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    Emerging Technologies in Distance Education -- Outstanding...
    blog entry posted September 7, 2010 by Richard E Lillie, last edited May 22, 2012, tagged research 
    18756 Views, 106 Comments
    title:
    Emerging Technologies in Distance Education -- Outstanding Resource
    intro text:

    In July, 2010 AU Press (Athabasca University, Canada) published a book that I think you will find is an excellent resource for ideas about using technology in teaching and learning.  The book entitled Emerging Technologies in Distance Education is edited by George Veletsianos.

    AU Press makes the book available for free in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.  You may download the entire publication or selected chapters.

    This book is worth exploring.  It may not turn you into a "pro from Dover" (to draw on the line from the movie Mash).  However, it should help you better understand how to use technology when you design course materials and share them with your students.

    Enjoy.

    Rick Lillie (Cal State, San Bernardino)

    Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

    Comment

    • Robert E Jensen

      "To Monitor Online Testing, Western Governors U. Gives Students Webcams," by Alexandra Rice, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 2, 2011 ---
      http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/to-monitor-online-testing-western-governors-u-gives-students-webcams/34099

      Welcome packets for students at Western Governors University now include a free Webcam, part of an extensive monitoring program used by the online university to make sure test-takers are who they say they are.

      At Western Governors, the average student is 36 years old, has a family, and takes a full course load on top of holding a full-time job. Because it’s convenient for them to be able to take tests from home, students have embraced the technology, says Janet W. Schnitz, associate provost for assessment and interim provost at the university.

      The university, which first started handing out cameras in July 2010, now has over 30,000 Web cams in use.

      Before 2009, when the university introduced its Webcam pilot program, students had to go to one of 6,000 on-site assessment centers to take a test. For many students, this could involve taking time off work, securing a babysitter, and then driving several hours to the center.

      “Trying to get to different sites to take these exams—that took up to four hours to complete—was quite onerous on the students,” Ms. Schnitz said. “So we began looking for a secure environment that would allow us to identify the student and provide a secure testing environment that was more conducive to the lifestyle of our adult students.”

      The camera, which is mounted on a stick, is not the standard Web camera found on a computer. Standard Webcams, Ms. Schnitz said, provide only a view of the student. With this camera, proctors can see the computer screen, the students’ hands and profile, and a 180-degree view of the room.

      While the university is still working out some bugs in the system, such as full compatibility with Apple products and issues with satellite Internet connections, Ms. Schnitz says the transition has been fairly seamless and beneficial for both the university and its students. The system the university uses, known as Webassessor, was developed by the online testing technology company Kryterion.

      “The one thing I think that really helps us the most is that they have full streaming and live proctors who are actually watching the students during the entire testing event,” Ms. Schnitz said. “We really felt that it was important that it not be viewed after the fact, and that it be viewed during the actual testing.”

      The idea behind the live proctor is twofold: to have someone monitoring students and checking for any aberrant behavior and also to have someone there in case a student has a technical issue.

      Students’ dress is another issue the university is still working out when using the cameras, Ms. Schnitz said. Before beginning an exam, the student’s hair has to be pulled fully behind his or her ears to make sure they don’t have any device feeding them answers. For some students, such as those who wear headscarves for religious reasons, this can present a problem. In those cases, the university can arrange for female proctors or students can choose to take the test at one of the on-site centers.

      The university administers roughly 2,000 of the 10,000 tests it gives each month at physical testing centers, and the rest through the Webcam system, according to Ms. Schnitz.

      Continued in article

      Jensen Comment
      Since WGU is a competency-based university, instructors do not assign final grades. This makes testing integrity doubly important since final grades are based upon examination performance throughout the term.

      Onsite Versus Online Education (including controls for online examinations and assignments) ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Assess.htm#OnsiteVersusOnline

    • Robert E Jensen

      "The Chronicle's special report on Online Learning explores how calls for quality control and assessment are reshaping online learning," (Not Free), Chronicle of Higher Education, November 2011 ---
      https://www.chronicle-store.com/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?CO=CQ&ID=78602&cid=ol_nlb_wc

      The Chronicle's special report on Online Learning explores how calls for quality control and assessment are reshaping online learning. As online learning spreads throughout higher education, so have calls for quality control and assessment. Accrediting groups are scrambling to keep up, and Congress and government officials continue to scrutinize the high student-loan default rates and aggressive recruiting tactics of some for-profit, mostly online colleges. But the push for accountability isn't coming just from outside. More colleges are looking inward, conducting their own self-examinations into what works and what doesn't.

      Also in this year's report:
       
      • Strategies for teaching and doing research online
      • Members of the U.S. military are taking online courses while serving in Afghanistan
      • Community colleges are using online technology to keep an eye on at-risk students and help them understand their own learning style
      • The push to determine what students learn online, not just how much time they spend in class
      • Presidents' views on e-learning

      Bob Jensen's threads on assessment ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Assess.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on asynchronous learning ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/255wp.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on online course and degree programs ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm

    • Robert E Jensen

      "MIT Expands 'Open' Courses, Adds Completion Certificates," Inside Higher Ed, December 19, 2011 ---
      http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2011/12/19/mit-expands-open-courses-adds-completion-certificates

      The Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- which pioneered the idea of making course materials free online -- today announced a major expansion of the idea, with the creation of MITx, which will provide for interaction among students, assessment and the awarding of certificates of completion to students who have no connection to MIT.

      MIT is also starting a major initiative -- led by Provost L. Rafael Reif -- to study online teaching and learning.

      The first course through MITx is expected this spring. While the institute will not charge for the courses, it will charge what it calls "a modest fee" for the assessment that would lead to a credential. The credential will be awarded by MITx and will not constitute MIT credit. The university also plans to continue MIT OpenCourseWare, the program through which it makes course materials available online.

      An FAQ from MIT offers more details on the new program.

      While MIT has been widely praised for OpenCourseWare, much of the attention in the last year from the "open" educational movement has shifted to programs like the Khan Academy (through which there is direct instruction provided, if not yet assessment) and an initiative at Stanford University that makes courses available -- courses for which some German universities are providing academic credit. The new initiative would appear to provide some of the features (instruction such as offered by Khan, and certification that some are creating for the Stanford courses) that have been lacking in OpenCourseWare.

      Video:  Open Education for an Open World
      45-minute Video from the Long-Time President of MIT --- http://18.9.60.136/video/816

      Bob Jensen's threads on open-share courses, lectures, videos, and course materials from prestigious universities ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

    • Robert E Jensen

      "MIT Expands 'Open' Courses, Adds Completion Certificates," Inside Higher Ed, December 19, 2011 ---
      http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2011/12/19/mit-expands-open-courses-adds-completion-certificates

      The Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- which pioneered the idea of making course materials free online -- today announced a major expansion of the idea, with the creation of MITx, which will provide for interaction among students, assessment and the awarding of certificates of completion to students who have no connection to MIT.

      MIT is also starting a major initiative -- led by Provost L. Rafael Reif -- to study online teaching and learning.

