Monday, February 25, 2013

Study finds some groups fare worse than others in online courses | Inside Higher Ed

I was glad to see this item from Inside Higher Ed this morning, but it contained few surprises for me--students of  all groups fared quite equally in face-to-face and hybrid deliveries, but sectors fared noticeably worse in online courses.

Study finds some groups fare worse than others in online courses | Inside Higher Ed

The article calls for increased examination of how student services fit in and also questions quality of the course experience itself. It does give pause for Bill Gates; funding for Dev Ed MOOCs which would include a number of at-risk learning groups. As long-time online faculty member and a researcher in a study of online algebra, (Shorter-Term Success: Learner Characteristics, Preparedness, and Performance in Ten- and Fifteen-Week Online College Algebra. October 2006), here are some areas that continue to stand out:

1) Preparation for learning in an online environment: Have students been oriented to the environment and expectations like time-investment, participation, why some subjects are a better match for the delivery? For institutions that offer student orientations/academic success, learning in different environments be part of such a course. Students who have taken courses with different deliveries
could be great resources.

Can students view sample courses?

2) Preparation of those supporting students and faculty: Have administration, advising, and staff taken any online, graded learning? Have they seen what the online courses from their institutions look like? Is
there training for advisers? (Badrul Khan's e-learning model continues to provide a systems approach to e-learning additions:

3) Is there training and design support for faculty? Is there an budgetary investment in the design of courses?

5) What type of quality review is in place regarding design, access, and various opportunities for engagement. While Web2.0, simulations, and live-conferencing tools are more readily available, are courses still heavily dependent on text-based interaction and demonstrations of learning? (See opportunities provided by Churches' "Digital Taxonomy:

6) What type of academic and technical support are available for students and faculty?

7) Is there a communication protocol among the various college departments that serve online students? (A prime example is students with declared needs for accommodation.)

There is great deal of work yet to be done, and there is great opportunity to learn from colleagues and
institutions who are supporting rigor, persistence and learning success. The article concludes with the call for evaluation and improvement, not mere labeling of deliveries as good or bad. I agree. Which brings me back to Dev Ed MOOCs. Could one answer to improved content, support and persistence be  MOOC plus model--quality curriculum and activities at no cost, with added on-the-ground support, required or not?


  1. Alice, I agree with your comments and would like to add a thought about my experience in online learning. If an online learning experience could be divided into 3 components: the course itself, the faculty member, and the student support services; I would choose the latter as having the most impact on student success, retention, and completion over the long run. It may be true that the faculty member has the greatest impact with regards to an individual course, but I don't think that is true over the lifespan of a student seeking a certificate or degree.

  2. Thanks, Ed,

    I really appreciate the added experience and perspective.

    Best, Alice