Here at Learning Tech, we’ve blogged a lot in the past few years about potential optimistic outcomes of online learning: how it could be beneficial to student learning, the cost saving aspects, etc. Although there is no doubt that online learning is changing the face of education, it is important to also address the challenges and issues that appear in an online learning environment. A recent article in the New York Times titled The Trouble with Online Learning brought attention to two major issues of online learning that cannot be ignored: student dropout levels and inability to accommodate to struggling students.
Student attrition rates in online courses are nothing to brag about. Research conducted by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center has shown that students who enroll in online courses are more likely to withdraw or fail from the course than students in traditional face-to-face courses. Considering that the idea behind online courses is setting up students for success, these results are frustrating. Larger courses offered on global or national scales have a 90 percent attrition rate. Additionally, students who struggle with online courses will likely
fall behind in their traditional courses (if they are taking them at the same time) as a result.
The New York Times reported last Tuesday that San Jose State University and online course creation company Udacity have announced a partnership. SJSU and Udacity hope to build for-credit online courses that could eventually save thousands of students in California the costs of traditional college courses.
What will make an online SJSU course so different from a traditional face-to-face course? Students will carry out lessons, quizzes and other classroom activity solely online. Students will also be connected with an online mentor for support during the course. Additionally, each of the three-unit pilot courses will cost only $150–far less than a traditional course at SJSU.
The program is partly in response to the alarming fact that over 50 percent of SJSU students don’t meet basic requirements upon entering the institution. The pilot program will feature remedial and college-level algebra, as well as basic statistics. Students from both SJSU and surrounding community colleges are eligible to enroll in the courses.
Hopefully, this pilot program will push support for online courses in both San Jose and eventually the state of California.
It has been just over a year since Tegrity was rolled out across the three campuses of the University of Washington and the findings of a recently released report by UW-IT indicate that a majority of faculty and students found Tegrity to be helpful in enhancing student learning in the classroom. Tegrity is a lecture capture tool that gives instructors the ability to record classroom activity and upload these recordings on a student accessible site to review later on. These recordings consist of of a combination of on-screen recordings of the computer and live audio/video feed of the class via webcam. By using this technology, instructors were able to provide additional resources to students who wish to review course material and catch up on lectures without much additional effort.
The recent announcement by a number of universities on offering online courses for free and open to anyone heralds what some call as the beginning of a wave of MOOCs, or massively open online courses. Just what exactly is a MOOC and how does it differ from a typical distance learning course? The video below gives a good summary of how MOOCs work and why they are different from other models of distance learning.
An article in today’s Seattle Times announces that the University of Washington along with nine other universities will be partnering with Coursera, an online start-up that specializes in offering free online university courses to anyone that wants to take a class. We’ve blogged about Coursera recently when the start-up first launched with its new business model of providing low-cost and free online courses for credits. Its proponents have picked up momentum in terms of partnering with a number of top-tier universities and its increasing number of offerings seem promising. Currently, students who sign up for a course on Coursera will have to commit certain blocks of time to completing assignments as well as interacting with other students. Quizzes are embedded with the course material online and data is consistently analyzed by the course system to see how students approach each question to solve it.
Addressing concerns over whether online courses would be as rigorous as a traditional course, David Szatmary, the vice provost for online learning at the UW, said that students “are being held to the same academic standards we require in our institutions” and that “Coursera is working only with top-tier institutions”. UW Computer Science professor Ed Lazowska also remarked that “Coursera courses from many universities will be woven into UW offerings one day, with students taking the classes online as homework and coming into a classroom for practice and discussions.”
It will be interesting to see how this project progresses especially with the UW now involved. We look forward to seeing future developments.