      The first course through MITx is expected this spring. While the institute will not charge for the courses, it will charge what it calls "a modest fee" for the assessment that would lead to a credential. The credential will be awarded by MITx and will not constitute MIT credit. The university also plans to continue MIT OpenCourseWare, the program through which it makes course materials available online.

      An FAQ from MIT offers more details on the new program.

      While MIT has been widely praised for OpenCourseWare, much of the attention in the last year from the "open" educational movement has shifted to programs like the Khan Academy (through which there is direct instruction provided, if not yet assessment) and an initiative at Stanford University that makes courses available -- courses for which some German universities are providing academic credit. The new initiative would appear to provide some of the features (instruction such as offered by Khan, and certification that some are creating for the Stanford courses) that have been lacking in OpenCourseWare.

      Video:  Open Education for an Open World
      45-minute Video from the Long-Time President of MIT --- http://18.9.60.136/video/816

      Bob Jensen's threads on open-share courses, lectures, videos, and course materials from prestigious universities ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

    • Robert E Jensen

      Question
      Is a MIT online certificate worth more than most any comparable course grade from a North American college or university?

      "Will MITx Disrupt Higher Education?" by Robert Talbert, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 20, 2011 ---
      http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/castingoutnines/2011/12/20/will-mitx-disrupt-higher-education/?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      MIT has been doing online access to education a lot longer than most people, largely due to their invaluable OpenCourseWare project. (Here’s an interview MIT did with me last year on how OCW strongly influenced my inverted-classroom MATLAB course.) Now they are poised to go to the next level by launching an online system called MITx in Spring 2012 that provides credentialing as well as content:

      Mr. Reif and Anant Agarwal, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, said M.I.T.x would start this spring — perhaps with just one course — but would expand to include many more courses, as OpenCourseWare has done. [...]

      The M.I.T.x classes, he said, will have online discussions and forums where students can ask questions and, often, have them answered by others in the class.

      While access to the software will be free, there will most likely be an “affordable” charge, not yet determined, for a credential.

      “I think for someone to feel they’re earning something, they ought to pay something, but the point is to make it extremely affordable,” Mr. Reif said. “The most important thing is that it’ll be a certificate that will clearly state that a body sanctioned by M.I.T. says you have gained mastery.”

      The official FAQ reveals a couple of additional points. First, the content of MITx courses will be free — which seems to imply that MITx course content will be different than OCW course content, and not just a certification layer on top of existing resources — and you’ll only pay money for the certificate. Second, there will be no admissions process. If you want a course, you just take it and then pay for the credentialing if you feel like you’re up to it.

      I think this last point about having no admissions process may be the most significant piece of MITx. It seems to represent a complete shift from the traditional way of providing access to higher education. As far as I can tell, there will not even be a system of checking prerequisites for MITx courses. If that’s so, then if you feel you can step into, say, an Algorithms class and keep up with the material and demonstrate your mastery, then nobody at MIT will care if you haven’t had the right courses in basic programming, data structures, discrete math, or whatever. MIT is basically saying, we won’t be picky about who we let take these courses — if you can afford it and live up to our standards, we’re happy to credential you.

      Of course there are a lot of questions about MITx that are yet to be answered. What is the “modest fee” they plan to charge, and is it really affordable? How exactly will the credentialing process work? (It’s interesting that the certification will be handled by a non-profit organization to be formed within MIT. Is this a kind of outsourcing of grading?) How will one “demonstrate mastery” and what will MITx define as “mastery” in courses that are not strictly skills-based? Will there eventually be a full enough slate of courses offered to make the whole system compelling for learners? And perhaps most importantly, what will employers, graduate schools, and even undergraduate institutions make of applicants who come in with some of these MITx certifications? Without external buy-in, MITx will likely be just another continuing education program like hundreds of others.

      We’ll hear a lot more about this in the future, but for now this seems to have the potential to be genuinely disruptive in higher education. What do you think?

      "MIT Expands 'Open' Courses, Adds Completion Certificates," Inside Higher Ed, December 19, 2011 ---
      http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2011/12/19/mit-expands-open-courses-adds-completion-certificates

      The Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- which pioneered the idea of making course materials free online -- today announced a major expansion of the idea, with the creation of MITx, which will provide for interaction among students, assessment and the awarding of certificates of completion to students who have no connection to MIT.

      MIT is also starting a major initiative -- led by Provost L. Rafael Reif -- to study online teaching and learning.

      The first course through MITx is expected this spring. While the institute will not charge for the courses, it will charge what it calls "a modest fee" for the assessment that would lead to a credential. The credential will be awarded by MITx and will not constitute MIT credit. The university also plans to continue MIT OpenCourseWare, the program through which it makes course materials available online.

      An FAQ from MIT offers more details on the new program.

      While MIT has been widely praised for OpenCourseWare, much of the attention in the last year from the "open" educational movement has shifted to programs like the Khan Academy (through which there is direct instruction provided, if not yet assessment) and an initiative at Stanford University that makes courses available -- courses for which some German universities are providing academic credit. The new initiative would appear to provide some of the features (instruction such as offered by Khan, and certification that some are creating for the Stanford courses) that have been lacking in OpenCourseWare.

       

      Bob Jensen's threads on open source video and course materials from prestigious universities ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

      Bob Jensen's threads on education technology in general ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/0000start.htm

      THE COLLEGE OF 2020: STUDENTS  ---
      https://www.chronicle-store.com/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?CO=CQ&ID=76319&PK=N1S1009

      Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on online training and education alternatives ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm


      Distance Education.org or DistanceEducation.Org is a Great Helper Site
      Ben Pheiffer in San Antonio forwarded this link to a terrific listing (with pricing estimates) of online training and education degree programs and courses from respectable universities --- http://www.distance-education.org/Courses/
      Both graduate and undergraduate degree programs are listed as well as training courses (some free).

      Free online tutorials in various disciplines --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm/#Tutorials

      Education & Learning: Asia Society --- http://www.asiasociety.org/education-learning

      Latino Distance Education
      American RadioWorks: Rising by Degrees [iTunes] http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/latino_college/index.html

      The Master List of FreeOnline College Courses --- http://universitiesandcolleges.org/

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Automatic File Conversions and More with Dropbox Automator," by Joe Brockmeier, ReadWriteWeb, December 31, 2011 ---
      http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/automatic_file_conversions_and_more_with_dropbox_a.php

      Computers keep getting closer and closer to making people obsolete. The latest step towards human obsolescence? Dropbox Automator, a Web-based tool for setting up actions that happen as soon as you put a file in a Dropbox folder. It’s not flawless just yet, but it might provide a useful service for many Dropbox users.

      The service is powered by Wappwolf, an online “action storethat features a set of Web actions that can process files. For example, it has ready made actions to encrypt and decrypt files, extract text from PDFs, convert documents to PDF, generate QR codes and manipulate images.

      Zoho CRM offers a complete customer life cycle management service online. Zoho CRM helps you manage your Sales, Marketing & Customer Interactions online. Automation, customization, integration, and collaboration allow you to grow your business and have a 360-degree view of your business. Get Started with 3 Users Free!

