The 10 Hottest Disruptive Technologies in #HigherEd

The annual EDUCAUSE conference is where innovative higher education CIOs go to learn about new industry trends and compare notes on the latest breakthroughs. This year was no exception as 7,300 IT leaders from more than 50 countries gathered in Orlando along with 260 educational technology exhibitors. Discussions took place in session rooms, on the exhibition floor, after the keynotes, and throughout the hallways. These are the common threads that permeated those discussions; the ten hottest topics for CIOs in higher education.

1. Campus Wi-Fi
Wireless capacity is a passionate topic for two reasons. It is now universally understood that the quality of the student computing experience has become an important decision factor for students in selecting a college. The challenge is to provide Wi-Fi density and coverage to adequately accommodate the three or more devices, many of them streaming, that each student is bringing on campus. This burgeoning demand for Wi-Fi on campus is severely taxing the IT infrastructure. Residence hall Wi-Fi can get congested quickly, so wired access is often used to provide bandwidth relief for devices like gaming consoles. Many schools have started to charge an extra fee to charge uber users who consume more than 20GB per week. When it comes to guest Wi-Fi access, schools run the gamut of open-connection, charging for use, sponsored guest access, or a combination of these. Here are 50 incredible WiFi market trends and statistics that are truly staggering.

The Campus Computing Project’s 2014 survey was revealed at the conference and reported that senior higher education IT officers identify “implementing/supporting mobile computing” as a top IT priority, yet only 17% rate mobile services at their institution as “excellent.” One informal poll at the conference showed that about 30% of schools are in the process of migrating to the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac.

Strategic CIOs in higher education are investing in WiFi infrastructure to improve the student, faculty and administration’s overall campus experience.

2. The Importance Of Being Social

EDUCAUSE CIO panel – Sound Off: To Be or Not to Be “Social”; with Michael Berman, California State University – Channel Islands; Raechelle Clemmons, St. Norbert College; Jack Seuss, University of Maryland, and Melody Childs University of Alabama Hunstville,

Social media is a game changer for higher education CIOs. Social media is taking on a growing role at EDUCAUSE and throughout higher education. Here is a list of the top 50 social higher education CIOs on Twitter. There was more live tweeting this year than ever before. The social media feeds enabled attendees and even those unable to attend to have a virtual presence, absorbing content from across the conference. The social media feeds were captured on Storify: #EDU14 Daily Wrap-up day 2 and#EDU14 Daily Wrap-up day 1.The session CIOs Sound Off: To Be or Not to Be “Social” provided a point-counterpoint discussion of the pros and cons of social media for university CIOs. The audience actively participated via Twitter (#EDU14socialcio, captured on Storify) and interactive poll questions, and provided crowd-sourced tips for more effective use of social media in higher education.

Educause in-session poll indicated the attendees are indeed active on social media

3. Digital Badges
Digital badges as validated indicators of specific competencies and their connection to competency-based education were heavily discussed at EDUCAUSE 2014. Just before the conference, EDUCAUSE published the 7 Things You Should Know About BadgingFor Professional Development. As another indicator of the growing significance of digital badges, 60% of the 1,900 people who participated in the Extreme Networksdigital badge survey believe that badges will either entirely replace diplomas and course certificates, or be used in combination with them. I recently published a presentation about the use of digital badges to improve employee engagement.


Sondra Smith of EDUCAUSE talks about the use of digital badges for professional development.

4. Business Analytics
The use of analytics as a means to drive critical institutional outcomes has grown rapidly as the associated technology has improved. This year there were no less than seven panels and 26 sessions dealing with learning analytics, data-driven decision making, and predictive analytics at the EDUCAUSE conference. The session, Analytics That Inform: The University Challenge, articulated the different contexts for analytics in education. Two analogies were made: one with business intelligence, now a $15B market, and one with physician diagnostic tools. There is general agreement on the need to present student analytics in the form of a dashboard, for use by both administration and students. Such a dashboard can help improve student outcomes as well as improve student retention.

In addition to student analytics, another type of campus analytics relates to network infrastructure. Presenters from Fontys Hogescholen described how they use network analytics to track student activities across the campus and are able to correlate demographic data with behavior and even effect change.

