Members of the academic community have very strong opinions about online education. These opinions are often negative and based on myths, not evidence. Some like to share their negative perceptions in the comments section of articles or blogs about online education. Here is an example from the comment section of a recent Inside Higher Ed article entitled, “Online Education Ascends.”
Are we really ready to accept that the students are the best judges of the quality of an education they are just starting? And all kinds of things are here to stay, and most of them are horrible. That’s hardly a selling point. And maybe this is the heart of the problem. Online education for most administrations is a selling point and has very little to do with educational quality. (By: 3rd Tyrant)
I think 3rd Tyant’s comment was in response to Stewart Sutin’s comment that online education is here to stay. Sutin shared some well researched tips about how to ensure the quality of online education by:
- Carefully selecting online instructors
- Providing instructors with adequate training and access to course design specialists
- Providing adequate budgets to support faculty and quality programs
- Providing ample tech support
- Ensuring institutional objectives extend beyond enrollment growth
I agree with all of the above. I also appreciated Chris’s reply to 3rd Tyrant’s comment,
“Why the assumption that in-person is high quality but online is not?”
I’m guessing 3rd Tyrant has bought into the common myths about teaching online and hasn’t done research on the subject. 3rd Tyrant and other online education naysayers need to take time to learn the facts about teaching online. The video below does an excellent job of responding to the ten most commons myths about teaching online.
This video is one of the many excellent resources from Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence.
This is a quick summary of a FREE professional development webinar I attended from the Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT) group. This FridayLive session was about good practices for online education, esp. those encouraged by accreditors, states, et al.
Courses and educational programs that have on-line or distance components have existed long enough to have a history. Scholars and accrediting agencies are sincerely interested in promoting good practices that improve student learning. What are the good practices that have emerged, where did they come from, how are they implemented by individuals and by programs, and what are the interests taken by external agencies such as states and accreditors?
Guest: David McCurry, Director of Distance Education at University of South Carolina Upstate
Interviewer: Doug Eder, emeritus assessment scholar and faculty member
Moderator: Steve Gilbert, TLT Group
Summary & Resources
It was a good conversation and lots of great resources were shared (see below). The TLT group is a great organization with a long history of promoting effective teaching practices. Dr. McCurry shared the attributes of good practices in online education from “National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements” (NC-SARA). We also discussed the 2018 CHOLE Report findings and the role of the Chief Online Learning Officer (COLO).
UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
ICT – Information and Communications Technology
There is no such thing as educational technology (Dr. McCurry’s blog)
A Concierge Model for Supporting Faculty in Online Course Design (MuCurry & Mullinix)
Leading & Managing eLearning (Book Recommendation)
Take advantage of upcoming Friday Live Sessions to learn more about Teaching, Learning and Technology. Keep up the good work TLT!
I just returned from LA after giving a talk at the beautiful Loyola Marymount University (LMU) as part of their Speaker Series. The Speaker Series is a very cool program that is:
“intended to help LMU faculty explore and understand the possibilities and potential challenges involved in online and hybrid teaching. Speakers are invited to facilitate an honest discussion of the opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls of online and hybrid teaching and to offer some lessons from their own institutions’ experiences.”
Like other organizations, higher education has been disrupted by the Internet and technological innovations over the past 20 years. The college classroom is changing as online and hybrid education become commonplace at many institutions today. Although there has been tremendous growth in online and hybrid learning, there is still a lot skepticism and resistance, especially from those who have no direct experience with these new learning formats.
Faculty resistance to online education is one of the challenges I highlighted during my talk.
Faculty resistance is a major challenge faced by traditional higher education institutions considering moving online. Many faculty are skeptical about online education and believe that:
- online courses are less rigorous
- there is more cheating in online courses
- online teaching is more time and energy intensive
- online courses are inferior to face-to-face courses
Faculty who haven’t taught online may assume online courses are self-paced with little opportunities for interaction with students. They may associate online education with correspondence or televised courses from the past that were much less interactive. They may also be skeptical about the quality of online courses.
Another reason for faculty resistance is the lack of rewards, especially related to tenure and promotion decisions. In many institutions, faculty who teach online are often looked down upon by colleagues. Although online education is more common today, there is little prestige for faculty who teach online.
If university leaders want faculty buy-in for online education, they need to acknowledge and address faculty resistance.
I was honored to be part of this wonderful series to talk about online education.
I attended an excellent webinar this week co-sponsored by Quality Matters (QM) and Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) called “Measuring Effectiveness of Online Blended Programs.” The three speakers, Kay Shattuck from QM, Veronica Diaz from ELI, and Tanya Joosten from UWM and DETA, explained various research projects and ways we can collaborate to measure effectiveness and quality of courses and programs. ELI’s “Seeking Evidence of Impact” (SEI) project really caught my interest. Many colllege instructors have been experimenting with some great new technologies and innovative teaching practices and we need to chronicle and share the impact of these efforts. According to the Seeking Evidence of Impact website:
SEI is a program led by the ELI teaching and learning community to find current effective practices that enable the collection of evidence to help faculty and administration make decisions about adopting and investing in best practices. They developed this Study Guide & Template so we could all use it as we “seek evidence of impact” at our institutions.
