Federal online college regulations have new life

The U.S. Department of Education took new steps in November to reinstate federal online learning regulations that have drawn the ire of many online learning institutions.

regulations-online-educationThe department announced on Nov. 20 that it is creating a Negotiated Rulemaking Committee to contemplate regulations for “state authorization for programs offered through distance education.”

The regulatory hoops institutions must jump through when serving students outside their states can already be numerous, but in 2010 the Department of Education released new regulations that linked state authorization to federal financial aid.

In June 2012, after a series of lawsuits challenging the regulation, the authorization was vacated by the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals, but many educators and observers expected it to be reinstated.

The assembling of the Negotiated Rulemaking Committee nudges that reinstatement closer to a reality.

The Department is seeking nominations for members of the committee, which is expected to complete its work by April 25. A draft of the regulations would then be released for public comment before being finalized as early as fall 2014.

Russ Poulin, deputy director of research and analysis at the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, said the deadline for institutions to be authorized will likely come much sooner rather than later.

“The department has put the institutions on notice for years now since 2010, so it may end up being a fairly short deadline to become authorized,” Poulin said. “It won’t be a really long timeline after they’ve released the final regulations.”

The costs of complying – and consequences for not – can be steep for institutions offering distance learning outside of their home states.

See page 2 for details on what consequences college could face if they aren’t prepared for the federal rules…


The failure of Udacity: lessons on MOOC quality

The promise was simple, but the idea couldn’t have been bigger.


Udacity founder called the company’s courses a ‘lousy product.’

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) would make courses from Harvard and MIT available free to anyone with an internet connection.

The world’s poor would finally have access to the same education as American ivy league students, while traditional fee paying higher education would go the way of relics like CDs and sailing ships.

Massive open online education provider Udacity was one of those promising such change. In the past, Udacity’s founder Sebastian Thrun claimed MOOCs would spell the end of the conventional higher education model and transform access to knowledge.

Despite the big promises, retention rates in Udacity courses have been abysmal and those that did make it through were already those with bachelor degrees. Now Udacity has decided to charge money for their certified courses, leaving behind their claims of free quality higher education for all.

As leading technology-enhanced learning expert George Siemens described it: “[Thrun] promised us a bright future of open learning. He delivered to us something along the lines of a 1990s corporate e-learning program.”

Even Thrun himself has now admitted that Udacity is “a lousy product.”

So where did it all go wrong for Thrun and Udacity? And why, when it comes to online education, did we ignore education experts, and listen to Silicon Valley instead?

A cheaper, faster education

Ultimately, the outcome of higher learning cannot be made cheaper and faster any more than you can expect to improve physical fitness if you cut corners at the gym.

While there are myriad products and services claiming a fast, cheap route to fitness, nothing is as effective as time and/or intensity pumping iron or going on the treadmill.

Similarly, if students don’t put in the right kind of work, with the right guidance and expend sufficient cognitive effort, they will not see results.


Texas Tech University System Implements Ellucian® Banner® Data Defense to Help Protect Personal Data, Institutional Assets, and Reputation

FAIRFAX, Va. – December 2, 2013 – Texas Tech University System is implementing Ellucian® Banner® Data Defense to help protect against increasingly sophisticated attacks to obtain Personally Identifiable Information (PII). The system is implementing the solution to help protect sensitive data, health services information, and other institutional assets at four campuses: Texas Tech University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Centers in Lubbock and El Paso, and Angelo State University.

“Our investment in the solution helps protect us against the risk of an attack, and against the costs that we would incur if we had a breach. In addition to the financial impact, a breach can damage the reputation of the system and diminish the trust of the people who are impacted,” said Kay Rhodes, associate vice chancellor and chief information officer, Texas Tech University System. “We want to protect the valuable personal data that people entrust to us.”

Banner Data Defense is a bundled, multi-layer defense software package that is complemented by best-practice services for Banner by Ellucian customers. It combines Oracle Advanced Security with transparent data encryption software, and the Oracle Audit Vault and Database Firewall to help ensure data privacy, protect against threats, and maintain regulatory compliance. The package is enhanced by Banner-specific database scripts, documentation and reports, installation and configuration scripts, and best-practice implementation advice from Ellucian’s services team.

“Hackers and penetrations are going deeper than before. We need to protect at the data element level in addition to application / network access,” said Jim Brunjes, vice chancellor and chief financial officer for the Texas Tech University System. “Our colleges have well-regarded reputations for their engineering and sciences programs. If we have a data breach, people would question the quality of our programs if we couldn’t protect our own data.”