5. Google Glass and Wearables
The session, Prepare to Wear! Exploring Wearable Technologies in the Learning Environment, generated phenomenal enthusiasm and discussions that carried well past the conference. Many of the 14 Google Glass Innovative Uses In Educationthat I wrote about with Brian Rellinger earlier this year were in evidence. It is clear that all types of wearable computers including Google Glass, fitness bands, clothing, fashion wearables, and the forthcoming Meta holographic eyewear will have a dramatic impact on higher education.

6. Drones
Drones are finding growing usage in education. Colgate University’s poster session, Just Don’t Call It a Drone, showed how to use hobbyist quadcopters and Arduino technology in student research programs to capture photography and other environmental observations. The project had amazing results for both learners and researchers. I predict there will be more sessions on this topic next year, as drones find many new uses within higher education (see my blog, 10 Uses of Drones in Higher Education [Slideshare]).

7. 3D Printing
As listed in the description of one of sessions on the topic, “the era of 3D printing has arrived.” For those eager to enter this era, a number of sessions and exhibition demonstrations showed how to integrate 3D printing, and complementary 3D scanning, into the curriculum. Popularity of the printers is highest in art, design and engineering programs. Many schools are acquiring one high-end consumer-grade or low-end enterprise-grade 3D printer per department. Stay tuned as prices of consumer 3D printers are likely to be aggressively driven downward.

8. Digital Courseware
The two emerging aspects of digital courseware are Competency-Based Education (CBE) and Adaptive Learning. The concept behind Competency-Based Education (CBE) is to enable students to master skills and knowledge at their own pace, via multiple pathways that generally make better use of technology. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had a hand in elevating the topic this year with a $20M investment in next generation courseware related to adaptive learning and CBE. Last year, a similar grant gave a major boost to Integrated Planning and Advisory Services (IPAS).

CBE can help meet the needs of all students regardless of their learning abilities, and can lead to more efficient student outcomes. With CBE, students earn competency units rather than credit hours. So far, large community colleges have taken a leadership role in the field.

Adaptive learning, closely related to CBE, is an educational method that uses computers and electronic text books as interactive teaching devices. The presentation of educational material is dynamically adapted to students’ learning needs, as indicated by their responses to questions and tasks as they progress.

A number of young CBE and adaptive learning technology vendors demonstrated their wares during EDUCAUSE 2014, including Flat World Education, eLumen(demo), Regent Education (presentation), Pathbrite, Public Agenda, CCKF, andAcrobatiq. Many of these vendors emphasize a mobile-first approach. The feedback from Salt Lake Community College and the University System of Georgia highlighted the need for integration with existing products, comprehensive dashboards, and a mechanism for social interaction. Schools in general are watching to see what kind of results adaptive learning generates.

9. Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs)
This is the year that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) lost the limelight. The issue is the extremely low completion rates of students who sign up for MOOCs. A Gartner poster of the education hype cycle that was on display at EDUCAUSE marked MOOC as “obsolete before plateau”. The Campus Survey 2014 noted that less than two-fifths of the survey respondents now agree that MOOCs offer a viable model for the effective delivery of online instruction, down from 53% in the fall of 2013.

Clayton Christensen did not mention “MOOC” even once during his opening keynote, though the best known MOOCs, EDx and Coursera, had often been considered as disruptive to higher education. It is now realized that MOOCs lack most of the markers for disruptive innovation; they do not target non-consumers and they lack a viable business model. On the other hand, the Christensen Institute does believe that competency-based education may prove to be disruptive.

Picking up where MOOCs left off is the concept of Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs). These were discussed at the one MOOC conference session. This session also discussed the future of MOOCs – for advanced placement courses, remedial classes, professional development, and to serve the community. More importantly, the technology infrastructure created by the MOOC providers like EDx, Kahn Academy and Coursera will very likely provide the platform for the full range of online courses into the future.

10. Virtual Reality
Immersive and augmented reality have the ability to completely re-invent education. When ready for general use, products like Oculus Rift and Magic Leap are capable of transporting the student to almost any learning environment imaginable. As with many emerging educational technologies, virtual reality has application both to higher education and K-12 education. At the ISTE K-12 conference earlier this year, there were no less than 14 sessions discussing how to apply VR in education. The technology enables students to travel with their professors to any virtual learning environment imaginable: far-off lands and planets, inside the atom, ancient civilizations, to the beginning of the universe. On a limited scale, some of these capabilities are already here. At the rate the technology is progressing, VR could be fully integrated into our teaching within five years.

