UT Austin and SMOCs: What these synchronous courses look like and cost

Last month we shared a video describing how the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin is taking a different approach than some of the courseware-based or other course redesign efforts. In many of these other redesigns, there is an emphasis on the asynchronous elements of lab section and lecture preparation and even fully flipping the classroom (no lectures in class on the course content). In contrast, the UT Austin approach to improving the large lecture course centers on SMOCs – Synchronous Massive Online Courses – where the core of the redesign centers on the synchronous course lecture. Watch episode 1 to get a better feel of what problem they are trying to solve and how this SMOC approach appears to keep faculty in their traditional role, albeit with additional preparation time and video production.

In this episode, we’re taking a deeper look at how SMOCs work as well as high-level course design costs.

(Video source: https://youtu.be/MAHm_JU6upU)

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New Release of European LMS Market Report

Our Spring 2016 LMS Market Report from our new LMS subscription service focused mostly on the United States and Canada. The LMS market, however is increasingly global in nature. LMS suppliers rely on markets outside of US and Canada for growth, and Moodle in particular has a long history of global adoption. Maintaining a US/Canadian view without additional data can be misleading when forecasting the roadmaps and future states of various LMS solutions.

What we haven’t had until now is a view of the LMS market in Europe. Thanks to our partnership with LISTedTECH, we can now share data from more than 1,600 higher education institutions throughout Europe and provide the first independent market analysis for this region. While this report and future analysis is part of the LMS subscription service, we are sharing the initial version freely with a CC-BY license. Continue reading

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The Remarkable Transformation at UF Online

The University of Florida, based on a plan created by the state legislature, started UF Online in 2013. The original business plan was a case study in optimistic enrollment planning and the road-to-riches through online education. From program inception, UF Online was forecast to grow to a headcount of 24,000 students within 10 years, 43% of whom would be out-of-state high-tuition students, generating $76 million in annual revenue and $14 million of “profit”. Then reality hit. The first executive director quit, enrollment reality did not match plans, they got rid of their Online Program Management partner (Pearson), and they hired a new executive director with no higher education management experience. In my May 2015 coverage, I concluded:

UF Online seems to be institutionally-focused rather than student-focused, and the initiative is shaping up to be a case study in hubris. Without major changes in how the program is managed, including the main campus input into decisions, UF Online risks becoming the new poster child of online education failures. I honestly hope they succeed, but the current outlook is not encouraging.

In a remarkable transformation in the past year originally described at Inside Higher Ed, UF Online appears to have made “major changes to how the program is managed” and is now focusing on students and reality. Continue reading

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Recommended Reading: What Do Faculty Really Think of Online Learning?

…As it turns out, it depends.

Inside Higher Ed recently published its fifth annual  Survey of Faculty Attitudes Toward Technology, conducted in collaboration with researchers from Gallup. These reports cover a range of attitudinal questions on ed tech, online education, and new models of delivering course content. One of the key findings of this year’s report, as described in a Gallup blog,  is that there is still a high level of disagreement among faculty of the relative merits of online courses versus traditional face to face courses, but there are some important nuances to the results. The survey finds that a majority of faculty (55%) “disagree or strongly disagree” with the idea that online courses can deliver the same student outcomes that in-person courses produce. Among faculty who have actually taught online, however, there is a much more positive view of the ability for online education to match in-person courses. Continue reading

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Vendor Roles in Fostering Educational Literacies

In my last post, I talked about the need for educators in general and faculty in particular to develop literacy around data and analytics. But it’s really broader than that. Back when college was intended for a relatively small percentage of the population, the idea of “weeding out” students who couldn’t make it without help was not obviously out of alignment with its mission. Now that the mission of higher education is more about educating everyone to the benefit of everyone, having skills to help students achieve their potential should be a core competency of every teaching faculty member. That includes learning some very old skills that K12 teachers have known for ages. It also includes learning new skills that will support the growth and application of the nascent learning sciences. When I made an analogy to 19th-Century medicine in the last post, that wasn’t casual. Where we are in 21st-Century learning sciences bears a striking resemblance. We are discovering some important basic science but are barely beginning the process of figuring out how those discoveries should influence our practice. Advancing more quickly on that front will require more than a handful of data scientists working in labs. It will require the proliferation of skilled educator/clinicians who can help advance our understanding of the ways in which theory interacts with the real world of practice.

This transformation of academia, at both the individual and institutional levels, must be driven by educators, not by vendors. But vendors can serve critical support and enabling functions. In our weird role as paid and unpaid marriage counselors between universities and vendors, Phil and I get the privilege of seeing how both sides of this potential partnership are grappling with these changes both separately and in partnership. I believe that many of the most successful ed tech companies of the next decade will be the ones that figure out how to support educators in making this professional transformation. There will be many different ways to do this. I’m going to write about one example of a company grappling with this challenge today and will write about more in the future.

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