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One Reason to Offer Free Online Courses: Alumni Engagement


Photo Credit to Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography

It is assumed that once you graduate from college you will no longer need to spend time in the classroom. A diploma from a university is a pinnacle moment of your educational career and once that has been obtained there is no use in spending any more time in a classroom. This idea is incorrect.

Casey Fabris examines the benefits of offering free online courses to college alumni in his article on The Chronicle of Higher Education website. This article examines the experiment conducted by Colgate University over the past few years in which they invited back alumni from the school to participate in MOOCs (massive open online courses). The courses offered ranged in subjects from “The Advent of the Atomic Bomb” to “Living Writers”. In a course offered last spring pertaining to atomic bombs they even invited veterans to participate in class discussions online to give the students a better perspective on their experiences with the war, since many of them weren’t even born at that time.

By offering free online courses to alumni from the school they are able to keep them connected with the community of both former and current students. During the first enrollment period Colgate University was able to enroll 380 alumni, when their original goal was only 238. The numbers grew to a whopping 800 online participants as the courses continued. The alumni participating in these courses were asked to share their feedback on the university’s experiment with online learning, and officials behind it considered it a success.

Other universities are now trying to engage their alumni using free online courses, offering former students a way to learn throughout their lives after university. The courses offer ways for alumni to engage each other if they wish and increase their knowledge even after their education has ended.

For more information on this topic visit the article above.


In an article on Stanford’s Center for Teaching and Learning website Gleb Tsipursky examines the benefits of teaching using a new set of tools in our digital age, namely those that are available through the great invention of the internet. Today students are able to take advantage of website creation and artifact archiving to demonstrate the new information they have gained through their classroom experience. Tsipursky calls this phenomenon Class-Sourcing.


Class-Sourcing is the integration of technology into the classroom through the use of website creation, artifact archival, blog writing, video creation, podcast creation, or any other media related design used to express ideas, research, or content they have gained from the class. Class-Sourcing takes advantage of group activities to help promote team building and prompts students to get creative in their expression of information.

Class-Sourcing has many benefits to the students who take advantage of it. They gain skills in digital literacy, data management, digital design, digital communication, collaboration, and public presentation to name a few. Each of these skills proves useful not only in the classroom but outside of it as well. Our age is becoming increasingly tech-oriented and employers are seeking tech-savvy individuals to fill the limited positions available. Students are able to create content they enjoy whilst learning the ins and outs of website creation which will benefit them for years to come.

Here at the University of Washington we have already integrated Class-Sourcing into our classrooms. Through the use of Canvas, Catalyst, Google Sites and much more professors are now able to offer their students an alternative to classic pen and paper school work. Students are able to create their own personal media content that they can upload directly to their teachers. Many professors have abandoned the use of physical papers and have adapted wholly to the online resources available to them. Students can archive all of their work from their college years onto their own personalized website that they can reference for years to come. This proves useful for students who graduate from this University, leaving with a portfolio full of experience to show to potential employers.


For more information on Class-Sourcing and its benefits visit the link above.

Berklee College of Music Will Offer 120-credit Online Degree in 2014

In an article written by Carl Straumsheim for Inside Higher Ed, the Berklee College of Music will offer their two music programs, music business and music production, as fully online accredited bachelor’s degree programs.

Berklee, for some time now, has had established online courses and has made subsequent steps in bundling these courses together to create certification programs. They have now made the next major step in providing two full online degree programs where students can receive a bachelor’s degree in music business and music production at a reduced cost.

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How Different Students Adapt to Online Learning

OnlineCollege.org recently posted an interesting infographic based on research done by Columbia University’s Community College Resource Center. The study analyzed 500,000 courses taken by 40,000 students within 34 Washington State colleges.

The infographic breaks up student success by many different factors–race, age, gender, and experience going into the course. As you will see, it seems to be harder for some groups of students to adapt to the online learning environment…in fact, it claims that all participants in the study did less well in online courses than they did in traditional face-to-face courses.

Check out the infographic after the jump:


Thomas L. Friedman and MOOCs

The prominent and effective uses of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) has been both encouraging and illustrative of the wide acceptance, nationally and internationally, of integrated technology within the areas of higher education. It also presents a very promising perspective of how conventional classrooms and educational systems have welcomed and utilized these tools in creative ways that work to continually enhance the distribution, reception, and overall experiences of teaching and learning.

One instance of such use was explained in an article written last week by Thomas L. Friedman for The New York Times. Friedman speaks about his experiences learning about those who have used MOOCs in their own courses, including his friend Michael Sandel, and the impact that has come from being exposed to such a democratized approach to higher education.

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