The Disruption of Higher Education
The Disruption of Higher Education was perhaps the hottest topic before, during, and after EDUCAUSE. It was the subject of Clayton Christensen’s keynote. Higher education is undeniably at a transition point. With student debt now over $1 trillion and economists like Robert Reich questioning the value of college, industry leaders are searching for a path to maintain higher education’s relevancy. In his talk, Christensen asked the audience to “pray for Harvard”, given the upheavals already underway in higher education.

Markers of disruption are already appearing in higher education, including new entrants and start-ups selling low feature-set products to previous non-consumers. Examples of this include not just online colleges, but more importantly corporate in-house academies like Perdue University (think chickens not boilermakers), General Assembly, GE Crotonville, and Intel University. A technological core is forming with video courseware, competency-based education and learning analytics, as well as new interactive collaborative capabilities that provide something approaching a classroom experience remotely. Modularity, another important marker of disruption, has emerged in the packaging of courses and the awarding of certificates of completion and digital badges. These aspects represent an overall trend toward the unbundling of higher education.

A college president had pointed out to Christensen that the most generous alumni at his university felt their lives had been dramatically changed by their college experiences. The lasting impact was due not to the course material, but rather to the motivating performance of a memorable professor; a different professor in each case. In response Christensen asks, are colleges taking this into account as they recruit faculty, or is recruiting based more on academic publishing history?

This post was co-authored by Robert Nilsson, Director of Marketing, Extreme Networks.

MOOCs’ disruption is only beginning

Reposted from The Boston Globe written by Clayton M. Christensen and Michelle R. Weise

JOURNALISTS, as 2013 ended, were busy declaring the death of MOOCs, more formally known as massive open online courses. Silicon Valley startup Udacity, one of the first to offer the free Web-based college classes, had just announced its pivot to vocational training — a sure sign to some that this much-hyped revolution in higher education had failed. The collective sigh of relief from more traditional colleges and universities was audible.

The news, however, must have also had the companies that had enthusiastically jumped on the MOOC train feeling a bit like Mark Twain. When newspapers confused Twain for his ailing cousin, the writer famously quipped, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Undoubtedly pronouncements over MOOCs’ demise are likewise premature. And their potential to disrupt — on price, technology, even pedagogy — in a long-stagnant industry is only just beginning to be seen.

Tuition costs have been ballooning faster than general inflation and even faster than health care. And what do we get in return? Nearly half of all bachelor’s-degree holders do not find employment or are underemployed upon graduation. At the same time, employers have not been satisfied with degree candidates. Two recent Gallup polls showed that although 96 percent of chief academic officers believe they’re doing a good job of preparing students for employment, only 11 percent of business leaders agree that graduates have the requisite skills for success in the workforce. And this is all occurring while higher education leaders were convinced that they were innovating all along.

It was just the wrong kind of innovation.

Any industry has both sustaining and disruptive innovations. Most people are very familiar with the former, which are meant to drive up prices by delivering bigger, faster, stronger products and services for the best customers. Disruption, on the other hand, changes the nature of performance itself, usually driving down prices. Together, these two vectors keep costs in line.

Higher education, however, has historically seen only sustaining innovations. To outpace fellow institutions in the game of college rankings, schools have improved classrooms, updated technology, sponsored faculty research, increased administrative overhead, and decked out residence halls and dining facilities. Costs have spiraled out of control.

To exacerbate matters, the US government has put a floor — not a ceiling — on prices. Through policy and increased Pell grants and other subsidized loans, the government has only enabled people to afford the costs rather than incentivizing institutions to make the cost of education more affordable to people.

Fortunately, though, the mania around MOOCs jump-started several meaningful conversations in the opposite direction.

The online offerings have already had enormous power in revealing the kind of pricing the higher education market can actually bear. In a world where there has been no incentive to reduce costs, the mere existence and potential of alternatives has forced established institutions to move on price. In 2013, we witnessed aggressive discounting strategies as well as schools experimenting with lowering net — not sticker — prices in an effort to recruit students. Without even competing directly as true low-cost substitutes, MOOCs have managed to generate price competition previously unheard of among traditional campuses.

At the same time, MOOCs called into question our basic assumptions about college. Free access to content from prestigious institutions revealed that content didn’t need to be proprietary. Without having to waste time re-creating the same lectures and class materials, particularly for lower-division courses, many professors saw the opportunity to be even more connected and hands-on in order to make existing content come alive for students. Despite the intense trepidation that technology would somehow replace teachers, it became clear that MOOCs didn’t preempt interaction; instead, they forced more contact and accountability on both the student and the teacher.

