Is Online Education Taking Over Higher Ed?

Online education is quickly replacing the traditional higher education experience… or, maybe it isn’t. A recent Washington Post article explains that fears of online education replacing the traditional experience may be unfounded.


Rather than looking at online education as something designed to replace or take away from higher education, the focus should be on how it adds value for the students. The article talks about an online master’s degree program at Georgia Tech that found students simply wouldn’t have gotten that degree if the program didn’t exist. Findings like this are what should be driving the online learning conversation at higher education institutions. We should focus on how online education can give more options at the course and program level rather than the possibility that it is trying to replace courses or programs already in place.

This simple, yet significant, shift in thinking can be a great way to evaluate online programs at higher education institutions. Online education isn’t coming to get you, higher ed… it is coming to help you get different students and give students even more options.

Breaking down misconceptions in the learning process

When students show up for your class they don’t show up as a blank slate. They bring with them a litany of prior experience and knowledge. For the most part, this is a good thing. We want students with a variety of knowledge and skills which will allow them to build on what they know. But sometimes, prior knowledge can inhibit learning. There are common misconceptions in every discipline that we, as faculty, must work to overcome. This is no easy task. Prior knowledge can be as stubborn as an old tree stump, especially when we are trying to plant a new seed for learning to grow.

The American Psychological Association recently published a great tool to help educators break down student misconceptions during their teaching practice through a variety of means. This interactive site covers everything from basic do’s and don’ts to creating cognitive conflict as a means to promote learning new information. We encourage you to try some of these strategies in your own class. Then, let us know how it worked!

How Do I Get My Students Over Their Alternative Conceptions (Misconceptions) for Learning?

Could New “MicroMasters” Programs Be the Future of Higher Ed?

Staying current with the constantly changing world of online education is no small task. Deciding which trends are worth implementing or even paying attention to is also a challenge, especially in higher education.


New “MicroMasters” online programs are something higher education institutions should be paying attention to. An article in Washington Monthly explains that these “MicroMasters” programs are being offered by some major universities including Arizona State and Michigan. These programs are free and open to anyone who wants to take them. The program requires those completing the course to pay a $1,000 fee to receive a certificate of completion.


It is easy to dismiss this as another type of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that have typically had very low completion rates and are often over-hyped. These “MicroMasters”, however, offer possibilities that should be considered. They are being offered as a way to explore a possible master’s degree, give a master’s applicant a better chance for admission, and give actual credit hours for master’s programs at some institutions.


Rather than just dismiss these new programs because they are different and make us uncomfortable, we should explore ways to use or improve upon these ideas. Status Quo is no longer acceptable for higher education when it comes to online learning if for no other reason than the intense amount of competition. We must pay attention to these trends and consider how they could be improved upon and implemented, or we may lose students and money to universities that do.

No more lectures?!

No More Lectures?! 

It’s true. For the first time a member of the Association of American Medical Colleges, the University of Vermont Medical School (UVM), will completely eliminate lectures as a method of in-class instruction. According to this Inside Higher Ed story, the UVM will be removing all lecture classes in favor of a flipped classroom. Students will now be responsible for watching instructional videos on their own and class time will be used for working in active learning classrooms lead by an instructor.

UVM is not alone. They are part of a growing trend to flip classrooms in STEM education, especially in medicine. The sea-change has emerged from a large volume of data which supports active learning as a superior method of instruction when compared to traditional lectures (Freeman, Eddy, McDonough, Smith, Okoroafor, Jordt, & Wenderoth, 2014). UVM also cited research conducted by Stanford University in conjunction with Kahn Academy, which tested the flipped classroom model in medical courses, as pivotal in their decision. In a quote from the article, William Jeffries, senior associate dean for medical education at UVM stated in an interview, “We teach evidence-based medicine all the time, if you have the evidence to show one treatment is better than the other, you would naturally use that treatment. So if we know that there are methods superior to lecturing, why are we lecturing at all?”

This approach can work for all kinds of courses, not just Medicine. If you want to learn more about active learning and flipping your classroom, you are in luck! OLITS will be conducting a workshop titled, Flipping the classroom: How to implement an active learning environment on Monday October 3rd at 2pm! Visit the OLITS Professional Development page to add this workshop to your calendar, or contact Otis Wilder for more information.

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 8410-8415.

Generational Diversity and Student Support

With increased online enrollment, traditional generational barriers are being greatly reduced. A person whose job or family may have stopped them from pursuing a college degree can now more easily become a college student again or for the first time. Universities are certainly happy about this because increased enrollment is usually a good thing. But are there things that higher ed may not be considering?

Senior Student

Middle-Aged Online Student

An Ed Tech Magazine story about generational differences and how they may affect tech initiatives provides some interesting insight. The article talks about the challenges of choosing ed tech initiatives that work for multiple generations.



It would be easy to make oversimplifications about how different generations of students use ed tech services… and this article does that. They talk about baby boomers being comfortable handing their computers over to IT for repair and millennials being more likely to try to fix the issues themselves. Although there may be some truth to these they should be viewed as anecdotal when searching for multi-generational ed tech solutions.
The most important thing that higher ed can do to help serve this generational diversity is ramp up and centralize student support. There is no practical way to separate student support by age but support can be given that reflects a more diverse population. Universities should think about ways to support their student population and build an inclusive presence for student support. Give the students a place to go whether it be a physical or virtual space, or perhaps both and support them in multiple ways so regardless of their generation students have a great support system.

Quality Matters Recognizes Dr. James McHale

mchaleOnline Learning and Instructional Technology Services is very pleased to announce that Dr. James McHale has received Quality Matters recognition for his online course, Introduction to Psychological Science (PSY 2012). The course received QM Certification on September 13, 2016.

The QM peer review is a rigorous process designed to certify quality and alignment through a rubric of best practices in online learning.

Dr. McHales’s course will soon be on the list of Quality Matters Recognized Courses from colleges and universities across the nation. Additionally, the QM Seal of Recognition will now be displayed on the homepage of his course.

Dr. McHale’s course is the eighteenth course to receive QM Certification at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg,  the ninth course from the College of Arts & Sciences, and the fifth from the Department of Psychology.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. McHale!

To learn more about Quality Matters, contact Online Learning and Instructional Technology Services or attend one of our upcoming workshops.


Atomic Learning: Online Technology Tutorials for Students & Faculty

As we get further into the semester, students may find themselves in need of training on certain software programs to be able to complete major course activities and assignments such as creating presentations with Prezi or analyzing data using SPSS. When it comes to facilitating that participation and grading assignments, faculty may want a refresher on those programs or how to use certain feedback features in Canvas.

Through the USF system subscription to Atomic Learning, all members of the USF St. Petersburg community have unlimited access to online tutorials for commonly used web and software applications. These online training resources teach you “how do I do that” through a library of thousands of short, easy-to-understand tutorial movies.  Topics include Microsoft programs, Adobe programs, Apple programs, Canvas, mobile apps, and much more.

To access this resource, log into Atomic Learning using your USF NetID and password.

Once logged into the Atomic Learning site, you will be able to browse or search for specific programs.

searching atomic learning

After finding the program you wish to learn more about, click on the Series Title to view the available tutorials.


Then click on the title of the tutorial to load the video and learn more about the topic.


For more help with getting started, view this text getting started guide (PDF) or video orientation.

If you have trouble with accessing this resource, contact the USF System Help Desk at 813-974-1222 or

If you have any questions about how to best use this resource for you or integrate it within a course, contact Online Learning and Instructional Technology Services at 727-873-4409.