      Archiving and Long-Term Storage ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob4.htm#archiving

    • Robert E Jensen

      US News Rankings --- http://www.usnews.com/rankings

      US News Top Online Education Programs --- http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education
      Do not confuse this with the US News project to evaluate for-profit universities --- a project hampered by refusal of many for-profit universiteis to provide data

      Methodology: Online Bachelor's Degree Rankings ---
      http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2012/01/09/methodology-online-bachelors-degree-rankings

      . . .

      Data collection commenced on July 14, 2011, using a password-protected online system. Drawing from its Best Colleges universe of regionally accredited bachelor's granting institutions, U.S.News & World Report E-mailed surveys to the 1,765 regionally accredited institutions it determined had offered bachelor's degree programs in 2010.

      Continued in article

      "'U.S. News' Sizes Up Online-Degree Programs, Without Specifying Which Is No. 1," by Nick DeSantis, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 10, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/US-News-Sizes-Up/130274/?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      U.S. News & World Report has published its first-ever guide to online degree programs—but distance-education leaders looking to trumpet their high rankings may find it more difficult to brag about how they placed than do their colleagues at residential institutions.

      Unlike the magazine's annual rankings of residential colleges, which cause consternation among many administrators for reducing the value of each program into a single headline-friendly number, the new guide does not provide lists based on overall program quality; no university can claim it hosts the top online bachelor's or online master's program. Instead, U.S. News produced "honor rolls" highlighting colleges that consistently performed well across the ranking criteria.

      Eric Brooks, a U.S. News data research analyst, said the breakdown of the rankings into several categories was intentional; his team chose its categories based on areas with enough responses to make fair comparisons.

      "We're only ranking things that we felt the response rates justified ranking this year," he said.

      The rankings, which will be published today, represent a new chapter in the 28-year history of the U.S. News guide. The expansion was brought on by the rapid growth of online learning. More than six million students are now taking at least one course online, according to a recent survey of more than 2,500 academic leaders by the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board.

      U.S. News ranked colleges with bachelor's programs according to their performance in three categories: student services, student engagement, and faculty credentials. For programs at the master's level, U.S. News added a fourth category, admissions selectivity, to produce rankings of five different disciplines: business, nursing, education, engineering, and computer information technology.

      To ensure that the inaugural rankings were reliable, Mr. Brooks said, U.S. News developed its ranking methodology after the survey data was collected. Doing so, he said, allowed researchers to be fair to institutions that interpreted questions differently.

      Some distance-learning experts criticized that technique, however, arguing that the methodology should have been established before surveys were distributed.

      Russell Poulin, deputy director of research and analysis for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, which promotes online education as part of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, said that approach allowed U.S. News to ask the wrong questions, resulting in an incomplete picture of distance-learning programs.

      "It sort of makes me feel like I don't know who won the baseball game, but I'll give you the batting average and the number of steals and I'll tell you who won," he said. Mr. Poulin and other critics said any useful rankings of online programs should include information on outcomes like retention rates, employment prospects, and debt load—statistics, Mr. Brooks said, that few universities provided for this first edition of the U.S. News rankings. He noted that the surveys will evolve in future years as U.S. News learns to better tailor its questions to the unique characteristics of online programs.

      W. Andrew McCollough, associate provost for information technology, e-learning, and distance education at the University of Florida, said he was "delighted" to discover that his institution's bachelor's program was among the four chosen for honor-roll inclusion. He noted that U.S. News would have to customize its questions in the future, since he found some of them didn't apply to online programs. He attributed that mismatch to the wide age distribution and other diverse demographic characteristics of the online student body.

      The homogeneity that exists in many residential programs "just doesn't exist in the distance-learning environment," he said. Despite the survey's flaws, Mr. McCollough said, the effort to add to the body of information about online programs is helpful for prospective students.

      Turnout for the surveys varied, from a 50 percent response rate among nursing programs to a 75 percent response rate among engineering programs. At for-profit institutions—which sometimes have a reputation for guarding their data closely—cooperation was mixed, said Mr. Brooks. Some, like the American Public University System, chose to participate. But Kaplan University, one of the largest providers of online education, decided to wait until the first rankings were published before deciding whether to join in, a spokesperson for the institution said.

      Though this year's rankings do not make definitive statements about program quality, Mr. Brooks said the research team was cautious for a reason and hopes the new guide can help students make informed decisions about the quality of online degrees.

      "We'd rather not produce something in its first year that's headline-grabbing for the wrong reasons," he said.


      'Honor Roll' From 'U.S. News' of Online Graduate Programs in Business

      Institution Teaching Practices and Student Engagement Student Services and Technology Faculty Credentials and Training Admissions Selectivity
      Arizona State U., W.P. Carey School of Business 24 32 37 11
      Arkansas State U. 9 21 1 36
      Brandman U. (Part of the Chapman U. system) 40 24 29 n/a
      Central Michigan U. 11 3 56 9
      Clarkson U. 4 24 2 23
      Florida Institute of Technology 43 16 23 n/a
      Gardner-Webb U. 27 1 15 n/a
      George Washington U. 20 9 7 n/a
      Indiana U. at Bloomington, Kelley School of Business 29 19 40 3
      Marist College 67 23 6 5
      Quinnipiac U. 6 4 13 16
      Temple U., Fox School of Business 39 8 17 34
      U. of Houston-Clear Lake 8 21 18 n/a
      U. of Mississippi 37 44 20 n/a

      Source: U.S. News & World Report

      Jensen Comment
      I don't know why the largest for-profit universities that generally provide more online degrees than the above universities combined are not included in the final outcomes. For example, the University of Phoenix alone as has over 600,000 students, most of whom are taking some or all online courses.

      My guess is that most for-profit universities are not forthcoming with the data requested by US News analysts. Note that the US News condition that the set of online programs to be considered be regionally accredited does not exclude many for-profit universities. For example, enter in such for-profit names as "University of Phoenix" or "Capella University" in the "College Search" box at
      http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-phoenix-20988
      These universities are included in the set of eligible regionally accredited online degree programs to be evaluated. They just did not do well in the above "Honor Roll" of outcomes for online degree programs.

      For-profit universities may have shot themselves in the foot by not providing the evaluation data to US News for online degree program evaluation. For example, one of the big failings of most for-profit online degree programs is in undergraduate "Admissions Selectivity."

      Bob Jensen's threads on distance education training and education alternatives are at
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on ranking controversies are at
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#BusinessSchoolRankings

    • Robert E Jensen

      Question
      What are you more  likely to get in an onsite MIS 333 course at the University of Texas relative to an online MIS 333?

      Answer
      A spouse.

      "Longhorn Love Stories," by: Danielle Wells , The Financial Education Daily, February 9, 2012 ---
      http://paper.li/businessschools?utm_source=subscription&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=paper_sub

      Love is in the air at McCombs, from surprise proposals in UTC to chance encounterse at Discover BHP. Eight couples from the classes of 1992 to 2012 share two decades of UT memories, life and love. Two things are clear: We're not all business, and it pays to take MIS 333K with Professor Rick Byars.

