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Digital Education

Online Education is Now a Global Market


When teaching online first started in colleges, people mused that competition for college students would one day be global. A student would be able to sit down at a computer and take a course literally from anywhere. This may have seemed crazy at the time, however now it’s become a reality. A global competition for higher education is here, and some of the more famous universities were the last to get into the act.

Although MOOC’s feel somewhat similar to an entire different entity to a University, educators actually believe that online learning does not explicitly mean just MOOC’s. There is a broad range of digital opportunities besides MOOC’s.

Although, not all universities believe that converting to online learning is a good thing. Specifically, universities that are deemed higher levels of education, don’t have to worry about their traditional schooling to be affected. They own a certain level of significance and awarded for their traditional education. They have a certain reputation that will help their traditional way of educating to thrive and be consistent. However, schools that are lower or middle-level tiers are more nervous. They don’t necessarily want to take away from the traditional aspect.

They now have to put more effort into this digital side in order to run with the pack, will the traditional side suffer? This all depends on the university and the course of actions they put in. However, this stigma can make universities falter in putting more resources into online learning as they are still attempting to make themselves known among the bigger schools.

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Faculty on the Fence About Providing Computing Devices to Students

20160928facultysupport4devicesSome colleges have the wonderful service of providing laptops or a tablet for students who don’t have access to one, or who have simply forgot theirs. It is a service that students value and use quite often. But in a recent survey by Campus Technology’s Teaching with Tech survey, about a quarter of the faculty (23 percent) support the institution providing devices to their students. 30 percent like the idea of having devices available, but only for those who reserve it. Still, the majority of instructors are favoring the idea of providing devices to an extent, making the overall count of those in favor, to 85 percent. A third of the instructors (33 percent) are leaning more towards the “bring your own device” model or BYOD; while another third (34 percent) will go with this approach with some uncertainties. While this may be an issues at colleges and universities that require a computer device in class, there are those that do not have to worry, as six in ten, or 56 percent of colleges or universities do not require students to bring a laptop or another computing device with them to class.

Another survey was done regarding a student’s access to internet. On average, according to Campus Technology’s research, about 82 percent of students have access to internet at home. It was found though, that 69 percent of faculty believe that between 51 and 100 percent of students have access to the internet. They have the presumption that students in college or a university are able to use the campus resources to get their school work done.

According to a professor from a New York college, this is not sufficient for those students who do not have internet access. He suggests that institutions should start including an “internet access package” along with the tuition.

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The 2016 UWB eLearning Summer Symposium: A Student Perspective


Technology and education have close ties with one another, however, I believe it can be safe to say that technology seems to be utilized more to entertain, rather than to educate. The combination of the two has opened many doors to innovative ways of teaching to the generation of college students that interact with these gadgets and gizmos on a daily basis. I think it’s also safe to say that young adults of this generation love technology and social media. Students are constantly being exposed to a plethora of new games and apps that keep tech within their reach. With all these ‘lovely distractions’ threatening to forever hold the attention of our young minds, educators in higher education must find new ways  to integrate these ‘lovely distractions’ in a way that keeps students not only engaged, but actually building knowledge while in the learning space.

In July, I had the pleasure of being able to attend an event that took place at the University of Washington Bothell called the eLearning Summer Symposium. This event was focused on active learning strategies and ideas for creating more engaging learning spaces. There were several engaging presentations and opportunities for educators to share ideas with each other on topics ranging from tech tools, to active teaching and learning techniques, to OER (Open Educational Resources), and UDAL (Universal Design for Active Learning).

There were a two presentations that really stood out because of the utilization of technology and social media in a way the really engaged students.  The first presenter, Dr. Dan Bustillos, faculty in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, spoke about the importance of not only getting his students to learn about the mechanics of implementing health policy, but also that it was very important for students to experience the aftermath of putting policies in play and how it affects the overall situation. He explained that experience is gained by having to deal with making those tough decisions in the moment when the stressors are high and having to consider all cause and effect scenarios. Dr. Bustillos described that beyond just teaching these policies to his students there wasn’t really a vehicle in which he could simulate that experience to better engage his students. That led him to creating a game based course, which he built using an Excel worksheet. This game allows him to create simulations that put the players, aka students, in a position to decide amongst different strategies based on their coursework the best course of action for each stage of the game.  He claimed that this idea significantly increased student engagement because it was in the form of a game in which students are quite familiar with.