Faculty have also been forced to reassess how and why they teach the way they do. Some professors began experimenting with alternative models, such as flipped classrooms and other blended-learning techniques by taking advantage of readily available, open, online materials.

Yet there is plenty of room for more change to come.

Udacity, for its part, should be applauded for not burning through all of its money in pursuit of the wrong strategy. The company realized — and publicly acknowledged — that its future lay on a different path than it had originally anticipated. Indeed, Udacity’s pivot may have even prevented a MOOC bubble from bursting.

Oddly, bubbles occur when too many people are too right about the potential of something like MOOCs. The personal computer bubble of 1984 and the dot-com bubble from 1999 to 2002 epitomize what’s known as “capital market myopia,” when investors ignore the logical implications of their individual investments in the same business category. MOOCs could have easily fallen into a similar trap — it’s difficult to imagine all the organizations receiving the enormous, collective investment in online learning ultimately succeeding.

In all likelihood, companies like Coursera and Udacity — Harvard and MIT’s offering, edX, operates as a nonprofit — that started out as MOOC providers will eventually move away from certain qualities of the unfortunate acronym. “Massive” and “open” are not particularly conducive to viable or sustainable business models. They may, in fact, become even more of a menace to traditional higher education as they pivot. It won’t be long before these companies find their emergent strategies. Traditional institutions certainly cannot afford to stand still.

Academics have historically separated teaching and scholarship as a distinct enterprise from vocational training. Utility was what graduate and professional schools were for, whereas college was the space and time for students to pursue their passions and gain a global perspective.

This approach, however, unwittingly ignores a very vital niche of students — non-consumers of traditional education. Or, in this case, the nearly 80 percent of college-goers in the United States who don’t have the residential-college experience we tend to glorify. Most commute, work part-time, have family commitments, or don’t have the luxury to major in a field with no direct relevance to their future career goals. The amenities, socialization, and services bundled together by most brick-and-mortar institutions have little relevance to these students.

Education technology companies and alternative learning providers — not just MOOCs — are finding disruptive footholds by targeting these non-consumers. They note that graduates from even well regarded colleges are struggling to launch their careers, make it into the workforce, or transition between jobs. Innovators are, therefore, beginning to address this widening gap by identifying what employers need and building those skill sets into their curricula.

Many colleges and universities resist the idea of training students for jobs. Yet it is employers who are truly the ultimate consumers of degree-holders. If alternative education providers, by partnering or collaborating with employers, are able to deliver prospective job candidates who are as just as qualified — and in some cases, better suited — for the opportunities at hand, companies will begin to validate these learning pathways.

In our research, we see over and over again that it is nearly impossible for established leaders to disrupt themselves. So what does that mean in practical terms for more traditional colleges? Some will have to accept they can’t be everything to everyone and scale back their course offerings. Academic leaders, no longer able to count on state or federal subsidies, will have to bear down on the inefficiencies built into how they now operate. Not every campus will be able to be a research institution. Tenure will be called into question.

Over time, colleges and universities will have to compete with providers who offer low-cost, direct paths to employment that do not necessarily end in degrees or certificates. Campuses will have to be clear about the value of a college degree. Students and families will demand a more precise understanding of what they can expect from their college degree. And that will benefit all learners.

$400B Per Year Spent on US Higher Ed – Will #MOOCs Change That?

Reposted from EduTech Digest


MOOC, Online Education – History and Worldwide Adoption

Originally published on EdTech Digest November 21, 2013


Educause ECAR Student & Technology Research Study 2013

Educause 2013 (ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology)


The ‘Highway Through College’ is More Like a Winding Country Road

Written by  Jeffrey Selingo, editor at large for The Chronicle of Higher Education and author of the recently released book, “College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students” (New Harvest/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), this post discusses the ‘New, Non Linear Path Through College’ students travel towards attaining a degree, certification and/or qualifications that are attractive to employers.

Reposted with the author’s permission.

By Jeffrey J. Selingo

moocWhen the filmmakers behind the animated summer blockbuster Monsters University needed inspiration for their fictional campus, they visited three of the nation’s best-known colleges: Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California at Berkeley.