      Continued in article

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Treating Higher Ed's 'Cost Disease' With Supersize Online Courses," by Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 26, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/Treating-Higher-Eds-Cost/130934/?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      Oh my God, she's trying to replace me with a computer.

      That's what some professors think when they hear Candace Thille pitch the online education experiment she directs, the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University.

      They're wrong. But what her project does replace is the traditional system of building and delivering introductory college courses.

      Professors should move away from designing foundational courses in statistics, biology, or other core subjects on the basis of "intuition," she argues. Instead, she wants faculty to work with her team to put out the education equivalent of Super Bowl ads: expensively built online course materials, cheaply available to the masses.

      "We're seeing failure rates in these large introductory courses that are not acceptable to anybody," Ms. Thille says. "There has to be a better way to get more students—irrespective of where they start—to be able to successfully complete."

      Her approach brings together faculty subject experts, learning researchers, and software engineers to build open online courses grounded in the science of how people learn. The resulting systems provide immediate feedback to students and tailor content to their skills. As students work through online modules outside class, the software builds profiles on them, just as Netflix does for customers. Faculty consult that data to figure out how to spend in-person class time.

      When Ms. Thille began this work, in 2002, the idea was to design free online courses that would give independent novices a shot at mastering what students learn in traditional classes. But two things changed. One, her studies found that the online system benefits on-campus students, allowing them to learn better and faster than their peers when the digital environment is combined with some face-to-face instruction.

      And two, colleges sank into "fiscal famine," as one chancellor put it. Technological solutions like Ms. Thille's promise one treatment for higher education's "cost disease"—the notion, articulated by William G. Bowen and William J. Baumol, that the expense of labor-heavy endeavors like classroom teaching inevitably rises faster than inflation.

      For years, educational-technology innovations led to more costs per student, says Mr. Bowen, president emeritus of Prince­ton University. But today we may have reached a point at which interactive online systems could "change that equation," he argues, by enabling students to learn just as much with less "capital and labor."

      "What you've got right now is a powerful intersection between technological change and economics," Mr. Bowen tells The Chronicle.

      Ms. Thille is, he adds, "a real evangelist in the best sense of the word."

      Nowadays rival universities want to hire her. Venture capitalists want to market her courses. The Obama administration wants her advice. And so many foundations want to support her work that she must turn away some would-be backers.

      But the big question is this: Can Ms. Thille get a critical mass of people to buy in to her idea? Can she expand the Online Learning Initiative from a tiny darling of ed-tech evangelists to something that truly changes education? A Background in Business

      Ms. Thille brings an unusual biography to the task. The 53-year-old Californian spent 18 years in the private sector, culminating in a plum job as a partner in a management-consulting company in San Francisco. She earned a master's degree but not a doctorate, a gap she's now plugging by studying toward a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.

      She has never taught a college course.

      Ms. Thille wasn't even sure she'd make it through her own bachelor's program, so precarious were her finances at the time. Her family had plunged from upper middle class to struggling after her father quit his job at the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. But with jobs and scholarships, she managed to earn a degree in sociology from Berkeley.

      After college, Ms. Thille followed her fiancé to Pittsburgh. The engagement didn't last, but her connection to the city did. She worked as education coordinator for a rape-crisis center, training police and hospital employees.

      She eventually wound up back in California at the consultancy, training executives and helping businesses run meetings effectively. There she took on her first online-learning project: building a hybrid course to teach executives how to mentor subordinates.

      Ms. Thille doesn't play up this corporate-heavy résumé as she travels the country making the case for why professors should change how they teach. On a recent Tuesday morning, The Chronicle tagged along as that mission brought Ms. Thille to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was meeting with folks from the university and two nearby community colleges to prepare for the development of a new pre-calculus course.

      It's one piece of a quiet but sweeping push to develop, deploy, and test Open Learning Initiative courses at public institutions around the country, led by an alphabet soup of education groups.

      The failure rate in such precalculus courses can be so bad that as many as 50 percent of students need to take the class a second time. Ms. Thille and her colleagues hope to improve on that record while developing materials of such quality that they're used by perhaps 100,000 students each year. Facing Skepticism

      But first the collaborators must learn how to build a course as a team. As Ms. Thille fires up her PowerPoint, she faces a dozen or so administrators and professors in Chicago. The faculty members segregate themselves into clusters—community-college people mostly in one group, university folks mostly in another. Some professors are learning about the initiative in detail for the first time. There is little visible excitement as they plunge into the project, eating muffins at uncomfortable desks in a classroom on the sixth floor of the Soviet-looking science-and-engineering building.

      By contrast, Ms. Thille whirls with enthusiasm. She describes Online Learning Initiative features like software that mimics human tutors: making comments when students go awry, keeping quiet when they perform well, and answering questions about what to do next. She discusses the "dashboard" that tells professors how well students grasp each learning objective. Throughout, she gives an impression of hyper-competence, like a pupil who sits in the front row and knows the answer to every question.

      But her remarks can sometimes veer into a disorienting brew of jargon, giving the impression that she is talking about lab subjects rather than college kids. Once she mentions "dosing" students with a learning activity. And early on in the workshop, she faces a feisty challenge from Chad Taylor, an assistant professor at Harper College. He worries about what happens when students must face free-form questions, which the computer doesn't baby them through.

      "I will self-disclose myself as a skeptic of these programs," he says. Software is "very good at prompting the students to go step by step, and 'do this' and 'do that,' and all these bells and whistles with hints. But the problem is, in my classroom they're not prompted step by step."

      Around the country, there's more skepticism where that came from, Ms. Thille confides over a dinner of tuna tacos later that day. One chief obstacle is the "not-invented-here problem." Professors are wary of adopting courses they did not create. The Online Learning Initiative's team-based model represents a cultural shift for a professoriate that derives status, and pride, from individual contributions.

      Then there's privacy. The beauty of OLI is that developers can improve classes by studying data from thousands of students. But some academics worry that colleges could use that same data to evaluate professors—and fire those whose students fail to measure up.

      Ms. Thille tells a personal story that illustrates who could benefit if she prevails. Years ago she adopted a teenager, Cece. The daughter of a drug user who died of AIDS, Cece was 28 days' truant from high school when she went to live with Ms. Thille. She was so undereducated, even the simple fractions of measuring cups eluded her. Her math teacher told Ms. Thille that with 40 kids in class, she needed to focus on the ones who were going to "make it."

      Continued in article

      Jensen Comment
      In a way we already have something like this operating in colleges and universities that adopt the Brigham Young University variable speed video disks designed for learning the two basic accounting courses without meeting in classrooms or having the usual online instruction. Applications vary of course, and some colleges may have recitation sections where students meet to get help and take examinations ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/thetools.htm#BYUvideo

      Although BYU uses this no-class video pedagogy, it must be recognized that most of the BYU students learning accounting on their own in this manner are both exceptionally motivated and exceptionally intelligent. For schools that adopt the pedagogies of Me. Thile or BYU, the students must be like BYU accounting students or the pedagogy must be modified for more hand holding and kick-butt features that could be done in various ways online or onsite.

