This post brings up some important distinctions between online delivery in the last ten years and the MOOC agitation of the conversation of recent months. I think MOOCs have a place in our educational world, but their first kudos from me comes in appreciation for provoking the conversation about Distance Education into the main stream of funding mechanisms! Cases in point are the Gates Foundation granting of funds to get developmental and beginning level MOOCs off the ground and the granting of $156.9 million dollars to the California public college systems for providing access to courses for the students of the state.
While I am incredibly grateful to the MOOC movement for stirring the conversation, I have been equally frustrated by the focus on elite colleges entree into the MOOC world with no mention about what's gone before. Russ Poulin in the WCET post, says this (and I just want to hug him for it),
"At the opening press conference for one of the big-name MOOC providers, a member of the press asked if the MOOC leaders had sought advice from others already involved in distance education. One of the MOOC leaders responded that they saw no reason to consult with for-profit institutions. Did we mention this was someone from a research university? First, the leader thought that distance education equated with for-profit institutions. Second, even if only for-profits were involved, wouldn’t you want to learn from those with experience? Double sigh."
When I was in Philadelphia at the Coursera Partners' Conference last year, I was really surprised to find that most of the faculty members who were teaching MOOCs from elite institutions, had not taught online before. Furthermore, their institutions were not offering regular credit for online courses that they were offering. I think that's changing now with the advance of the MOOC experience. I hope that in the future we will all lean on each other more to tap into experience. The group of us that received Gates grants for writing classes have learned so much from each other and I am so grateful to the educators from those universities (yes, elite) for their openness and willingness to work with a California Community College. I know we all can benefit from the type of collaboration we have shared in our MOOC/Gates effort.
My response to the WCET post follows here and I hope it is useful to you.
Response is located at WCET Frontiers Blog
Thanks for this follow-on discussion.
There were a few that struck me as I read both your [Russ'] work and Phil’s.
Unknown Experience: First, it has been really frustrating to me that many educators seem to forget that some of us (public 2-year colleges in particular) have been involved in offering online courses for many years. When UC started thinking about doing online work about four years ago, they wanted to investigate the efficacy first. I wanted them to at least ask us. Our experience could be informing a number of institutions who don’t realize what we know. We’d be happy to help.
When I participated in the 20-Million Minds Evolve panel discussion with students a couple of months ago, I asked students how important good course design was to them in online classes. They were very clear that good design and experienced (well trained) online instructors made a huge difference. (The link to that conversation is at the end of this post.) Those of us who live or die by success rates in the public sector have refined effective design and professional development into an art. We have a lot we could be sharing with our higher-than-us institutions.
Why our students are local: When you look at where the online students come from, it’s no surprise to see that in the public setting, they are local. In the launch of e-literate TV, Michael Feldstein asks the question about our needs and goals for offering online programs and he isn’t the only one asking. Our accrediting agency requires us to state the “reason” we offer online classes when we write our reports. That reason most often is to provide more access to courses that are full on-ground or to accommodate student completion schedules. Justifying online offerings for other reasons becomes a sticky issue to publicly funded institutions.
Why we don’t do exclusive: It’s also rare to find courses that are offered exclusively online in the public setting. We also have mandates to provide equal access for all cases and some students are not able to take online classes for a variety of reasons of their own.
Again, I thank you and Phil HIll for bringing this data and the analysis to light.
Links mentioned in this blog:
WCET Frontiers Blog
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHw713fpfPw#t=7264 the design conversation is about 2 hours into the video.
http://e-literate.tv/s1-e2/ The e-literate TV post with Michael’s question, “Online Learning, what’s it good for?”