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Synthesis 2013

Dartmouth Strategic Planning



Measuring the Success of Online Education

“One of the dirty secrets about MOOCs — massive open online courses — is that they are not very effective, at least if you measure effectiveness in terms of completion rates.” However, “there are early indications that the high interactivity and personalized feedback of online education might ultimately offer a learning structure that can’t be matched by the traditional classroom.” A study on the language training system “Duolingo,” a web-based program originally developed at Carnegie Mellon University, has determined that students can learn Spanish significantly quicker online than through traditional-style courses. Duolingo is not a traditional MOOC provider but does have several hundred thousand users, is free, and shares some of the same features offered by MOOC platforms like Udacity. Markoff, John. “Measuring the Success of Online Education.” The New York Times, 17 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Teaching intelligence - It is possible to avoid the negative mass effects

The negative effects of large class size – less student engagement, lack of close contact and prompt feedback, and student perceptions of poor teaching – may largely be due to the “scaling-up and thinning-down of conventional teaching and assessment practices,” according to University of Winchester Professor of Higher Education Graham Gibbs. Gibbs suggests that in some cases, high-quality teaching can still take place in large classes. The Open University in the U.K., for example, has class enrollments of more than 10,000 and few under 500 but uses online and electronic resources, 20-person tutor groups, and prompt feedback on frequent assignments to replicate the tried-and-true pedagogy that characterizes smaller classes. Gibbs, Graham. “Teaching intelligence - It is possible to avoid the negative mass effects.” Times Higher Education, 17 Jan. 2013 Read article »

Udacity’s Credit Path

Earlier this week San Jose State University announced that it would partner with MOOC provider Udacity to create for-credit courses for their students. Now, the American Council on Education (ACE) has agreed to evaluate four Udacity courses for credit recommendations. Three of these courses are scheduled to be taught this month at San Jose State in a pilot project. In November, ACE made a similar arrangement with Coursera and is currently evaluating 8-10 of Coursera’s MOOCs. ACE is considered a leader in determining whether military and corporate programs should be worthy of college credit. Fain, Paul. “Udacity's Credit Path.” Inside Higher Ed, 16 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Accreditation—or Real Quality Assurance?”

"Higher education is not on a sustainable path. Underlying business models are crumbling, costs are spiraling, and there is for the first time significant doubt in the minds of parents and employers about the value of a college degree. College accreditation is costly, parasitic, self-perpetuating, and prone to abuse. It is increasingly ineffective and doomed to fail in its primary role of quality-assurance." Richard DeMillo, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Management and director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech, writes critically about the college accreditation system and calls out MOOCs as potential game-changers that could upend the current system. DeMillo, Richard. "Accreditation--or Real Quality Assurance?" Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, 16 Jan. 2013. Read article »

MOOCs Assessed, Modestly

MOOCs reigned supreme as the top trend discussed at last week’s HigherEd Tech Summit, an event that drew high-profile speakers such as former Harvard president Larry Summers. There was widespread agreement among attendees that MOOCs and other technology-enabled education may transform higher ed by empowering educators with tools to “expand access to the low-income students who are disproportionately excluded from today's higher education system” and “provide instruction that is more targeted to an individual's educational needs.” Many expressed concern, though, that unless MOOCs become a credentialed form of learning, nothing that is truly transformative will take shape. Coursera cofounder Andrew Ng agreed with this concern but expressed optimism based on “how seriously [some] employers are taking the informal certificates” that are awarded to top performers in Coursera and other MOOC platforms. Ng also stressed the potential for massive open online courses to help individuals learn, ironically, when educators are able to look at massive amounts of student data to find the common and even uncommon mistakes that students make, then adapt their teaching methods. Lederman, Doug. “MOOCs Assessed, Modestly,” Inside Higher Ed, 14 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Researchers, MOOCs, and Online Programs

Dartmouth’s Josh Kim writes that although a great benefit of the popularity of MOOCs and other online learning programs has been a renewed focus on teaching, research is not getting enough attention. The extent to which blended/online programs and MOOCs recruit top faculty researchers, or knowledge creators, as Kim calls them, will determine the success of those programs. Kim suggests that because top researchers teach at the frontier of course content, and because they are embedded in the practice of that content, they will bring the most value to online programs. And since top quality researchers are spread throughout higher ed, the best of every institution can be brought to the forefront when top researchers showcase their institution’s area(s) of excellence. Kim, Joshua. “Researchers, MOOCs, and Online Programs.” Inside Higher Ed, 14 Jan. 2013. Read article »

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We want to scour the world to try to find those things that strike us as truly forward-looking. President Jim Yong Kim