      Bob Jensen's threads on courses without instructors ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#NoInstructors
      Of course Ms. Thille is not exactly advocating a pedagogy without instructors. There are instructors in her proposed model.

      Bob Jensen's threads on competency-based learning and assessment ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Assess.htm#ECA

    • Robert E Jensen

      Hard Choices for Developing Countries
      "'World-Class' vs. Mass Education, by Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, March 9, 2012 ---
      http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/03/09/international-educators-debate-higher-education-priorities-developing-countries

      Should developing nations expend their money and energy trying to build "world-class" universities that conduct job-creating research and educate the nation's elite, or focus on building more and better institutions to train the masses?

      That question -- which echoes debates within many American states about relative funding for flagship research universities vs. community colleges and regional institutions -- drew barely a mention in the summary statement that emerged from an unusual symposium at the University of Oxford's Green Templeton College in January (though it was addressed a bit more directly in a set of recommendations released last month).

      But the issue of whether developing nations should emphasize excellence or access as they build and strengthen their higher education systems undergirded much of the discussion of the three-day event, flaring at times into sharp disagreement among the attendees over "the extent to which the emerging world should be part of the educational arms race," says Simon Marginson, a professor of higher education at the University of Melbourne.

      Different observers would define that race differently, and with varying degrees of sympathy and scorn. But in general, most experts on higher education would equate it with the push to have institutions in the top of worldwide rankings (or "league tables," as they're called in much of the world) -- rankings dominated by criteria such as research funding and student selectivity as opposed to measures that emphasize democratic student access

      Continued in article

      Bob Jensen's threads on cross-border training and education alternatives ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Udacity Update:  A firsthand look at what it’s been like to take “Computer Science 101″ through the Internet higher-ed start-up," by Robert Talbert, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 21, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/castingoutnines/2012/03/21/udacity-update/?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      It’s been a couple of weeks since my first post about the Udacity CS101 course, so here’s an update. Before that, let me mention this nice article in Wired about Udacity and its origins. That article sheds a little light on the questions I had earlier about Udacity’s business model.

      So, Units 3 and 4 are now done with the CS101 course. The focus of Unit 3 was mostly on the concept of the list in Python, along with FOR loops and an emphasis on computer memory. Unit 4 was a bit of a left turn into a discussion of computer networks, with an emphasis on the basics of the Internet and the concepts of latency and bandwidth. So, just from this description, you can see one of the things I particularly like about CS101: It’s not just about Python. This is a class that is actually about computer science in general with Python as a tool for understanding it. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I find it easy to stick with CS101 when I’ve always ended up dropping previous attempts to learn Python. Context is a really good motivator. (The current Unit 5 is continuing this holistic trend by delving into algorithm analysis, which happens to be the same thing I’m teaching in my Discrete Structures class now.)

      Unit 3 was rough. There were over 40 videos to watch, and two of the homework assignments that had to do with refining the fledgling web crawler program we are writing were just completely over my head. I also realized that I fall into the same trap as my students do: I procrastinate rather than budget my time. What I should have done was sit down for the first two evenings after the unit was released and plow through 20 videos at a time, then spend the remaining 5 days working on 1-2 homework problems a night. What I did was wait until 3 days before the homework was due to start on the videos. The good news is that I got 100% on all the homework I submitted. The bad news is that I only attempts 3/4 of the problems. So it was rough primarily because it reminds me that I’m just like any other student in terms of my tendency not to use time wisely. I’m hoping that can be converted into something positive.

      Unit 4 was better. It was shorter, for one thing, and the material was new and interesting for me. “Learn more about computer networks” has been on my Someday/Maybe list for I don’t know how long, and I have finally actually learned more about them. The discussion of data structures was useful too, because I’m learning Python partially to write some software to help study columnar transposition ciphers, and the question of what’s the right data structure in Python to represent permutations of finite sets has come up with me before. As I mentioned before, having a specific project in mind when you learn something is a powerful way to stay engaged when learning it.

      I’m slowly starting not to suck as a programmer, I think. I’m still a newbie, and my Discrete Structures students would probably crack up laughing at my attempts at coding. But when we had to write a program in Unit 3 to check the validity of a Sudoku problem — a “three gold star” problem, meaning extra-high difficulty level — and I managed to put together a procedure that works and does so in a nice, clean, organized way, I began to feel that this whole Udacity idea is actually working.

      Continued in article

      Bob Jensen's threads on distance education and training alternatives ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      Wikipedia Online --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

      Britannica Online --- http://www.britannica.com/

      The End of History on Library Reference Shelves:  Bound Volumes of Britannica are Frozen in Time in the Early Decade of the 21st Century

      "Can Britannica Rule the Web? Despite Wikipedia, more people pay to access the encyclopedia website annually than paid for the print edition in any year," by L. Gordon Crovitz, The Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2012 ---
      http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304692804577285411517536598.html?mod=djemEditorialPage_t

      How would you have written the encyclopedia entry about last week's news that the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which was first published in 1768, has stopped putting out a printed version? The media naturally focused on this fact alone—the loss of the printed volume. The more interesting story is whether Britannica can survive online.

      Those of us who grew up with the leather volumes tend toward nostalgia. In the pre-digital era, Britannica was the definitive way to impart and search information. The surprise is that for many people Britannica remains a key way to find authoritative knowledge online at a time when Wikipedia is a top-10 website.

      In the peak year of 1990, 120,000 sets of the printed Britannica were sold; only 8,000 sets of the 2010 edition have been sold. Yet a company representative says 500,000 subscribers pay some $70 a year for unlimited access to its website. This means that despite the free alternative of Wikipedia, more people pay to access Britannica online annually than paid for the print version in any year. The company estimates that "tens of millions of people around the world" also have access to the online version through their library, school or college.

      This is remarkable considering the great success of Wikipedia, which covers many more topics—in English, four million versus the Britannica's fewer than 100,000—by letting anyone post or update entries, with mostly volunteer editors vetting the results. Britannica hopes there is a place for a brand that claims to be authoritative instead of crowd-sourced.

      Britannica has 100 full-time editors who have worked with contributors over the years such as Albert Einstein, Milton Friedman and Alfred Hitchcock (who replied "98.6" when asked by Britannica to list his degrees on its contributor information form). Britannica's marketing division says, "There's no such thing as a bad question—but there are bad answers." In 2008, company president Jorge Cauz told the New Yorker, "Wikipedia is to Britannica as 'American Idol' is to the Juilliard School." (This quote appears in the Wikipedia entry on Mr. Cauz.)