Purchase of the solution was driven in part by members of the Board of Regents who are concerned about the increasing number of intrusions on networks and data. Banner Data Defense was attractive to the board because it is fully integrated with Banner by Ellucian.

“The leadership of Texas Tech University System understands the strategic need to implement a comprehensive database security solution to help thwart attacks rather than spend precious resources undoing significant damage to their assets and reputation following a breach,” said Brian Knotts, senior vice president, chief architect, Ellucian. “Only Ellucian has the knowledge of Banner and Oracle systems that is necessary to implement this multi-layered solution fully and with minimal disruption to users.”

About Ellucian
Ellucian helps education institutions thrive in an open and dynamic world. We deliver a broad portfolio of technology solutions, developed in collaboration with a global education community, and provide strategic guidance to help education institutions of all kinds navigate change, achieve greater transparency, and drive efficiencies. More than 2,400 institutions in 40 countries around the world look to Ellucian for the ideas and insights that will move education forward, helping people everywhere discover their futures through learning. Visit Ellucian at www.ellucian.com, follow Ellucian on Twitter (@EllucianInc), and like Ellucian on Facebook (/EllucianInc).

Banner® and Ellucian®, are trademarks of Ellucian Company L.P. or its affiliates and are registered in the U.S. and other countries. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners. © 2009–2013 Ellucian Company L.P. and its affiliates.


Adapt Courseware Launches First Business Administration Offerings

Rochester, NY – December 2, 2013 – Adapt Courseware, the provider of comprehensive adaptive online curriculum resources that individualize each student’s learning experience, has added Organizational Behavior and Financial Accounting to its expanded catalog of adaptive learning offerings. The release of these core business administration requirements helps colleges and universities meet student demand, while at the same time enabling them to deliver a more engaging and productive learning experience for the growing number of students who are pursuing business degrees.

“Business administration continues to be one of the most popular college majors today – even students who are working towards other degrees often take business courses as a foundation for real-world literacy and on-the-job preparation,” said Dr. John Boersma, CEO of Adapt Courseware and a former university faculty member. “By collaborating with and gathering input from college and university leaders, we’ve been able to create and implement a curriculum development plan that increases access to the courses students need and want most.”

Additional planned business administration offerings scheduled to launch next include Statistics, Principles of Marketing, Macroeconomics, and Microeconomics. Adapt Courseware’s extensive course roadmap also includes humanities, social sciences and mathematics requirements.

Adapt Courseware follows a strict instructional design process that includes a cooperative effort among leading subject matter experts, academic content developers, peer reviewers, and multimedia production teams. Each curriculum resource relies on five evidence-based instructional principles, including effective multimedia, mastery learning, optimal challenge, student choice, and social learning, engaging and motivating students in unprecedented ways.

Adapt Courseware’s approach facilitates learning through dynamic lectures, logical and succinct text, and hands-on, digital multimedia interactives. For example, instead of completing a standard online multiple choice assessment in Organizational Behavior, a student using Adapt Courseware has the opportunity to describe and predict group dynamics based on relevant examples and case studies.

“The ability for students to become more active learners helps them not only achieve their goals in school, but it also helps them develop critical thinking and correlation skills that will help them succeed professionally,” commented Dr. Boersma.

About Adapt Courseware
Adapt Courseware individualizes the learning experience for each student based on academic abilities and needs. The company offers complete, customizable, adaptive online curriculum resources that combine proven learning science with advanced multimedia techniques to help students achieve mastery learning. With Adapt Courseware, colleges and universities can realize measurable learning outcomes, increased student retention, and higher student satisfaction.

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The MOOC marketplace takes off

The MOOC market (Massive Open Online Courses) has exploded. This month Coursera landed another $20M in funding, bringing their total investment to $63M (even more than edX‘s original $60M funding by MIT and Harvard).

Why all the investment? Because this market opportunity is massive and building these online courses is expensive.

There are more than 2 billion potential learners around the world today, and more than 70% of these are unable to afford a college degree. And today a college degree is more important than ever: McKinsey believes college-educated workers will have a three-fold advantage in salaries and opportunities by 2020.

Adding to this hot market for college, there are hundreds of millions of post-secondary students and professionals who will flock to branded degree courses in a huge way. As the MOOC certification market matures these individuals will find online education more and more valuable every quarter (note below that LinkedIn is helping with this process).

While many people have commented on the low completion rates for MOOCs and even Sebastian Thrun of Udacity is unhappy with his courses’s impact, this space is poised to grow very rapidly.

Read more


Student recruitment as MOOC business model

The University of London has recently declared its MOOC business model a success. Is it really?


Campus officials have studied Georgia Tech’s MOOC business model.

The University has offered four MOOCs to an unlimited number of students, and attracted 210,000 people from 160 countries.

Barney Grainger, acadaemic project manager for University of London International Programmes, says: “…we have received, at this point, 45 expressions of interest in our degree courses from students who have taken one of our MOOCs.”

He adds: “The fact that there is a conversion from MOOC learning to seeking full degrees would indicate that our outlay on these MOOCs has, in fact, been justified. Our learning journey has commenced, and the MOOC business model can work,” Grainger says.

Let’s see: 45 out of 210,000 = .000214, or 2.1 per 10,000. And we are only talking about leads, not conversions. No magazine subscription or mail order catalog campaign would call that rate of response a success.

But what is a success in MOOCville?

Let’s first consider the Georgia Tech model, where the all MOOC masters degree program in computer science costs $7,000. Forty-five actual students (not ‘requests for information) would generate $315,000 in revenues. Not much, but the marginal cost of the next student = $0. So much depends on scale-up.

Suppose instead these prospective students enroll in costly F2F on-campus programs with fixed costs already sunk, thus adding little marginal cost per student.


How educators can narrow Big Data skills gap

A lot has been written about the shortage of data scientists, and how universities can do a better job of training the next generation of big data experts.

But what role should K-12 education play in this effort? According to Ken Chelst, professor of operations research at Wayne State University in Detroit, one critical problem today is that Americans lack the analytics skills to solve everyday problems.

“I have two goals: To get more people interested in this stuff as a career, and I’m equally interested in creating educated consumers of advanced analytics,” said Chelst in a phone interview with InformationWeek.

Chelst is actively involved with the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS), a 10,000-member international organization of analytics professionals. Earlier this year, the organization launched its certified analytics professional (CAP) program, which is designed to provide the rigorous certification needed for big data careers.

Read more


Online classes require new quality controls

The University of Oregon needs at least three things to elevate its game in online education: easy-to-use software to present courses, a sure way to proctor exams to eliminate cheating by online students, and a means of judging the quality of an online course, The Register-Guard reports.

Both the UO and Oregon State University are on the verge of replacing their “learning management system” called Blackboard. Blackboard is a website where students log onto course Web pages, whether the courses are offered on campus or online.

“Blackboard is a rickety piece of software,” said Ian McNeely, a UO history associate professor and associate dean of undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences.

A new learning system would, ideally, be easy for students to navigate, robust enough to hold and run course content such as videos or even learning games, and within the universities’ means. Both the UO and OSU are in the process of seeking better systems.

Read more


eCN special report: Powering the mobile campus

Jordan Maynor, a freshman at Southern Illinois University (SIU), was one of 2,700 incoming students to get a tablet computer from the university when he set foot on campus this fall.


Educators are striving to get ahead of mobile technology trends.

The 18-year-old from Mount Vernon Township, Ill., says he uses the device every single day. He uses it to take notes in class, and to get instant information about campus events.

“I can even see when my laundry is done on it,” he said. “It’s been extremely helpful to me so far.”

Like Jordan, who owned a smart phone before enrolling at SIU, the students entering college today are too young to remember a time when they could not connect, communicate, and explore instantly—from wherever they might be, at all hours of the day—using a smart phone, tablet, or other mobile device.

These “digital natives” expect the same kind of access to information in the palm of their hand when they arrive on campus—and college and university officials know they must respond to this demand if they want to attract and retain students.

Having mobile access to key campus services is “the deciding factor for a lot of students” in choosing a college, said David Crain, assistant provost and chief information officer for SIU.

A 20,000-student public research university in Carbondale, Ill., SIU gets many of its students from the nearby Chicago Public Schools, Crain said. Because Chicago’s K-12 school system has made a substantial investment in tablet computers for its instructional programs, its graduates are becoming accustomed to learning on the go.

“We believe tablets and eTexts are the wave of the future,” Crain said, “and we want to be on the front of that wave.”

With that goal in mind, SIU distributed tablets and electronic textbooks to 2,700 incoming freshmen this fall as part of its Mobile Dawg project.