Another instructor, Dr. Jane Van Galen, faculty in the School of Educational Studies, integrates the use of Twitter into her classroom. Dr. Van Galen found it can be a valuable resource due to it being a sort of central hub of the Internet. Twitter connects policymakers, journalists, advocacy groups, professionals, and the general public in the same social space. She explained that Twitter users can share a variety of media including news, opinions, web links, and conversations in a publicly accessible space. She explained how the use of Twitter had several benefits in her classroom. She found that it draws students out into the ‘open’, ushering them into developing social networks for ongoing learning. She sees potential for connections beyond the classroom, and shared an example of how one of her student’s tweets was commented on by a well-known scholar, whose work the student had referenced in her original tweet. Dr. Van Galen also provided examples of how Twitter has the ability to amplify the student voice because tweets can be tagged by other groups or organizations. This ability to tag a tweet notifies members of the group or organization of the tweet and then notifies the potential thousands of individuals that follow that particular group or organization.  She found that engagement in her class skyrocketed when Twitter was used as vehicle for her class’s subject matter. From my perspective, a student perspective, these two presentations were the most exciting to witness because of the possible applications in other subjects.

Overall, it was a great time and I hope that these sort of events continue to take place. It is important that as we adapt to new technology we also adapt our ways of using and applying it not only just for entertainment purposes, but also to educate.

Tim Williams

Half of Online Students Prefer this Route Over a Physical Campus.

A new study done by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research focused on students in online courses found that 50 percent of them would rather not attend classes on a physical campus.

The study was done in Spring of 2016 with 1,500 students who had either recently graduated, were currently enrolled or planned to enroll in the next year in a fully online higher education degree, certificate or license program; it found that while online courses were an only option for half of the students, 90 percent of them who had previously taken on-campus courses said that they preferred online courses or found them just as good.

According to Learning House’s Chief Academic Officer, David Clinefelter, 3.5 million students are working towards their degree online and that academic institution cannot afford to lose these students.

An important finding in this study is that most online students are unaware of the different pathways they can take during the college careers, such as micro-degrees or boot camps. They are more informed on the traditional college degree routes and templates, and only a third of the students were aware of the principles of competency-based education. Other findings include:

  • Among the factors that go into choosing an online route, tuition was found to be number one
  • The age for online students is decreasing as the average age for undergraduates this year was 29 for undergraduates and 33 for graduate students. That is done from 36 and 37 in 2014
  • About ¾ of students picked a school that had a physical campus within 100 miles of their home, with 32 percent of students stating that they planned on visiting the campus at least once a year, and 44 percent stating that they planned on visiting more frequently.
  • Computer science and IT has raised in popularity for graduate students with 20 percent choosing it – this drops education in the rankings, which dropped from 22 percent in 2014, to 14 percent this year.

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Gamification Champions

Organization change theory believes there are individuals, “champions”, who push an organization past its comfort zone into new territory. Champions may be faced with a challenge that they don’t know how to solve, but will say, “We’ll figure it out”.

On college campuses, IT champions can help educators embrace gamification. Supports of gamification believe it offers just as many benefits for college students as K-12 students. Well-designed games boost student engagement, build critical thinking skills by requiring students to plan and strategize, and clarify abstract concepts that may be hard to grasp from reading and lecture alone. For students currently in an online course, gaming provides opportunities for collaboration and teamwork.

Despire these benefits, faculty who are new to gamification may be hesitant to jump in. Professors might ask questions about where to start or how to ensure games deliver educational benefit. This is an opportunity for IT professionals (campus champions) to identify potential academic partners.



Edwin Lindsay, a teaching assistant professor in North Carolina State University Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, noticed students in his Introduction to Sports Management course lacked realistic expectations of future career paths. Lindsay partnered with NCU’s Distance Education & Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) to develop a gamification module. Lindsay and Stephen Bader, a business and technology applications specialist, created a Moodle plugin that lets students pursue one of 10 career paths by winning points within 14 skill sets. The game helps students identify skills they need to develop and related courses they can take to enhance those skills.

Linsay did not intentionally become a gamification champion, he eventually became one. His successful partnership with DELTA inspired gamification courses in NCSU’s horticulture department.

Champions Lead The Way

Champions help organizations thrive by understanding and sharing a vision: How have other institutions successfully brought gamification to the classroom? What benefits can it offer students in specific disciplines? How can a faculty/IT partnership pay off outside the classroom?

Champions are facilitators when colleagues are hesitant to embrace new technology, champions help them navigate unfamiliar territory. After faculty member or department rolls out gamification, champions help stakeholders extract lessons learned and help improve the process to make the transition easier.

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