      An anecdotal comparison of Britannica and Wikipedia shows the value of the premium source, but also the generally high quality of the crowd-sourced edition. The Britannica entry on itself comes to 30 pages when printed out, while Wikipedia has 23 pages; Britannica covers Wikipedia in three pages while Wikipedia has 39 pages on itself. The Wikipedia entry on the solar system, at 23 pages, is twice as long as the Britannica version. Evolution has a 61-page entry in the Britannica, by a University of California scholar, while Wikipedia has 44 pages, including an exhaustive 288 footnotes.

      Still, length is not always the best indicator of value. Britannica has a well-crafted, six-page entry on economist Friedrich Hayek, for example, compared with a 15-page Wikipedia entry that includes random anecdotes alongside more serious analysis, reflecting the group wiki-effort based on consensus rather than a unified approach to a topic.

      On the other hand, if you're more interested in actress Salma Hayek, Britannica has less than one page ("known for her sultry good looks and intelligence"), compared with Wikipedia's 11 pages, which include exhaustive detail on her films, TV appearances and charitable work. If you're interested in the foot ailment Morton's Neuroma, Wikipedia has a more complete entry than the Mayo Clinic's, and Britannica has none.

      The Wikimedia Foundation that oversees Wikipedia has its own worries. Its strategic plan, posted online, says its biggest risk is the declining number of volunteer editors. Many entries include cautions that the reliability of information hasn't been confirmed. "Declining participation is by far the most serious problem facing the Wikimedia projects," the group says. "The success of the projects is entirely dependent upon a thriving, healthy editing community."

      Another related issue: "Risk of editorial scandal can't be mitigated; there is an inherent level of risk that we cannot sidestep." This is especially true as Wikipedia adds new languages and countries, including many that censor results. It's not clear that the volunteer model is sustainable, though few would have imagined that Wikipedia could grow to have a goal for this year of serving one billion online readers with 50 million articles in some 280 languages.

      Britannica remains a profitable business, especially after dropping its print version, but to survive it will have to be the most accurate source—and make the case that authoritative sources matter. For Wikipedia, the challenge is whether volunteers can sustain what has become the world's largest compendium of facts and sometimes knowledge.

      Continued in article

      Jensen Comment
      Hurried scholars should begin with Wikipedia and then do a fact check in the online Britannica. However, this can be disappointing since there are millions of topics covered in Wikipedia that are not covered in Britannica, particularly biographies of contemporary people. Of course serious scholars should also dig much deeper than what can be found in encyclopedias. Hopefully, such scholars will also contribute their findings to both Wikipedia and Britannca. This includes language translations.

      Bob Jensen's threads on how scholars search the Web ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Searchh.htm#Scholars 

      Bob Jensen's search helpers are at
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Searchh.htm

    • Robert E Jensen

      Competency-Based College Credit --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Assess.htm#ECA

      "Online Education Is Everywhere. What’s the Next Big Thing?" by Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 31, 2011 ---
      http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/online-education-is-everywhere-whats-the-next-big-thing/32898?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      Western Governors University (a nonprofit, competency- based online university) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Governors_University
      Also see http://www.wgu.edu/home2

      New Charter University (a for-profit, self-paced, competency-based online university) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Charter_University

      "No Financial Aid, No Problem. For-Profit University Sets $199-a-Month Tuition for Online Courses," by Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 29, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/No-Financial-Aid-No-Problem/131329/?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      It's a higher-education puzzle: Students are flocking to Western Governors University, driving growth of 30 to 40 percent each year. You might expect that competitors would be clamoring to copy the nonprofit online institution's model, which focuses on whether students can show "competencies" rather than on counting how much time they've spent in class.

      So why haven't they?

      Two reasons, says the education entrepreneur Gene Wade. One, financial-aid regulatory problems that arise with self-paced models that aren't based on seat time. And two, opposition to how Western Governors changes the role of professor, chopping it into "course mentors" who help students master material, and graders who evaluate homework but do no teaching.

      Mr. Wade hopes to clear those obstacles with a start-up company, UniversityNow, that borrows ideas from Western Governors while offering fresh twists on the model. One is cost. The for-profit's new venture—New Charter University, led by Sal Monaco, a former Western Governors provost—sidesteps the loan system by setting tuition so cheap that most students shouldn't need to borrow. The price: $796 per semester, or $199 a month, for as many classes as they can finish.

      "This is not buying a house," says Mr. Wade, co-founder and chief executive of UniversityNow. "This is like, do I want to get cable?"

      Another novelty: New Charter offers a try-it-before-you-buy-it platform that mimics the "freemium" model of many consumer Web services. Anyone can create an account and start working through its self-paced online courses free of charge. Their progress gets recorded. If they decide to pay up and enroll, they get access to an adviser (who helps navigate the university) and course specialists (who can discuss the material). They also get to take proctored online tests for course credit.

      The project is the latest in a series of experiments that use technology to rethink the economics of higher education, from the $99-a-month introductory courses of StraighterLine to the huge free courses provided through Stanford and MIT.

      For years, some analysts have argued that ready access to Pell Grants and federal loans actually props up colleges prices, notes Michael B. Horn, executive director for education at Innosight Institute, a think tank focused on innovation. That's because institutions have little incentive to charge anything beneath the floor set by available financial aid.

      "Gene and his team are basically saying, the heck with that—we're going to go around it. We think people can afford it if we offer it at this low a price," Mr. Horn says. "That could be revolutionary."

      Yet the project faces tall hurdles: Will employers value these degrees? Will students sign on? And, with a university that lacks regional accreditation right now­—New Charter is nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council, and is considering seeking regional accreditation—will students be able to transfer its credits?

      Mr. Wade banks on appealing to working adults who crave easier access to education. When asked who he views as the competition, his reply is "the line out the door at community college." In California, where Mr. Wade is based, nearly 140,000 first-time students at two-year institutions couldn't get into any courses at all during the previous academic year, according to a recent Los Angeles Times editorial about the impact of state budget cuts.

      Mr. Wade himself benefited from a first-class education, despite being raised without much money in a housing project in a tough section of Boston. Growing up there, during an era when the city underwent forced busing to integrate its schools, felt like watching a "train wreck" but walking away unscathed. He attended high school at the prestigious Boston Latin School. With assistance from Project REACH, a program to help Boston minorities succeed in higher education, he went to Morehouse College. From there his path included a J.D. from Harvard Law, an M.B.A. from Wharton, and a career as an education entrepreneur.

      The 42-year-old founded two earlier companies: LearnNow, a charter-school-management outfit that was sold to Edison Schools, and Platform Learning, a tutoring firm that served low-income students. So far, he's raised about $8 million from investors for UniversityNow, whose New Charter subsidiary is a rebranded, redesigned, and relocated version of an online institution once called Andrew Jackson University. Breaking a Traditional Mold

      To build the software, Mr. Wade looked beyond the traditional world of educational technology, recruiting developers from companies like Google. Signing up for the university feels more like creating an account with a Web platform like Facebook than the laborious process of starting a traditional program—in fact, New Charter lets you join with your Facebook ID. Students, whether paying or not, start each class by taking an assessment to establish whether they're ready for the course and what material within it they need to work on. Based on that, the system creates a pathway to guide them through the content. They skip stuff that they already know.