Such name-brand campuses, having provided the backdrop for Hollywood productions, help shape our collective vision of college as a place where you go once in your life (often at age 18) and move through in a linear fashion over four years.

But that straight pathway isn’t the one taken by about half of the students enrolled in college today, an enrollment pattern that Clifford Adelman, a noted higher-education researcher, says dates back to at least the 1970s. Even so, we still call students “nontraditional” if they attend college later in life or part-time, or if they attend multiple institutions.

Today’s students are swirling through higher education more than ever before. They attend multiple institutions—sometimes at the same time—extend the time to graduation by taking off time between semesters, mix learning experiences like co-op programs or internships with traditional courses, and sign up for classes from alternative providers such as Coursera or edX, which offer free massive open online courses (MOOCs), or StraighterLine, which offers cheap introductory courses online [on a subscription basis].

Emily Stover DeRocco describes the plethora of choices for students these days as an “educational buffet,” with the potential to reshape how we think of postsecondary education. “There are a huge number of options now for learning,” says the assistant secretary of labor for employment and training in the George W. Bush administration, “and the nature of the workplace and occupations is changing so dramatically that thinking of college as one place, one time, is quickly becoming outdated.”

Indeed, one-third of students who earn degrees transferred from one college to another on the way, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, and they are more likely to switch from a four-year college to a two-year college rather than the other way around.

Yet the highway through college that most undergraduates take is built for the linear student, the Hollywood version. What students are clamoring for now is easier entrance and exit ramps, for them to take breaks, transfer, or mix their classroom instruction with on-the-job training or online courses.

But what if students could travel with ease through multiple institutions and online providers, and had guides to help them navigate their journey rather than having to figure it out on their own? Imagine a system that places the student, instead of the institution, at the center. In such a scenario, students might attend a network of institutions, being accepted at one “home” college but taking courses both in person and virtually from any of a group of a dozen or so. Think of those networks like the airline networks, such as Star Alliance and oneworld, which allow carriers to cooperate on departure times and routes, share airport facilities, and offer reciprocal frequent-flier benefits.

Infrastructure, Integration and a Student Centric Platform Needed to Deliver the Social Campus

Students could operate outside the college network as well. They could take a MOOC, study abroad, or take an apprenticeship or internship, all the while collecting the results of their learning into an electronic portfolio. Such a portfolio would function, in essence, as a personal Web site, with samples of students’ work that they could show at stops along the way or to employers at the end.

With such a jagged pathway, it would be crucial for each experience to provide credit or a paycheck to support the eventual goal—a credential. That credential could still be provided by a traditional college, which might add a capstone experience to ensure that the degree is more than just a random collection of 120 credits. “When you break up certification into individual pieces, someone has to verify the entire package,” says Josh Jarrett, a fellow at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Such an à la carte approach appeals to Weezie Yancey-Siegel, who is piecing together a higher education on her own. The 21-year-old from San Francisco dropped out of Pitzer College in 2011, in the middle of her sophomore year. She had traveled to Mexico for a class the previous summer, and while there, started to doubt her motivation for going to college. “I was learning a lot of things, but not the kinds of things I’d need to get a job out of school,” she says. “After being in Mexico, I felt I could learn outside of school.”

At first she planned to take off only a semester. But as she made plans for her time away from Pitzer, she found resources lacking for students who wanted to design their own curriculum. So Ms. Yancey-Siegel started a blog called Eduventurist, to help students create alternative paths through higher education. It was through that effort she discovered Enstitute, a two-year program in New York City that places students in full-time apprenticeships and builds a curriculum around their work on topics including finance, history, computer programming, and sociology. She applied and was accepted.

Now she’s in the second year of an apprenticeship with Sascha Lewis, one of the founders of Flavorpill, a digital-media company in New York. In addition to working her way through Enstitute’s semiformal curriculum, Ms. Yancey­-Siegel has sampled offerings from Coursera and edX, watched several TED talks and iTunesU lectures, and learned computer coding by taking a few Codecademy classes. “I know that I have learned a lot in the last two and half years,” she says, “and it’s extremely frustrating to me that I couldn’t get credit for it.”

She hasn’t ruled out returning to college, if only to get her learning certified with a degree, which she realizes still carries tremendous weight in the job market. “I do worry that my dream job will require a degree,” she says.

