Director’s Corner

JAN/FEB 2016 — Not so long ago big universities like Stanford, MIT and Harvard were touting MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses). These were free to anyone who wanted to take them. Over 180,000 students registered for CS50x an introductory computer science course at Harvard. However only 1,439 students completed the course and earned a certificate. That is less than one percent. This had the Washington Post asking the question; “Are MOOCs already over?”.

While I think that there is still a place for MOOCs they are for the most part “over” as the Washington Post surmised. What has emerged are SPOCs (Small Private online courses). These are hand crafted courses that incorporate well designed classes with high quality videos and other learning resources. Some of these classes are totally online and others are flipped or hybrid classes where the students view the videos and review content online and do the homework in class where the instructor has the time to do more hands on instruction.

In the online version students can use virtual conferencing to meet and discuss important issues or engage in discussions using technology like Voice Thread which we have here at LCCC. The course is designed to have students engage with each other using peer review and they work in teams. The idea is to get them to engage more directly with the material and each other.

There is one thing we know for sure, digital/online education is expanding. Rather than make it a poor substitute for the classroom as it was in some colleges we here at LCCC need to create engaging and well-designed courses for the 21st Century.

We can do that by designing courses using Backward Course Design to assist students in becoming competent in the area they are learning by assigning purposeful tasks to get them there. Many colleges have moved to Competency Based Education where the instructor is more of a coach and facilitator allowing the students to move at their own pace.

Recently I attended a conference on Adaptive Learning where students use interactive software that can adapt to each student’s learning style and needs as indicated by their responses to the material presented to them. The Gates foundation has invested heavily in this type or learning. This is in the early stages of development but does hold a lot of promise.

Here at LCCC we are working to develop an LCCC solution to digital/online education. What works at Harvard or other colleges does not necessarily work for us. We do know that well designed courses with student interaction and great instructor facilitation is a must. Our great staff at the CLT (Center for Learning Technologies) have been working on improving course offerings through good quality instructional design principals enhanced by our technologists. We are investigating what is working at other colleges and seeing what will work here. We highly value our faculty and are working with you, the subject matter experts, to improve our courses. If you would like to avail yourself of our team and resources please let us know.

–by Les Balsiger

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