Leadership Development Programs
While e-learning is not a complete solution when it comes to leadership development, it can be used to increase its effectiveness in several important ways:

Increased Reach
Traditionally, leadership training has been confined to employees who can attend a classroom event. This makes it difficult and/or expensive to reach geographically dispersed employees. The increasingly global and mobile nature of today’s workforce means that many employees may be left out of traditional classroom-based leadership training programs.

But technology-based learning content can provide basic soft skills training and information to any learner with an Internet connection. E-learning can effectively eliminate the barriers of time and geography.

Ensuring a consistent approach to leadership often means instituting a talent management process based on a system of competencies that align with specific company objectives. If leadership competencies are identified for all levels and job roles, there can be a systematic process for assessing employees and recommending training interventions based on job role and level. Competency management gives organizations better visibility into their leadership strengths and weaknesses, and aids in long-term planning.

Speed & Efficiency
While leadership training must include “high touch” activities to be effective, e-learning can often be used to reach the training goal quicker and at a lower cost. There are numerous models for blended learning ranging from the very simple to complex. One of the most common is to use e-learning as a pre-requisite to classroom training. This can shorten the overall time needed for employees to complete training. It also ensures that learners arrive at the training event with a common understanding and baseline of knowledge, ready to take advantage of the unique benefits of being with other students and a live instructor.

E-Learning also shortens the amount of time that employees are physically away from their jobs. Online learning also offers the opportunity for learners to take classes when it is most convenient for them, and to progress as quickly or slowly as necessary.

Skills can also be assessed online prior to training, which may allow some learners to test-out of certain parts of training. Shortening time away from the job can be an especially important benefit in leadership training, which often involves key employees with significant responsibilities.

Reinforcement Over Time
Training impact tends to fade over time. But research shows that when learning is reinforced before and after the training event, the positive effects are greater and last longer. Managers can use e-learning to reinforce key points of training, thereby taking leadership development from a series of disconnected events to more of a continuous development process.

Support Collaboration & Relationship Building

Managing global teams is a reality in today’s workplace, and also one of the greatest challenges managers face. Technology such as the virtual classroom, blogs, wikis and social networks are being used to support collaboration for geographically dispersed teams. “Blended” does not have to imply “classroom.” Many of today’s leadership programs are exclusively conducted virtually. In this format, participants take online courses that are augmented with online collaboration sessions, conference calls or virtual collaboration exercises.

University of North Carolina Moves Intro Spanish Class Entirely Online

After several years of experimenting with “hybrid” Spanish courses that mix online and classroom instruction, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has decided to begin conducting its introductory Spanish course exclusively on the Web.

Spanish 101, which had featured online lessons combined with one classroom session per week, will drop its face-to-face component in an effort to save on teaching costs and campus space in light of rising demand for Spanish instruction and a shrinking departmental budget.

Foreign language classes, like those in just about every subject area, have of course been offered online for years. And online courses have become a key way for some languages to be taught at smaller colleges that might not produce enough students to fill a section. … Advocates for such courses have generally said that they are essential when in-person instruction wouldn’t otherwise take place. What makes Chapel Hill’s announcement notable is that it’s about Spanish. And if there is one foreign language at American colleges and universities that never struggles to produce demand for in-person sections, it is Spanish.

Under the new system, a single professor would preside over four sections of the class, with support from graduate assistants. …

department officials said they don’t expect the online-only format to hamper learning.

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Open Courses: Free, but Oh, So Costly

Online students want credit; colleges want a working business model

He was on a hang glider, and he slammed the ground hard on his chin. Recovery from surgery on his broken back left the 39-year-old high-school dropout with time for college courses.

From a recliner, the drugged-up crash victim tried to keep his brain from turning to mush by watching a free introductory-biology course put online by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Hooked, he moved on to lectures about Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian from an English course at Yale. Then he bought Paradise Lost.

A success for college-made free online courses—except that Mr. Ziegler, who works for a restaurant-equipment company in Pennsylvania, is on the verge of losing his job. And those classes failed to provide what his résumé really needs: a college credential.

Colleges, too, are grappling with the limits of this global online movement. Enthusiasts think open courses have the potential to uplift a nation of Zieglers by helping them piece together cheaper degrees from multiple institutions. But some worry that universities’ projects may stall, because the recession and disappearing grant money are forcing colleges to confront a difficult question: What business model can support the high cost of giving away your “free” content?

Utah State University recently mothballed its OpenCourseWare venture after running out of money from the state and from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has financed much of the open-content movement. …

More free programs may run aground. So argues David Wiley, open education’s Everywhere Man, who set up the Utah venture and is now an associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University. … “Every OCW initiative at a university that does not offer distance courses for credit,” he has blogged, “will be dead by the end of calendar 2012.”

