Friday, September 20, 2013

Do college students prefer eLearning options?

With all of the hype about MOOCs, blended learning, flipped courses and web supported courses where do college students stand? I was looking at the recently publiched Educuase ECAR Student on Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013. This recent version of the annual survey has lots of good information about students and their technology use. A few things jumped out at me in light of all of the talk about various types eLearning teaching/learning options.

- A little less that 70% of college students have taken a blended learning course (A course with a mix of web based learning and face-to-face teaching).

- Few students have taken a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Less than 5% in most college categories.

- Students are more prepared for "mobile learning" than most colleges (using smart phones, tablets, or laptops to consume course content)

Blended learning, whether a straight up mix of traditonal lecture and web assisted instruction or a strict formula of so many class sessions and so many virtual session, seems to be pretty common place. There are several leading vendors in this space and most colleges use one or the other. Four year colleges (not for profit)seem to allow faculty decide how far they want to go with incorporating digital content into courses. often the IT department does not know how much the faculty are leveraging the technology. This comes too close to an academic freedom issue. That siad, i cannot think of a college that does not have a learning managment system in place. We are afraid not to do so. The LMS is now one of many expected technologies that both students and faculty members just think needs to be there - like email and wireless. Even a small campus can expect to pay over $100,000 a year for an LMS. So where is the strategic use of the LMS being discussed. I think that for the most part this is not happening at non-profit colleges. As a result we just don't know if its cost effective or contributing anything to the learning experience. BTW, I personally think that a well leveraged LMS can enhance any class and probably lead to greater learning. Although I have this hunch, most schools just don't know. No strategy and no outcomes assessment.

MOOCs are intriguing. They are noted in the education press and the New York Times almost daily. Legislators are looking very hard at the MOOC to reduce seat time, reduce time to degree,reduce facilities costs, increase graduation rates, and lower the cost of a college degree. These are pretty high expectations. As MOOC providers refine their deliver methods, most colleges are trying to figure out whether they are in or out of the discussion. Frankly, most are out and will be out. Another hunch, I think MOOCS are more about access than a replacement for traditonal instruction. I can see MOOCs playing a large role in continuing education for various professionals. The concept already exists, just on a smaller scale. I can also see MOOCs provding access to the higher education in the larger global community. Most surveys show that MOOCs are being embraced more quickly outside the US. The MOOC may also be a viable alternative to the traditonal masters degree program offered by many colleges. Perhaps not in every discipline, but certainly in education, the social science, and business.

- Most students have at least one mobile device. This could be a smart phone (78%), a tablet (18%), or a laptop (90+%). I don't see colleges leveraging this. Students access the LMS, but that's about it. There are a few small exceptions in allied health, education and sciences, but I think these prevalence is exagerated. There are lots of opportunities, but smaller levels of adoption. I am not seeing specialty software for the disciplines and certainly don't see colleges developing their own mobile tools. This is slow moving. We will see adoption of mobile in student and academic services before we see it to any degree in the classroom. That said, if faculty can create opportunities to exploit mobile technology, students are ready for it. Again, a case where the students are ready, but the academy is lagging behind.

In summary, I think that we are still at the start of using technology in education. We have many tools for teaching and learning both in the traditonal classroom and outside of it. I do not see a strategic push on most non-profit campuses. I think we are still in a bit of a wait and see place right now. Students seem very ready to embrace eLearning, at least as a part of their education. Colleges seem to playing wait and see.