All three presenters were excellent and I’ve posted some of the resources shared from the webinar and back channels. I definitely recommend checking them out and getting involved with this important research.
Slides and eventually the recording which ELI and QM members will have access to for the next 90 days.
Quality Matters Resources
Continuous Improvement of the QM Rubric and Review Processes: Scholarship of Integration and Application
Distance Education and Technological Advancement (DETA) Grant Project
Misc Sites Shared in the Webinar
I’m very excited that we’ve received so may excellent proposals for the Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium (TLTS). The TLTS is a FREE faculty development event and a great opportunity for you to network with fellow educators throughout Colorado. Faculty and staff at eLCC member institutions are invited to attend the Symposium to be held on October 24th, 2014 at MSU Denver on the Auraria Campus.
The keynote speaker, Charles Dzuiban, is a national leader in online and blended education and we are very excited that he will be joining us for this event. This year’s theme is “The Quest for Quality” and session tracks include the following topics:
– Course Quality
– Multimedia for Learning
– Universal Design for Learning
– Blended Learning
– Social Learning
– Online Learning
Space is limited so register right away if you plan to attend.
I learned about Unizin from a colleague at Colorado State University (CSU), CSU is one of the founding members of the Unizin consortium. I still haven’t figured out what the “zin” in Unizin stands for but according to the Unizin website:
“the Unizin Consortium is universities coming together in a strategic way to exert greater control and influence over the digital learning landscape. It enables each institution, its faculty, and students to draw on an evolving set of tools to support digital learning for residential, flipped classroom, online courses/degrees, badged experiences for Alumni, or even MOOCs if desired. Unizin supports the differing missions and strategies of universities.”
In addition to CSU, Indiana University, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan, are founding members and investors in this membership-based higher education consortium. I’m still not clear about what Unizin is and how they will operate, but here are a few things it is not:
- LMS – although all members are using a single LMS vendor, Canvas
- MOOC – it will not offer courses, content or degrees in its own name
Unizin is affiliated with Internet 2 which will serve as Unizin’s financial home. To learn more about the Unizin Consortium, review the links below:
It will be interesting to see where this leads and which institutions will join the consortium.
There have been some excellent resources shared on the WCET listserv recently in response to a question about assessment of faculty readiness to teach online. This discussion is very relevant to my university, because like many other “responsible” higher education institutions, we require that our instructors complete an intensive Teaching Online Workshop before they teach an online course. Below are a few of the resources shared by some of the WCET members that I found very useful:
This is an excellent video about the importance of quality course design in online courses from the student perspective. Visit the Quality Matters website for information about the Quality Matters Standards and Rubric.
The results from Inside Higher Ed’s Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology are not that surprising for those of us who work in higher education. Although this survey is titled faculty attitudes about “technology,” the primary focus of this article is faculty attitudes about online courses. The majority of faculty members surveyed consider online courses to be lower quality than face-to-face courses. But of course, another result is that appreciation for the quality & effectiveness of online learning grows with instructors’ experiences with it. I think it would be very difficult to evaluate whether the quality of an online course is inferior to a traditional course if you have never taken or taught an online course.
As always, the comments on the article are just as interesting as the article itself with online learning enthusiasts arguing that online courses are as good or better than face-to-face courses, while the other side argues that online courses are inferior.
As an online learning proponent, I’m not going to try to convince anyone that online courses are any better or worse than face-to-face courses. But I am happy that the survey addresses the issue of quality and learning outcomes – these are important in all courses, regardless of the delivery mechanism. There are both excellent and “not so excellent” courses in both the online and face-to-face environment. Improving the quality of ALL courses should be the focus of these discussions instead of online courses vs traditional courses.
Below is a snippet from a comment by John Ebersole that I wanted to share here because I agree with him that we should not lump traditional for credit online courses into the same category as MOOCs.
“We do a dis-service to “traditional” online learning when we lump it together with MOOCs. We have had over 25 years of experience with the former and have consistently seen learning outcomes equal to or greater than those found from a classroom experience. MOOCs, on the other hand have yet to demonstrate ANY significant learning . Many have no assessments and those that do are from exams of dubious origin and conducted with little security. The online courses offered by over 70% of public and 60% of private institutions (remember there were nearly 7 million students taking at least one on line course in the fall semester of 2012) have high completion rates (over 80% at my institution), while MOOCS struggle to retain even 5%. We should not conflate the two.”
There are a lot of self-assessment tools designed to assess whether students are ready to take an online course but few that are designed to assess whether an instructor is prepared to teach online. I recently ran across this Self-Assessment Tool for Online Teaching Preparedness developed by Penn State. Instructors complete a short self-assessment that includes the following categories:
- Organization and Time Management
- Communicating Online
- Teaching & Online Experience
- Technical Skills
After completing the self-assessment, instructors receive detailed feedback via email based on their responses. Thanks Penn State!