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Tandberg, Cisco and Lecture Capture

The October 1 announcement of Cisco’s offer of $3 billion to buy the video conferencing company Tandberg could potentially have significant implications in the lecture capture market. …

Lecture and presentation capture will be as important in the higher education space as video conferencing is in the enterprise (and increasingly small business) sectors. Tools, platforms and services to easily record campus activity – whether this activity is a regular lecture, an invited speaker, or a voice-over recording made from a professors desk – are poised to become ubiquitous on campus. Students will expect the ability to time shift their learning. Faculty will come to understand that recorded presentations offer the potential to free class time for discussion and debate, as students escape the pressure of having to take exhaustive notes during the lecture. Parents will look for schools that record lectures as an aid to their child’s learning, as students with diverse learning style can take advantage of recorded classes to review materials at their own pace.

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An Experiment Takes Off

When Karen Symms Gallagher ran into fellow education deans last year, many of them were “politely skeptical,” the University of Southern California dean says (politely), about her institution’s experiment to take its master’s program in teaching online.

Many of them seemed to appreciate Gallagher’s argument that the traditional model of teacher education programs had largely failed to produce the many more top-notch teachers that California (and so many other states) desperately needed. But could a high-quality MAT program be delivered online? And through a partnership with a for-profit entity (2Tor), no less? Really?

Early results about the program known as MAT@USC have greatly pleased Gallagher and USC. One hundred forty-four students enrolled in the Rossier School of Education program’s first full cohort in May, 50 percent more than anticipated and significantly larger than the 100 students who started at that time in the traditional master’s in teaching program on the university’s Los Angeles campus.

And this month, a new group of 302 students started in the second of three planned “starts” per year, meaning that USC has already quadrupled the number of would-be teachers it is educating this year and, depending on how many students enroll in January, is on track to increase it a few times more than that.

It will be a while — years, probably, until outcomes on teacher certification exams are in and the program’s graduates have been successful (or not) in the classroom — before questions about the program’s quality and performance are fully answered (though officials there point out that the technology platform, like much online learning software, provides steady insight into how successfully students are staying on track). But USC officials say that short of quantitative measures such as those, they believe the online program is attracting equally qualified students and is providing an education that is fully equivalent to Rossier’s on-ground master’s program — goals that the institution viewed as essential so as not to “dilute the brand” of USC’s well-regarded program.

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How Web-Savvy Edupunks Are Transforming American Higher Education

Is a college education really like a string quartet? Back in 1966, that was the assertion of economists William Bowen, later president of Princeton, and William Baumol. In a seminal study, Bowen and Baumol used the analogy to show why universities can’t easily improve efficiency.

If you want to perform a proper string quartet, they noted, you can’t cut out the cellist nor can you squeeze in more performances by playing the music faster. But that was then — before MP3s and iPods proved just how freely music could flow. Before Google scanned and digitized 7 million books and Wikipedia users created the world’s largest encyclopedia. Before YouTube Edu and iTunes U made video and audio lectures by the best professors in the country available for free, and before college students built Facebook into the world’s largest social network, changing the way we all share information. Suddenly, it is possible to imagine a new model of education using online resources to serve more students, more cheaply than ever before.

But higher education remains, on the whole, a string quartet. MIT’s courseware may be free, yet an MIT degree still costs upward of $189,000. College tuition has gone up more than any other good or service since 1990, and our nation’s students and graduates hold a staggering $714 billion in outstanding student-loan debt. Once the world’s most educated country, the United States today ranks 10th globally in the percentage of young people with postsecondary degrees. “Colleges have become outrageously expensive, yet there remains a general refusal to acknowledge the implications of new technologies,” says Jim Groom, an “instructional technologist” at Virginia’s University of Mary Washington and a prominent voice in the blogosphere for blowing up college as we know it. Groom, a chain-smoker with an ever-present five days’ growth of beard, coined the term “edupunk” to describe the growing movement toward high-tech do-it-yourself education. “Edupunk,” he tells me in the opening notes of his first email, “is about the utter irresponsibility and lethargy of educational institutions and the means by which they are financially cannibalizing
their own mission.”

The edupunks are on the march. From VC-funded startups to the ivied walls of Harvard, new experiments and business models are springing up from entrepreneurs, professors, and students alike. Want a class that’s structured like a role-playing game? An accredited bachelor’s degree for a few thousand dollars? A free, peer-to-peer Wiki university? These all exist today, the overture to a complete educational remix.

The architects of education 2.0 predict that traditional universities that cling to the string-quartet model will find themselves on the wrong side of history, alongside newspaper chains and record stores. “If universities can’t find the will to innovate and adapt to changes in the world around them,” professor David Wiley of Brigham Young University has written, “universities will be irrelevant by 2020.”

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A Virtual Revolution Is Brewing for Colleges

Students starting school this year may be part of the last generation for which “going to college” means packing up, getting a dorm room and listening to tenured professors. Undergraduate education is on the verge of a radical reordering. Colleges, like newspapers, will be torn apart by new ways of sharing information enabled by the Internet. The business model that sustained private U.S. colleges cannot survive.

The real force for change is the market: Online classes are just cheaper to produce. … Innovators have yet to tap the potential of the aggregator to change the way students earn a degree, making the education business today look like the news biz circa 1999. …

This doesn’t just mean a different way of learning: The funding of academic research, the culture of the academy and the institution of tenure are all threatened.

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