      That was part of the appeal for Ruben Fragoso, who signed up for New Charter's M.B.A. program three weeks ago after stumbling on the university while Googling for information about online degrees. Mr. Fragoso, 53, lives in Albuquerque and works full time as a logistics coordinator for a solar power company. The Mexican-born father of two earned a bachelor's degree 12 years ago from Excelsior College. With New Charter, he mostly teaches himself, hunkering down in his home office after dinner to read and take quizzes. By week three, he hadn't interacted with any other students, and his instructor contact had been limited to a welcome e-mail. That was fine by him.

      He likes that he can adjust his schedule to whatever fits—one course at a time if a subject is tough, or maybe three if he prefers. His company's education benefits—up to $5,000 a year—cover the whole thing. With years of business experience, he appreciates the option of heading quickly to a final test on a subject that is familiar to him.

      Continued in article

      US News Rankings --- http://www.usnews.com/rankings

      US News Top Online Education Programs --- http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education
      Do not confuse this with the US News project to evaluate for-profit universities --- a project hampered by refusal of many for-profit universities to provide data

      'Honor Roll' From 'U.S. News' of Online Graduate Programs in Business

      Institution Teaching Practices and Student Engagement Student Services and Technology Faculty Credentials and Training Admissions Selectivity
      Arizona State U., W.P. Carey School of Business 24 32 37 11
      Arkansas State U. 9 21 1 36
      Brandman U. (Part of the Chapman U. system) 40 24 29 n/a
      Central Michigan U. 11 3 56 9
      Clarkson U. 4 24 2 23
      Florida Institute of Technology 43 16 23 n/a
      Gardner-Webb U. 27 1 15 n/a
      George Washington U. 20 9 7 n/a
      Indiana U. at Bloomington, Kelley School of Business 29 19 40 3
      Marist College 67 23 6 5
      Quinnipiac U. 6 4 13 16
      Temple U., Fox School of Business 39 8 17 34
      U. of Houston-Clear Lake 8 21 18 n/a
      U. of Mississippi 37 44 20 n/a

      Source: U.S. News & World Report

      Jensen Comment
      I don't know why the largest for-profit universities that generally provide more online degrees than the above universities combined are not included in the final outcomes. For example, the University of Phoenix alone as has over 600,000 students, most of whom are taking some or all online courses.

      My guess is that most for-profit universities are not forthcoming with the data requested by US News analysts. Note that the US News condition that the set of online programs to be considered be regionally accredited does not exclude many for-profit universities. For example, enter in such for-profit names as "University of Phoenix" or "Capella University" in the "College Search" box at
      http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-phoenix-20988
      These universities are included in the set of eligible regionally accredited online degree programs to be evaluated. They just did not do well in the above "Honor Roll" of outcomes for online degree programs.

      For-profit universities may have shot themselves in the foot by not providing the evaluation data to US News for online degree program evaluation. But there may b e reasons for this. For example, one of the big failings of most for-profit online degree programs is in undergraduate "Admissions Selectivity."  

      Bob Jensen's threads on distance education training and education alternatives are at
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on ranking controversies are at
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#BusinessSchoolRankings

      Bob Jensen's threads on distance education ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#DistanceEducation

      For-Profit Universities Operating in the Gray Zone of Fraud ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#ForProfitFraud

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      Competency-Based College Credit --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Assess.htm#ECA

      "Online Education Is Everywhere. What’s the Next Big Thing?" by Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 31, 2011 ---
      http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/online-education-is-everywhere-whats-the-next-big-thing/32898?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      Western Governors University (a nonprofit, competency- based online university) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Governors_University
      Also see http://www.wgu.edu/home2

      New Charter University (a for-profit, self-paced, competency-based online university) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Charter_University

      "No Financial Aid, No Problem. For-Profit University Sets $199-a-Month Tuition for Online Courses," by Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 29, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/No-Financial-Aid-No-Problem/131329/?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      It's a higher-education puzzle: Students are flocking to Western Governors University, driving growth of 30 to 40 percent each year. You might expect that competitors would be clamoring to copy the nonprofit online institution's model, which focuses on whether students can show "competencies" rather than on counting how much time they've spent in class.

      So why haven't they?

      Two reasons, says the education entrepreneur Gene Wade. One, financial-aid regulatory problems that arise with self-paced models that aren't based on seat time. And two, opposition to how Western Governors changes the role of professor, chopping it into "course mentors" who help students master material, and graders who evaluate homework but do no teaching.

      Mr. Wade hopes to clear those obstacles with a start-up company, UniversityNow, that borrows ideas from Western Governors while offering fresh twists on the model. One is cost. The for-profit's new venture—New Charter University, led by Sal Monaco, a former Western Governors provost—sidesteps the loan system by setting tuition so cheap that most students shouldn't need to borrow. The price: $796 per semester, or $199 a month, for as many classes as they can finish.

      "This is not buying a house," says Mr. Wade, co-founder and chief executive of UniversityNow. "This is like, do I want to get cable?"

      Another novelty: New Charter offers a try-it-before-you-buy-it platform that mimics the "freemium" model of many consumer Web services. Anyone can create an account and start working through its self-paced online courses free of charge. Their progress gets recorded. If they decide to pay up and enroll, they get access to an adviser (who helps navigate the university) and course specialists (who can discuss the material). They also get to take proctored online tests for course credit.

      The project is the latest in a series of experiments that use technology to rethink the economics of higher education, from the $99-a-month introductory courses of StraighterLine to the huge free courses provided through Stanford and MIT.

      For years, some analysts have argued that ready access to Pell Grants and federal loans actually props up colleges prices, notes Michael B. Horn, executive director for education at Innosight Institute, a think tank focused on innovation. That's because institutions have little incentive to charge anything beneath the floor set by available financial aid.

      "Gene and his team are basically saying, the heck with that—we're going to go around it. We think people can afford it if we offer it at this low a price," Mr. Horn says. "That could be revolutionary."

      Yet the project faces tall hurdles: Will employers value these degrees? Will students sign on? And, with a university that lacks regional accreditation right now­—New Charter is nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council, and is considering seeking regional accreditation—will students be able to transfer its credits?

      Mr. Wade banks on appealing to working adults who crave easier access to education. When asked who he views as the competition, his reply is "the line out the door at community college." In California, where Mr. Wade is based, nearly 140,000 first-time students at two-year institutions couldn't get into any courses at all during the previous academic year, according to a recent Los Angeles Times editorial about the impact of state budget cuts.

      Mr. Wade himself benefited from a first-class education, despite being raised without much money in a housing project in a tough section of Boston. Growing up there, during an era when the city underwent forced busing to integrate its schools, felt like watching a "train wreck" but walking away unscathed. He attended high school at the prestigious Boston Latin School. With assistance from Project REACH, a program to help Boston minorities succeed in higher education, he went to Morehouse College. From there his path included a J.D. from Harvard Law, an M.B.A. from Wharton, and a career as an education entrepreneur.

