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.

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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

 

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.”

Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education

Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, gave a TED Talk titled “What we’re learning from online education.” In this talk, Koller shares the goals and strategies that Coursera uses to provide courses developed at multiple universities online to hundreds of thousands of students for free.

Possibly more relevant to our online courses here at USFSP are the strategies she shares for student engagement, providing feedback, and managing high enrollment caps (can you imagine grading 100,000 assignments?!).

Watch this motivational and very useful talk. You may get inspired to try something new with your course!

How the Embrace of MOOC’s Could Hurt Middle America

Greg Graham writes in the Chronicle: http://chronicle.com/article/After-the-Buzz-How-the/134654/?cid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

“The great majority of our students will never take Thrun’s course because, frankly, it would be over their heads. My concern is for them and the trickle-down effect that the furor over MOOC’s (massive open online courses) will have on their education. Although they are not the demographic that Thrun is targeting, students like them, who are average or struggling, are the ones who will suffer if this trend continues to grow. Ironically, although the move toward online education is being advanced by some of the nation’s most elite universities, in the end it will be the lower half of the student population that will be forced out of the traditional classroom, widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

“You might think I’m overreacting. Alarmists rise up every time technology takes a leap forward. But if you were to cast your mind 20, 30, 40 years ahead, it is not hard to imagine a day when a face-to-face education could be a privilege of the elite. The great masses would be educated online. Colleges would be first, but the change would eventually overtake secondary and primary education as well. This could happen because the move toward online education is driven by a holy trinity of interests: state and local governments that want to reduce education expenditures, school administrators forced to cut budgets, and technology companies looking to expand their markets.”

“But the delirium over MOOC’s suggests magical thinking. Exhausted and desperate for answers, we’re tempted to think that technology can save us. But it can’t. Wonderland isn’t the answer. The greatest things happening in education are occurring in classrooms around the world, as teachers look into the eyes of their students and find ways to bring learning to life. It’s a sacred trust that we must not abdicate.”