Over 10 years ago (2003), I finally completed my thesis project entitled “In Your Face in Cyberspace, A new Paradigm for Online Learning.” This project also included the development of a website entitled, “Introduction to Distance Education,” an online course designed to present my research. Even back then, there were many terms for online education including:
- Distance/Online Learning
- Online Education/Learning
- Distance Learning
- Open Education/Learning
I wrote that “the terms “Distance Education” and “Distance Learning” are slowing being abandoned because they no longer adequately describe the range of educational options and delivery methods offered today. For example, is a course delivered primarily on the Web but having three on-campus sessions during the semester a distance education course? Does it make a difference if the students live a long distance from campus or are on-campus students? Distributed, hybrid, and blended education are terms often used to describe courses that meet both face-to-face and at a distance.”
However, in 2014, we are still struggling to find the “perfect term” to categorize online/distance courses. One term that does not accurately represent “traditional” distance or online courses is MOOC. Unfortunately many people who are not familiar with the long history of distance and online education use these terms interchangeably. At the University of Denver, we recently updated our official definition of an online/distance course to:
A course in which all or nearly all of the organized instruction is conducted online or by distance learning methodologies.
I’ve organized some of the differences between a traditional online/distance course in higher education and a MOOC in the table below. I’m sure there may be other differences I’ve missed, but these are a few of the differences that I often think about when contrasting MOOCs with traditional online courses.
Once a peripheral offering in higher education, online and distance education is becoming essential to the mission of many colleges and universities today. More and more vendors, also known as “Bundled Service Providers” (BSPs), are competing to cash in on the continued growth of online education in higher education. Services offered by the BSPs include market research, lead generation and marketing, admission counseling, course development and 24/7 technical support. Most BSPs charge on a revenue share basis where the vendor keeps 20% to 65% of the gross revenue for a course/program. One vendor, Academic Partnerships made $4 million from its share of tuition from Arizona State, over $10 million from Florida International University, and $18 million from Ohio University’s nursing program in 2012. (Source: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/05/31/nonprofit-colleges-should-be-wary-new-breed-profit-players-essay).
Some of the major players in this space include:
The eagerness of for-profits to enter the online education higher education market sounds very familiar. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, dot-coms and for-profits were jumping onto the distance learning bandwagon to launch new online programs. NYU Online, Virtual Temple, US Open University and Arizona Learning Systems were very popular until the dot-com bust which forced the closure of many of these new online ventures.
Some faculty members are beginning to push back on some of these partnerships. An October 11, 2013 issue of Inside Higher Ed, reported on a recent clash between faculty and administration at Rutgers about a partnership with Pearson. Faculty were concerned about intellectual property rights and academic freedom as well as sharing the revenue from tuition with an outside vendor.
8 Lessons Learned from Teaching Online from EDUCAUSE on Vimeo.
Some people are under the impression that online education is something new to higher education with the recent obsession with MOOCs, but “for-credit” online classes and degree programs have been offered for many years. This short video highlights the following 8 lessons learned from 2 experienced online educators. By the way, most of these strategies are also applicable to the face-to-face environment.
1. High-Touch is more important than high-tech
2. Establish Social Presence using Digital Storytelling
3. Use Technology Intentionally
4. The Power of External Resources
5. Make your Expectations Explicit
6. Fun, Playfulness and the Unexpected
7. Login Regularly
8. Personal Feedback