      The 42-year-old founded two earlier companies: LearnNow, a charter-school-management outfit that was sold to Edison Schools, and Platform Learning, a tutoring firm that served low-income students. So far, he's raised about $8 million from investors for UniversityNow, whose New Charter subsidiary is a rebranded, redesigned, and relocated version of an online institution once called Andrew Jackson University. Breaking a Traditional Mold

      To build the software, Mr. Wade looked beyond the traditional world of educational technology, recruiting developers from companies like Google. Signing up for the university feels more like creating an account with a Web platform like Facebook than the laborious process of starting a traditional program—in fact, New Charter lets you join with your Facebook ID. Students, whether paying or not, start each class by taking an assessment to establish whether they're ready for the course and what material within it they need to work on. Based on that, the system creates a pathway to guide them through the content. They skip stuff that they already know.

      That was part of the appeal for Ruben Fragoso, who signed up for New Charter's M.B.A. program three weeks ago after stumbling on the university while Googling for information about online degrees. Mr. Fragoso, 53, lives in Albuquerque and works full time as a logistics coordinator for a solar power company. The Mexican-born father of two earned a bachelor's degree 12 years ago from Excelsior College. With New Charter, he mostly teaches himself, hunkering down in his home office after dinner to read and take quizzes. By week three, he hadn't interacted with any other students, and his instructor contact had been limited to a welcome e-mail. That was fine by him.

      He likes that he can adjust his schedule to whatever fits—one course at a time if a subject is tough, or maybe three if he prefers. His company's education benefits—up to $5,000 a year—cover the whole thing. With years of business experience, he appreciates the option of heading quickly to a final test on a subject that is familiar to him.

      Continued in article

      US News Rankings --- http://www.usnews.com/rankings

      US News Top Online Education Programs --- http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education
      Do not confuse this with the US News project to evaluate for-profit universities --- a project hampered by refusal of many for-profit universities to provide data

      'Honor Roll' From 'U.S. News' of Online Graduate Programs in Business

      Institution Teaching Practices and Student Engagement Student Services and Technology Faculty Credentials and Training Admissions Selectivity
      Arizona State U., W.P. Carey School of Business 24 32 37 11
      Arkansas State U. 9 21 1 36
      Brandman U. (Part of the Chapman U. system) 40 24 29 n/a
      Central Michigan U. 11 3 56 9
      Clarkson U. 4 24 2 23
      Florida Institute of Technology 43 16 23 n/a
      Gardner-Webb U. 27 1 15 n/a
      George Washington U. 20 9 7 n/a
      Indiana U. at Bloomington, Kelley School of Business 29 19 40 3
      Marist College 67 23 6 5
      Quinnipiac U. 6 4 13 16
      Temple U., Fox School of Business 39 8 17 34
      U. of Houston-Clear Lake 8 21 18 n/a
      U. of Mississippi 37 44 20 n/a

      Source: U.S. News & World Report

      Jensen Comment
      I don't know why the largest for-profit universities that generally provide more online degrees than the above universities combined are not included in the final outcomes. For example, the University of Phoenix alone as has over 600,000 students, most of whom are taking some or all online courses.

      My guess is that most for-profit universities are not forthcoming with the data requested by US News analysts. Note that the US News condition that the set of online programs to be considered be regionally accredited does not exclude many for-profit universities. For example, enter in such for-profit names as "University of Phoenix" or "Capella University" in the "College Search" box at
      http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-phoenix-20988
      These universities are included in the set of eligible regionally accredited online degree programs to be evaluated. They just did not do well in the above "Honor Roll" of outcomes for online degree programs.

      For-profit universities may have shot themselves in the foot by not providing the evaluation data to US News for online degree program evaluation. But there may b e reasons for this. For example, one of the big failings of most for-profit online degree programs is in undergraduate "Admissions Selectivity."  

      Bob Jensen's threads on distance education training and education alternatives are at
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on ranking controversies are at
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#BusinessSchoolRankings

      Bob Jensen's threads on distance education ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#DistanceEducation

      For-Profit Universities Operating in the Gray Zone of Fraud ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#ForProfitFraud

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Professor Hopes to Support Free Course With Kickstarter, the ‘Crowd Funding’ Site," by Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 29, 2012 --- Click Here
      http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/professor-hopes-to-support-free-course-with-kickstarter-the-crowd-funding-site/35864?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      Free online courses for the masses are all the rage—and many are being run by start-ups hoping to profit by selling related materials and services. Jim Groom thinks that’s too commercial, so he’s raising money for the online course he co-teaches at the University of Mary Washington using Kickstarter, the popular “crowd funding” service.

      In a campaign released today, the professor makes his plea in an irreverent video that mixes in clips from a 90s true-crime show, and video interviews with students and professors shot from unusual angles. He explains that last year he ran the course, which is on digital storytelling and is called DS106, using his own equipment. But the class has grown so large that he needs a new server to keep it going, and he estimates that will cost him $2,900.

      He’s asking for contributions ranging from $1 to $3,000, and those who give will get what he describes as “DS106 schwag”—a T-shirt, a bumper sticker, or a desk calendar with a different creative assignment for each day. Some of the rewards reflect the quirky nature of the course itself: For $100 you can have one of the course assignments named after you.

      The campaign will run for a couple of weeks. If he hasn’t met his goal of $4,200 (a price that figures in the server cost and the price of the schwag), then the project gets nothing and all of those who pledged keep their money. If the target is met, the deal is on. If the goal is exceeded, he says he will use the extra money to add other enhancements to the course.

      In an interview this week, Mr. Groom stressed that the course is “not about him,” and he criticized the way some massive online courses rely on what amounts to a celebrity professor to attract students. He used the word “community” frequently to describe the group of professors and students involved in the course.

      The idea for the campaign came from Tim Owens, another instructional technologist at Mary Washington. “I’ve wanted to do a Kickstarter for so long, but I’ve never been able to think of what could we do,” he said. When he heard Mr. Groom wondering where they could come up with $2,900, he suggested the crowd-funding site.

      Mr. Groom argues that crowd funding could be a model for other free online-education projects. Even some of the largest, such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare effort, have mostly relied on grants for support and have struggled to find a long-term way to stay afloat.

      “It’s like a PBS model” of pledge drives, Mr. Groom said.

      The Chronicle asked the folks at Kickstarter whether other educational efforts have used the site to raise money. A representative from the company pointed us to these five campaigns, all of which succeeded:

      SmartHistory: Raised $11,513 for a Web site created by two art historians.

      Punk Mathematics: Raised 28,701 for a book of mathematical stories.

      Open Educational Resources for Typography: Raised $13,088 to develop teaching materials for courses on typography.

      Trade School: Raised $9,133 to run a program that turns storefronts into temporary trade schools.

      Brooklyn Brainery: Raised $9,629 to set up a collaborative school whose courses would cost $25 for four weeks.

      Bob Jensen's threads on Tools and Tricks of the Trade ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/thetools.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on the growth of distance education ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#DistanceEducation

      Bob Jensen's threads on alternatives for distance education and training ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm