As the rates for graduate education increase and students are demanding for cheaper alternatives, some universities and colleges are experimenting with “stackable degrees.” The idea behind it is allowing students to start with a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), followed by a few more MOOCs to get an online certificate, followed by more courses to get a traditional master’s degree.
The University of Illinois announced this type of degree recently. Starting in the Fall, students can enroll in an online master’s program in data science (which is closely collaborated with Coursera). The cost of the full master’s program is astronomically less than the price of an on-campus master’s program, costing only $19,200.
Because of the demand for students to get in STEM degrees and a university’s very little space, they will try to create these programs in order to accommodate more students, while saving them money.
The University of Illinois is not the only university that is experimenting. Massachusetts Institute of Technology also announced a similar program called “micro-master’s degree.”
This style of degree will help students also test out whether or not they want to go with just getting a certificate or go for the full master’s degree. This will align much better with their career goals.
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Khan Academy is one of the biggest education based websites that strive to help students in specific subjects. Khan Academy is an online learning provider that supplies useful videos for each subject for free. Specifically, the website is known for its STEM courses that can help a student get a better understanding of a specific topic within those classes.
Salman Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, and started out the website by creating iconic recorded videos in his walk-in closet for a nonprofit organization with more than twenty million registered students. The videos are only a small part of his mission to remake education.
In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Sal Khan was introduced as a man that first had a career as a financial analyst at a hedge fund. He made his first videos to help his cousins with their math homework. After creating more videos, he was noticed by Bill Gates, who became a backer. After creating hundreds of videos, people believed that they weren’t professional enough, however Sal has other ideas. He believes the informal attribute allows the audience to really understand what he’s doing. The main idea of his creation is to make sure that every student truly understands the material, not just memorize the formulas.
Currently Sal Khan has created a program for students from Kindergarten through eighth grade called, Khan Lab School. He even sends one of his own kids there. He has higher hopes then just this small school however. He said if he was every given the opportunity to create a college, he would want to focus on high-need areas in the world. Specifically he doesn’t want to just traditionally have a lecture based courses, but instead sending students out to research locally, specifically possibly a university or a company.
Khan believes in introducing a different form of learning and building a student’s portfolio to make them more appealing to companies. However, he doesn’t believe this idea will be readily accepted in the community due to the old traditions of learning.
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Robert Talbert, a STEM professor at Grand Valley State University, decided to integrate online student presentations into his online Calculus I class. He mentioned that teaching an online course came with a few challenges including setting up student presentations when the class never actually met face-to-face.
Talbert would give students one week to prepare for their presentations. The main rules were that students had to show their face, voice and own handwriting at all times in the video to ensure that they are in fact the ones doing the work. Students had to pass three video presentations to get an A, in the class and at least one to pass the class.
The professor informed all the students that he would provide any equipment that they would need to make the presentations, but all the students were able to manage on their own. Some students used basic filming tools such as their laptops or phones, while some who didn’t have whiteboards used large sheets of paper and taped them to her wall.
(Photo credit: Chronicle.com)
These video presentations posed a number of positive impacts to the online class. Students were able to see each other’s work and use the videos to study for tests or see the different approaches to a problem. In addition, it created a slight difference from most online courses as students were able to see who else was in their class, instead of just “entries in a spreadsheet or avatars on a discussion board.”
Talbert says that “these video presentations were one of the biggest successes I’ve had as a teacher”
To view some of the presentations, visit the main article here.
Now more than ever colleges and universities are providing video studios for general academic work rather than just for film majors or student news organizations.
Pennsylvania State University has created a simple setup that they call the “One Button Studio.” This room allows students and faculty members to simply plug a flash drive into the studio’s computer and press a button rather than dealing with complicated cameras and different editing software. The button controls the green screen, the lighting, and the video recording. Once the user is done, they just push the button again and retrieve their flash drive, with their new video saved. Penn State noticed how popular the One Button Studio was with faculty and students now they provide 19 One Button Studios across its multiple campuses.
Ohio State opened their studio just last fall and an instructor used the room to record a video of herself experimenting with liquid nitrogen and a blowtorch. Other universities, including Abilene Christian and Notre Dame, now use the model for their own in-house studios. Dartmouth College opened their studio called the “Innovation Studio” in May. Instructors can sign up to reserve the production rooms and can bring their own equipment or borrow some from the college’s media center. The rooms are used for a variety of different educational purposes. For example, universities such as Harvard have interviewed guest speakers in their studios to film the interview, so it can later be shared with classes. Other professors have used the studios to prerecorded lectures for students to watch when class is canceled. Now students don’t have to miss a lecture due to bad weather.
Professors are engaging more with tech-savvy students to provide more digital learning material for higher education.
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Textbooks can often be long and boring to read, making it difficult to keep students engaged. Now there’s a new web platform ‘zyBooks’ that creates a new way to learn from textbooks. ZyBooks mixes learning activities such as question sets and animations with written content. ZyBooks wants professors to use the web-based platform as a new way to help students engage with course material along with helping students perform better.
Students oftentimes have to reread passages in textbooks to actually understand the content. Frank Vahis, the founder of zyBooks in 2012, wanted to create a platform where students could retain more information while giving students an alternative to the wall of text traditional textbooks have. Vahis explains that the company wanted to avoid having “book” in the products name because the word would inaccurately describe what they were trying to do, however eventually they did keep it. Yes, digital textbooks are hardly a new idea, but the ‘next step’ Vahis argues is for textbooks to provide engaging material that helps students collaborate with other classmates while assisting students retain more information. A study done on students using the platform found that students tended to perform better on quizzes and other actives. Students also reported that they felt more engaged with course material when using zyBook products than using a regular textbook. The product also provides professors with a tool to track students’ progress in the course.
Currently, professors in 250 universities, primarily in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses, are using zyBooks. Not to mention that zyBooks products cost $48 each, which is cheaper than the average cost of a new textbook. Originally the platform was intended to focus on courses such as computer science and other STEM fields, but now the group hopes to move onto other topics, such as finance, accounting, and sociology.
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