About Carol Hixson

Dean, Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, USFSP

Faculty push back against online course vendors

There have been several recent articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education reporting on faculty concerns with the direction they fear their campuses are taking with online education. In an article entitled Faculty Backlash Grows Against Online Partnerships, Steve Kolowich reported that: “Philosophy professors at San Jose State University last week wrote an open letter saying they refused to use material from an edX course, taught by a famous Harvard University professor, for fear that California State University administrators were angling for a way to eventually gut their department.”

“At Duke University a week earlier, an undergraduate-faculty council voted down a push by the provost’s office to offer small online courses for credit through 2U, a company that sells an online platform and support services to colleges.”

“Those rebuttals followed closely the decision by the Amherst College faculty to reject an invitation to produce massive open online courses through edX.”

Faculty express concerns about the quality of the educational process, which includes student engagement with faculty who know them. They express concern about “how MOOCs might deepen the divide between the wealthy universities that produce them and the less-wealthy institutions that would buy licenses to use those MOOCs from providers like edX.” Faculty also “worry that the widespread use of online courses will damage departments in public universities facing budgetary pressures.”

Read the full article and share your thoughts here.

British Library joins UK’s MOOC platform FutureLearn Ltd

In a recent press announcement, the “British Library  has announced its intention to join the UK’s MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platform FutureLearn Ltd, offering participants of its online courses access to the Library’s unique digitised resources. The Library will be the first non-university research institution to join the initiative, and is among five university partners…”

The press release goes on to note that FutureLearn Ltd was the first MOOC in the UK and it “was launched by the Open University last December and includes partnerships with eighteen UK universities. Existing Library digital resources will be made available on FutureLearn, complementing plans for large-scale participation in online lectures and courses which are due to start later this year. The Library’s freely available digital collections include over 800 medieval manuscripts, 40,000 nineteenth-century books and 50,000 sound recordings, and continue to grow each year.”

The UK has a tradition of providing government support to higher education and digital initiatives. In 1966, the Labour Party’s general election manifesto contained a commitment to establish what they were calling the University of the Air. Prime Minister Harold Wilson won re-election with an increased majority and in September 1967 his Cabinet set up a Planning Committee ‘to work out a comprehensive plan for an open university’.

Founded in 1969, the Open University was the world’s first successful distance teaching university. Open University admitted its first students  – 25,000 – in January 1971. Its name Open University refers to the fact that it was wide open to anyone and did not require any prior educational qualifications. It did require students to take two foundation courses before moving on to higher level courses and eventually a Bachelor’s degree. Read more of the history of the Open University on its web site here: http://www.open.ac.uk/about/main/the-ou-explained/history-the-ou

Even today, under a Conservative Party government, support for the Open University, online education, and digital initiatives continues in Great Britain. Speaking in India, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Britain boasts some of the best universities in the world. This innovative new offer led by The Open University will mean that Indian students can access some of the best teaching and learning online from their home in Mumbai or Delhi. I’m delighted that Futurelearn is expanding to include more British universities and the British Library. I hope it will encourage many more Indian students to take the next step and study with a UK university.”

Through its example in joining FutureLearn, the British Library is solidifying the role of libraries in supporting the development and success of online education around the world – an example that the Poynter Library, in its own modest way, is following.

For more information, read the Library’s Press announcement: http://pressandpolicy.bl.uk/Press-Releases/Prime-Minister-welcomes-the-growth-of-the-UK-s-mass-participation-learning-platform-FutureLearn-as-t-60d.aspx

Online Education May Make Top Colleges More Elite

An article in the March 4 Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that, contrary to the belief of many state legislatures and other politicians, online education is unlikely to reduce the cost of higher education. That was the conclusion reached by some attending a private summit in Cambridge, Massachusetts sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University held  March 4.  Attendees discussed the future of residential higher education in a digital age.and many attendees made it clear then that they intended to use their MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to improve, not supplant, traditional courses.

“Online tools that track how much students use certain course materials could give professors insight into how they should design their traditional courses, several panelists said.”

“Eric S. Rabkin, a professor of English at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, suggested that professors could direct students to learn the most basic material in a course at their own pace, via online modules. Professors could then use the time saved, he said, on the parts of the course that require more thoughtful, individual attention, such as giving feedback on long essays.”

Read the full article in the Chronicle at: http://chronicle.com/article/Online-Education-May-Make-Top/137687/?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en


New Assistant Director of Distance and Distributed Learning joining USFSP

We are delighted to announce the hiring of Ms. Kim Garvey for the position of Assistant Director of Distance and Distributed Learning for USFSP. The position reports to the Dean of the Library and provides leadership for the University’s distance and distributed learning efforts, coordinating instructional support for distance and online learning. Ms. Garvey, who is a Ph.D. candidate in Education & Leadership at Barry University, has more than ten years of experience in digital and online initiatives and currently serves as the e-Learning Project Manager and an Adjunct Professor of History at the State College of Florida. She joins USFSP on May 1 and will be working closely with Academic Affairs and all Colleges and academic departments in the development of and support for online programs. She will also work with Academic Affairs, the Colleges, and other units to oversee the University’s ongoing efforts to strengthen faculty development, improve the quality of online courses, and provide robust services for online students.

The Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, through the Distance Learning and Instructional Media Services unit, provides centralized support to faculty in the development of online courses and programs. This new position will enable us to “kick things up a notch” and also address support issues for online learners in a more systematic fashion.

When Ms. Garvey arrives, a meet and greet reception will be hosted in the Library.

Using MOOCs to Recruit Paying Students

A recent article in The Chronicle reports on a new movement where “each participating university will allow students anywhere in the world to take an online course free. If a student then decides to enroll at the university, the university will count the credit hours earned in the MOOC toward a degree without charging the student.”  The goal is to attract students who can be successful in existing degree programs.

Read the full article “Universities Try MOOCs in Bid to Lure Successful Students to Online Programs.”

State regulations for online courses

A recent article (October 20, 2012) in The Chronicle’s Wired Campus entitled “Facing Backlash, Minnesota Decides to Allow Free Online Courses After All” describes an issue that is being discussed by the federal government and state legislatures around the country. Do universities that offer online courses (for free or for a fee) have an obligation to register (and pay fees) with the states where their online students reside? The issue is being presented as a matter of concern for the quality of the content being offered by online course providers.

An August 7, 2012 article in The Chronicle http://chronicle.com/article/States-Move-Ahead-With/133433/ noted that states were moving ahead with requirements in spite of the failure of the federal government to require compliance in this area:

“The federal government tried to strengthen states’ roles with a 2011 regulation known as the state-authorization rule. That rule, which was opposed by lobbyists for colleges, required institutions to be authorized in each state where they were operating as a condition of being eligible to accept federal student aid for students in that state.

A court blocked the rule almost as soon as it took effect, however, and a federal appeals court upheld that decision in June, finding that the U.S. Education Department had not followed proper procedures in issuing the rule. The department has the right to set such a rule, the appellate court’s opinion states, but it will have to reissue the rule under the proper procedures before it can enforce the provisions that apply to online programs.

More recently, the Education Department released a letter saying that it would not enforce the state-authorization requirement, leading to speculation that it would not reissue the rule but perhaps would try instead to insert such a regulation into the next renewal of the federal Higher Education Act.”

The University System of Georgia maintains a web site that tracks states’ regulations for online course providers http://www.usg.edu/academics/distance_education_regulations_by_state/ USFSP’s Division of Academic Affairs, under the leadership of Regional Vice Chancellor Dr. Norine Noonan, is monitoring this situation closely for how it might affect the online courses and programs being developed at USFSP.