Best practices for instruction in a multi-campus course format

Decreasing enrollments and an increasing pressure to offer courses at times convenient to the increasingly busy community college student presents challenges to course scheduling. Students often need specific courses to complete their program of study. To run these course, typically a class size cap must be met. To find a solution to overcome all of these challenges, Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Penn., piloted a multi-campus classroom format.

The multi-campus classroom format enables one instructor to teach students at all three campus locations. This format relies on videoconferencing technology, a learning management system, and instructional techniques to engage students despite physical distance. To test out both the technology and pedagogy, we ran a one-course pilot in spring 2016 and a four-course pilot in fall 2016. We gathered results from the pilots via surveys and informal conversations with students and faculty, which led to an improvement in the technology and pedagogical support. With improvements in place, academic areas regularly schedule courses in the multi-campus format. As a result, 51 courses successfully ran in the multi-campus classroom format that would have otherwise been canceled due to low enrollment.

Implementing a multicampus classroom format relies on the following best practices:…Read More

New distance learning agreement draft forthcoming

The online learning drafting team hopes to have language for state legislatures to consider next year.

Drafters of an interstate agreement on distance learning in higher education are entering the final stages of creating a model agreement that would make it much easier for colleges and universities offering online classes to students from different states to get approval from those states.

The draft agreement would allow colleges and universities with online programs to meet controversial “state authorization” requirements—without the huge expense this otherwise would require. The Education Department’s state authorization rules, which would have cut off federal aid to non-compliant colleges, were struck down on a technicality by a federal appeals court earlier this year, but experts agree they could reemerge in the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The draft agreement would eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies for states and higher-education institutions by establishing “reciprocity” among states that sign onto the effort—in effect creating a single standard for online-education programs to meet in order to gain approval across state lines.…Read More

Full Sail University receives numerous honors from USDLA

In an effort to reward outstanding online institutions and brick-and-mortar schools that offer web-based programs, the U.S. Distance Learning Association (USDLA) presents honors to deserving universities, reports U.S. News & World Report. For example, the USDLA recently announced in a press release that Full Sail University won the 2011 International Distance Learning Award. This honor is annually given to organizations and individuals who demonstrate excellence in the delivery of distance education…

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Live vs. distance learning: Measuring the differences

The educational value of online courses has been debated for years, based on a large but uneven body of research. An analysis of 99 studies by the federal Department of Education concluded last year that online instruction, on average, was more effective than face-to-face learning by a modest amount. But that analysis has been challenged because so few of the underlying studies include apples-to-apples comparisons, reports the New York Times. Mark Rush of the University of Florida and colleagues tried to do just that by contrasting grades of students who sat through a semester of his live microeconomics lectures with those who watched online. Their conclusion, reported in June by the National Bureau of Economic Research: some groups of online students did notably worse. Hispanic students watching online earned a full grade lower, on average, than Hispanics who attended class, and all male students who watched online were about a half-grade lower. The results surprised the researchers; after all, the live lectures were delivered in a hall to scores of students, who rarely engaged the professor or one another. David N. Figlio, a professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University and a co-author of the study, had been prepared to find that “watching online didn’t make a lick of difference,” he said. “What we’re saying is, ‘Hang on for a second, maybe it does.’ ”

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Online education ‘convert’ honored for excellence in distance ed

Schafer said she has learned 'lots of little tricks' to capture her students' attention online.
Schafer said she has learned 'lots of little tricks' to capture her students' attention online.

Ruth Schafer thought she would miss the look of understanding register on a student’s face during her move from the traditional to the online classroom. But after being recognized as Missouri’s top distance educator, Schafer said the virtual setting made her find new ways to explain lessons in unmistakable detail.

Schafer, an adjunct English instructor at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., was awarded the Missouri Distance Learning Association’s (MoDLA) Educator of the Year award July 27 after five years of teaching composition fundamentals, expository writing, and business communications at the 3,500-student school.

Web-based teaching wasn’t Schafer’s first choice, but Drury officials told her that online courses were the only available position when she applied to the university in 2005.…Read More

Indiana forms state branch of private online college

Nearly 20,000 students are already taking classes through Western Governors University, including nearly 300 in Indiana
Nearly 20,000 students are taking classes through WGU, including nearly 300 in Indiana.

A new agreement between the state of Indiana and a private online university will allow Indiana residents to use state scholarships to pay for tuition at the computer-based program. The arrangement is the first of its kind, but it could signal the beginning of a larger trend in higher education.

WGU Indiana is a new branch of Western Governors University, a private, nonprofit university designed for working adults trying to earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says he considers WGU Indiana, established June 11 when Daniels signed an executive order, to be the eighth state university—although it is technically a private program and will not get state funding like other colleges.

Daniels said WGU Indiana will help adults earn degrees at their own pace and on their own schedule.…Read More

College dean adds human touch to distance education

Douglas E. Hersh, dean of educational programs and technology at Santa Barbara City College, believes video technology might hold the key to solving an old problem that has plagued distance education since its beginnings, USA Today reports: the retention gap. Hersh believes that one major reason students are more likely to drop out of online programs than traditional ones is the lack of human touch in distance-ed programs. His solution is to incorporate more video into the course-delivery mechanism. Most professors who teach online already incorporate short video and audio clips into their courses, according to a 2009 survey by the Campus Computing Project. But it is rarer, Hersh says, for professors to use video of themselves to teach or interact with their online students—largely because the purveyors of major learning-management systems do not orient their platforms to feature that method of delivery. That’s why Hersh convinced Santa Barbara in 2008 to abandon Blackboard in favor of Moodle’s open-source platform, which he used to build the “Human Presence Learning Environment.” The interface is designed so professors can deliver lessons and messages using videos recorded with a webcam. It also shows students who among their instructors or classmates are logged into Skype, the video-chat service, in case they want to have a live, face-to-face conversation. Hersh says he is talking with other California community colleges to adopt the platform and will gladly give it away to any other institutions that want to use it…

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Report details coming trends in campus technology

Typing on a laptop could be outdated in four or five years, according to ed-tech projections.
Typing on a laptop could be outdated in four or five years, according to ed-tech projections.

Open scholarly content will become more commonplace in higher education in the next year as online universities and textbook companies organize and harness the internet’s mass of educational material, according to a report that predicts campus technology advances within the next five years.

The 2010 Horizon Report, released this week by education technology advocacy group EDUCAUSE and the New Media Consortium, describes technological changes that will have the greatest impact on college students and faculty.

The seventh annual report’s short-term prediction focuses on open content—a trend buoyed by MIT’s Open Courseware Initiative and the Open Knowledge Foundation, among others.…Read More