Not all students, of course, are as self-motivated as Ms. Yancey-Siegel in mapping their own route to a degree. Students who don’t follow a linear path through college often need assistance at some point. For them, advisers play a crucial role. Mark D. Milliron, a former chancellor of Western Governors University Texas, likens them to the Sherpas who guide climbers up Mount Everest. In this case, the academic Sherpas would be either internal to an institution, helping guide students from enrollment to transfer or graduation, or external, describing various pathways to a credential.

“There are some traditional folks out there who want students to take three-fourths of their [credit] hours at their university,” says Mr. Milliron, who is now chief learning officer at Civitas Learning, a data-analytics company he helped start. “But others get this idea that students need flexibility and choices, and are not held back by some protectionist ideal that ties a student to an institution.”

The traditional four-year path through college that is the Hollywood norm will always have immense appeal to many young Americans and their parents. But whether the system can be configured to help other students from falling off the highway remains to be seen.

The millions of students already swirling through higher education are waiting.

Employers’ views – Online vs ‘Traditional’ Degrees

Reposted from


Graduating with Technology


#MOOC Reality Check – Summer 2013

Originally posted by Edudemic.
Infographic by Enterasys 
September 2013

Earlier this year, MOOCs were huge. Lots of people were talking about how MOOCs were going to change the face of education, and for good reason. They garnered the attention of lots of folks, from VC investors to big name universities. Currently, there’s somewhat less buzz happening about MOOCs. But they’re still out there, happening and evolving while we’re busy doing other things. I do find it useful to regularly be able to take the temperature, so to speak, of what people are thinking and what’s actually happening with MOOC trends, which the handy infographic below does wonderfully. Keep reading to learn more.

MOOCs in Higher Education Today (Summer 2013)

  • 74%  of schools currently offer some type of online course. 16% plan to offer one within 3 years.
  • 13% of schools currently offer a MOOC. 43% plan to offer one within 3 years, and 44% don’t plan to offer one at all.
  • 84% say that MOOCs complement residential education, while 16% say it competes.
  • A majority of respondents reported they thought that MOOCs were great for continuing education, non degree programs, technical training, and elective courses.
  • The biggest drawback was reported to be the lack of consistent review and grading for providing competencies.
  • 44% either currently offer credit for a MOOC or plan to in the future.
  • 83% would consider joining a MOOC group (like EdX or coursera)
  • Most (67%) still believe that MOOCs will never replace traditional education.


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Online Learning 2013/2014: White Paper (Learning House)

Reposted from Learning House, July 16, 2013

The “Online College Students 2013: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences” report reveals the value of an online degree. The survey of 1500 past, present and prospective students demonstrates that by offering degrees online, colleges open their doors to a new, highly motivated and dedicated student population.

Online College Students 2013: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences - Infographic

The Learning House, Inc.

Online Classes Fuel a Campus Debate – NY Times

Ramin Rahimian for The New York Times  – Daphne Koller, a Coursera founder, said there was anxiety about how online courses would affect higher education.

The announcement last month that Coursera, which offers free college classes online, had signed agreements with state universities enrolling more than a million students made it plain that such courses, virtually unheard-of two years ago, are now part of the higher education mainstream.

But along the way, a rancorous debate has emerged over whether such courses will lead to better learning, lower costs and higher graduation rates — or to the dismantling of public universities, downgraded or eliminated faculty jobs, and a second-class education for most students.

Many universities have been quick to sign up with outside providers to offer the “massive open online courses,” known as MOOCs, either as stand-alone courses or in a hybrid format, with the online materials supplemented by a local faculty member. While they portray their online offerings as exploratory, many administrators hope the courses will help them expand their reach, rein in tuition and offer better instruction.

Now a new discussion has begun about whether universities should collaborate to develop and share their courses and technology, rather than working with outside providers. This week, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a group of provosts from Big 10 universities, issued a position paper saying that higher education must take advantage of new education technology — but perhaps on its own. On a small scale, C.I.C. members’ CourseShare program already does that, with members sharing classes in less commonly taught languages.

“Many of us feel more comfortable building our own infrastructure, rather than relying on a for-profit company,” said Karen Hanson, provost of the University of Minnesota and the committee’s chairwoman. “We think we want to remain in control of our own intellectual property.”

Like most of the universities in the group, the University of Minnesota currently is a partner with Coursera, with five courses being offered and five more in the works. “Coursera shares a lot of our values, and the faculty members involved have keen interest in experimenting with that format,” the provost said.

Daphne Koller, the Stanford computer science professor who is a founder of Coursera, said she thought the C.I.C. paper represented an exploratory discussion driven by anxieties about how online education would change higher education. Coursera’s contract with its C.I.C. partners, she said, leaves them full control over their content, including all rights and usage. In addition, most universities’ software infrastructure is provided by technology companies. “Tech companies generally produce better code,” she said. “And I think when they consider it, most universities will not see any advantage in duplicating that work.”

On many campuses, faculty oppose the spread of MOOCs, angry that their universities joined in with little consultation, undercutting the tradition of shared governance. Others argue that MOOCs will shortchange students, replacing the personal relationships that encourage learning.

In April, Duke University pulled out of Semester Online, a consortium of universities sharing online courses, hosted by 2U, the online education platform, after the faculty voted down the project.

At San Jose State University, which has led the way in allowing the MOOCs to be used for credit, the philosophy department last month wrote an open letter to Michael Sandel, a Harvard professor whose online Justice course it refused to use, laying out its concerns about the impact of such courses.

“Let us not kid ourselves,” the letter said, “administrators at C.S.U. are beginning a process of replacing faculty with cheap online education.”

This spring, the Amherst faculty voted against joining edX, the nonprofit Harvard-M.I.T. collaboration, and 58 Harvard faculty members sought the creation of a new committee to consider the effect online courses will have on higher education.

Jonathan Rees, a history professor at Colorado State University at Pueblo, who has written critically about MOOCs, said their spread is likely to lead to a three-tiered world, with a few high-status “super professors” for whom the courses provide both status and royalties; a larger pool of tenured professors who continue to teach their regular in-person classes until they retire; and “a huge army of adjuncts and teaching assistants,” whose jobs will be vulnerable to online competition.

“The problem with this MOOC-as-labor-issue argument is that it has no place for students and learning,” said Phil Hill, an education technology consultant. “Our starting point ought to be what students need and whether this is an effective form of learning.”

Many educators say that high-quality online materials can help students learn, just like a high-quality textbook.

“The issue in higher education is how we get to scale,” said M. Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. “The question now is how long it’s going to take for faculty members to stop saying they can use the same textbooks as others at other institutions, but they can’t use the same lectures.”

All three of the leading MOOC providers — Coursera, edX and Udacity, another Stanford spinoff — started by offering courses free but with no credit, attracting millions of learners around the world. But all three are now adapting those courses, often in blended form, for use in public universities that will offer students credit and extra support — and bring the MOOC providers a steady revenue stream.

Coursera, which initially worked only with elite research universities, shifted gears after finding that most students enrolled in its courses already had college degrees. Ms. Koller said she realized that to “move the needle” on the basic problems of American higher education — access and affordability — the company would have to work with the public universities that educate most college students.

Study: Students prefer real classrooms over virtual

Devin Karambelas, USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent 2:33 p.m. EDT June 11, 2013

online MOOC

Despite the rapid growth of online learning, many college students say they still prefer the traditional classroom setting.

According to results of a new national research study, 78% of more than 1,000 students surveyed still believe it is easier to learn in a classroom. But as the cost of a college education steadily rises, some experts say the data suggest virtual campuses are likely to grow — largely because they need to.

“Five years ago we would not even be having this conversation,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of consulting firm Millennial Branding, which conducted the survey in partnership with

“Millennials today expect customization and convenience, and colleges are having to find ways to cater to different situations.”

While students could traditionally expect decent job prospects upon graduation, the high cost of a degree has forced students to make choices. The bottom line, Schawbel says, is that students need options — and they are increasingly turning to online learning.

“With so many new technologies, it’s getting easier for the individual online experience to match that of the classroom,” he says.

2013-06-13_1241University of Vermont senior Becky Hayes, 21, opted to take an online journalism course over her winter break to earn credits — without having to pay extra money. She liked the idea of it, but says the format could use some improvements.

“I would have liked to see more interaction somehow. Instead of just reading articles and posting discussions about it, I would have liked to learn from a video podcast of the professor,” Hayes says.

Last month, some colleges publically committed to using online classes to bring in more students in the form of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, while others criticized the approach.

In early May, faculty from San Jose State’s philosophy department balked at the idea of using materials from Harvard professor Michael Sandel‘s online course to disseminate to students over an online platform, The New York Times reported.

“The move to MOOCs comes at great peril to our university,” a letter of protest stated. “We regard such courses as a serious compromise to education.”

Some critics went even further, calling the push toward online education a “dystopian nightmare” of monoculture, according to comments posted on an Inside Higher Ed article about a similar situation at Georgia Tech.

Despite the controversy, it appears more and more colleges are trying out MOOCs and other online learning platforms.

Out of hundreds of public and private universities surveyed, 43% are planning to offer MOOCs by 2016, a 30% jump from the number of institutions currently offering them, according to a May 30 study conducted by Enterasys Networks.

Kristina Chew, a classics professor at St. Peter’s University, wrote an article for The Guardian last month praising the value of face-to-face interaction. In her view, it is critical for teachers to be accessible to their students, and that connection is often lost with a screen in the way.

“I try to respond to e-mails, I Facebook; I give out my cellphone number,” Chew says. “This may bring up privacy issues, but my students know I’m accessible and they appreciate that.”

Online learning can also mean more work for the professor.

“Putting a lesson plan online requires an incredible amount of writing and typing for professors, and it’s usually not in their preferred medium,” she says.

But unless lawmakers can reach an agreement, student loan debt interest rates will double on July 1, from 3.4% to 6.8% — meaning it may be the right time for online learning platforms.

The average cost of attending a four-year institution in the 2010-2011 school year ranged from $13,000 to $23,000 depending on whether it was public or private, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

By comparison, online learning platform Udacity offers a for-credit course program for about $150 per course, and Open Culture sources hundreds of thousands of online courses and education materials — for free.

Based on these latest survey results, students are not yet sold on the idea that online learning is better than the current classroom model. Yet Schawbel says he believes additional results from the survey point to a slightly different conclusion.

“We also found that 53% of students think online degrees are just as reputable,” he says. “The college model is starting to make changes in the way that the business model has been shifting for years. For any brand, which every institution is, to make changes like this is huge.”

And then there are success stories beyond the college model.

Non-profit organization Khan Academy saw huge growth in only three years. It is part of a growing educational strategy called blended learning, says Chief Operating Officer Shantanu Sinha, and it tends to work well with supplementing lessons in the classroom.

While Khan Academy does not offer any degrees or certificates, its thousands of micro-lectures serve 6 million students a month, Sinha says. Using interactive graphics and videos, the result is a “quirky and humorous, yet deep” system of learning that finds potential within the limitations of virtual space.

“We’re working with the system rather than copying or replacing it,” Sinha says. “We personalize the experience by giving reports and feedback in real time. And when you do that, it’s a very different paradigm.”

Devin Karambelas is a summer 2013 Collegiate Correspondent.

Major Players in the MOOC Universe

Originally Published by The Chronicle of Higher Education June 12, 2013MOOC_web_final_wheel03


Khan Academy



This for-profit MOOC founded by Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller has teamed up with 62 colleges (and counting) for its classes. The company is experimenting with a career service that makes money by connecting employers to its students, and attracted $22-million in venture capital in its first year. Salman Khan made waves when he quit his job as a hedge-fund analyst to record short video lectures on everything from embryonic stem cells to—you guessed it—hedge funds and venture capital. This for-profit MOOC, started by the Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, works with individual professors to offer courses. By March 2013, Udacity had raised more than $21-million in venture capital. Harvard and MIT put up the original $60-million to start this nonprofit MOOC. So far, students can take classes only from Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley, but classes from nine more universities are coming soon.

Companies to watch:

MOOC2Degree: This upstart’s main selling point is real, transferable credit, as long as students can get admitted to the college, that is. At least nine colleges are planning to participate, and Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, has spoken favorably of the venture. Canvas Network: Network’s owner, Instructure, is one of Blackboard’s biggest competitors. David Wiley, an early MOOC teacher and promoter, has gotten behind the project, and more than a dozen colleges have signed up. The company has received more than $9-million in investments. CourseSites: Blackboard is only just starting to compete in the MOOC universe with its CourseSite platform. So far, only a handful of universities have tested it out. Udemy: Professors, authors, professionals, and celebrities create and sell courses about pretty much anything at Udemy, which has raised more than $16-million in venture capital. Thinkful: One of the billionaire Peter Thiel’s 20 Under 20 fellows started this career-development-oriented company, into which Mr. Thiel has invested $1-million.

How #MOOCs Are Being Deployed

Infographic originally published by LearnDash, Inc.


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