Digital Delivery

Exploring the future of online degrees. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Simon Nelson

CREDIT FutureLearn.pngThe digital shift in society has navigated its way into the higher education sector, prompting the reimagining of the delivery of education. My company’s partnership with Deakin University opened up the way to fully online degrees on our platform and we are delighted to be partnering with Coventry University to announce the launch of 50 fully online degrees over the next five years. A three- or four-year undergraduate degree was once sufficient for those looking to target a career within a specific sector; but job roles are evolving so quickly that universities are looking towards new models of delivery to cater for the learners of today. At the same time, universities are looking to digital to enhance and future-proof their brand to enable them to attract students from home and abroad.

Building the university brand on a global scale

The current political climate has brought the issue of student recruitment to the forefront with universities being forced to look fort new ways to attract and serve international students. The online degree model enables higher education institutions to overcome the physical and geographical boundaries imposed on traditional campus universities. By accessing the most remote corners of the globe, online learning platforms enable universities to take their courses out into new territories, straight to the learner at their home, helping the university to compete globally whilst elevating their brand.

Job roles are evolving so quickly that universities are looking towards new models of delivery to cater for the learners of today.

We were delighted to be able to align, both strategically and in spirit, with Deakin University – the first partner to offer fully online degrees on our platform. Our experience with Deakin has taught us that where borders are closing, universities need to continue to provide international learning experiences for students, where learners can engage with peers worldwide. Digital platforms can deliver education effectively, and at scale, helping universities to extend beyond the campus walls.

One size doesn’t fit all 

Education is no longer solely aimed at the elite who can afford to attend a physical university. Today, education needs to encompass the requirements of adult and professional learners across their lives. People are constantly competing to climb the career ladder and as such are looking for fit-for-purpose qualifications to evidence their skills. Studying a degree online permits greater flexibility, particularly for those looking to build on their skills as they continue to work part-time or full-time. The online approach frees learners from the constraints of physical classroom settings, granting them the flexibility to access information at their own convenience and at their own pace.

Student expectations are shifting

PwC reminds us that today’s young graduates will populate the majority of the workforce, with millennials set to make up 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020. If the digital native of today is going to dominate the workforce, then higher education institutions need to offer solutions to ensure they are prepared. The student of today is used to consuming digital content delivered using cutting edge techniques, in bite-sized chunks. Learners expect to have an enjoyable learning experience where they’re able to connect with educational material in an engaging way that stimulates further discussion. To cater for these learners, it is important that education delivered digitally makes use of the tools out there so that it is in-keeping with other forms of digital content and meets the expectations of consumers today. Teaching methods should adapt to accommodate this, whether it’s adopting a ‘flipped’ learning experience where learners study content online and discuss ideas covered in a classroom setting, or adapting content for online delivery.

Try before you buy

Students today are faced with the prospect of significant debt. So whether it’s paying for undergraduate or postgraduate study, they need to know what they’re paying for. The online approach has enabled more transparent access to course material and the delivery of online degrees enables this idea of greater transparency. Learners may begin studying for free and complete a range of short pathway courses before deciding to enrol in the full qualification, making learning both manageable and flexible. Ultimately, it’s important for learners to benefit from a greater element of choice in the composition of their degree, so that what they’re paying for is what they expect and what they want to learn.

Campus-based universities with live lectures will always have a central place in the delivery of higher education, but there’s no doubt that student demands are evolving. Today’s students need to feel confident that the course they’re committing to is fit-for-purpose; it’s the university’s responsibility to ensure they are meeting the changing needs of their existing students, as well as reaching out to new audiences on an international scale too.

We believe that the digital delivery of higher education—at distance, and where appropriate, at scale—will become increasingly important in meeting the changing needs of students and in addressing some of the challenges (whether financial, political, or international), that higher education institutions are facing today.

Simon Nelson is founder and CEO of FutureLearn, a leading online learning platform.

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Classroom Replay

Using teacher-collected videos (vs. in-class observation) leads to better outcomes.

GUEST COLUMN | by Emir Plicanic

CREDIT Vosaic image.pngThe Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard found in their “Best Foot Forward” study that using video instead of in-classroom observation, improved several dimensions of the classroom observation process: increased teachers perception of fairness; reduced defensiveness in post-observation discussions; led to greater self-criticism by teachers; allowed supervisors and administrators to shift observation duties to non-instructional school hours.

Teachers perceived their supervisors to be more supportive and their observations to be fairer.

The study involved 347 teachers and 108 administrators in Delaware, Georgia, Colorado and Los Angeles. A secure software platform like Vosaic Connect was used to watch the videos and provide time-stamped comments aligned to specific moments in the videos. The videos were used in one-on-one discussions between teachers and principals and between teachers and the external content experts.

Here are some highlights of the study (see link to full report below).

Were teachers willing to record and watch their lessons?

Yes. Giving control of the cameras to teachers successfully shifted the mode of classroom observations from in-person to video. Nearly all (96 percent) treatment teachers completed all three observations by submitting videos to their administrator. Nearly all (96 percent) also completed at least one observation with their virtual coach and 85 percent completed two observations with a virtual coach. Treatment teachers collected an average of 13 videos of their own lessons, though they were only required to collect five videos.

How did the use of video change teacher perceptions of their own teaching and their classroom?

The opportunity to watch their own lessons resulted in teachers being more self-critical. Of teachers in the treatment group, 42 percent reported that while watching the videos, they noticed previously unnoticed student behaviors or their own behaviors “quite often” or “extremely often.”

How did the use of video change the conversations between teachers and supervisors?

Teachers perceived their supervisors to be more supportive and their observations to be fairer. They reported fewer disagreements on the ratings they received and were more likely to describe a specific change in their practice resulting from their post-observation conference.

How did the use of video affect supervisors’ time?

Administrators reported spending more time observing and less time on paperwork. Moreover, the ability to watch video allowed supervisors to time-shift their observation duties: two-thirds of log-ins occurred during non-instructional school hours (lunch hour, the two hours immediately after school, evenings, weekends, and holidays).

Would teachers and administrators support the use of video in the future?

Because both treatment and control teachers volunteered to be part of the project, we would expect them to be supportive of the use of video in classroom observations. Still, after having been through one year of actual video use, the teachers who used video were even more likely than teachers in the comparison group to support use of video as a replacement for some or all of their in-person classroom observations.

The study concludes that giving teachers control of the video collection and submission process improved several dimensions of the classroom observation process. It boosted teachers’ perception of fairness, reduced teacher defensiveness during post-observation conferences, led to greater self-criticism by teachers and allowed administrators to shift observation duties to quieter times of the day or week. Download the full study here.

Emir Plicanic is a Product Manager at Vosaic, a leading performance discovery company providing video recording, markup, and other video analysis tools that help educators, learners, and researchers discover indicators valuable to classroom observation, performance improvement, and research outcomes.

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Best Possible Experience

A different take on personalized instruction.

GUEST COLUMN | by Cliff King

CREDIT Skyward students.jpgAs a grandfather, I’ve been around long enough to see some major changes in what education looked like for my kids compared to what it will look like for theirs.

Most of these changes are for the best – more curriculum options, more student ownership in the process, and more transparency about what’s happening in the classroom. Sometimes, however, it seems as though the pendulum might be swinging too far away from the personal relationships that were the highlight of my own educational experience.

Personalized instruction cannot come from an app. It can only occur with a unique blend of parent awareness, teacher insights, and school culture.

Personalized instruction is one of the topics that leaves me scratching my head. This phrase is brought up in a lot in discussions about algorithms, machine learning, and app development. In my mind, personalized instruction isn’t about that at all. It’s about a teacher understanding what each individual student needs to reach his or her potential and working with the other adults in that student’s life to make that happen.

Personalization through Parent Awareness

It’s disappointing to me that only about 22 percent of parents can name a basic milestone their child should have reached in school during the previous year. This should be a point of emphasis in parent-teacher conversations throughout the school year, from open house to parent-teacher conferences and less formal interactions.

Informed parents can take steps to nudge children toward their learning goals, but if we don’t know what those goals are, we may be nudging in the wrong direction all along. It seems simple, but one brief, personalized message from teachers to parents every day can reduce dropout rates by 41 percent, to say nothing of the individual learning benefits.

To make the leap from “improved communication” to “personalized instruction” requires more than just regular progress updates. This is where parents need to be proactive about using their unprecedented level of access to support what teachers are doing in whichever way makes the most sense for that individual child. With the knowledge of what assignments are coming up and what the learning objectives are, parents can fulfill their end of the bargain with informed dinner table conversations, book selection, and thematic weekend trips. That kind of interaction can mean the difference between mastering a concept and falling behind.

Personalization through Teacher Insight

Time and data analytics are two of the most obvious barriers to personalized instruction. Teachers are stretched thin as it is, and the amount of effort it once took to curate, organize, and analyze data was not feasible for most. However, with the capabilities of any modern student information system, that time has passed.

Most teachers today have instant access to valuable gradebook analytics, enabling at-a-glance identification of students who are trending in the wrong direction or who seem to be struggling with a certain standard or assignment medium. Response to intervention tools, automated notifications to parents about behavior or attendance issues, and improved collaboration between counselors, support staff, and educators are just some of the advantages my grandchildren’s teachers have over those who came before.

Personalization through School Culture

One of the most interesting developments in recent years has been the willingness of innovative district leaders to challenge such pillars of the school day as attendance, grading, and behavior management in pursuit of the best possible experience for every student.

Positive attendance is having a particularly strong impact on personalized instruction. Take Nicolet High School, just north of Milwaukee, for example. They have turned an entire class period into a flexible resource hour for students (watch the video here). Need some extra tutoring in math? No problem. Want to get the blood flowing in advance of an afternoon test? Check into the gym for fourth period. You can’t have personalization without putting some of the responsibility back into the student’s hands. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if some variation of positive attendance becomes the norm before my grandkids are out of school.

Bringing it All Together

Personalized instruction cannot come from an app. It can only occur with a unique blend of parent awareness, teacher insights, and school culture. With the leaders and tools available, it’s exciting to imagine the personalized opportunities available to my grandkids’ schools today.

Cliff King is the CEO of Skyward and has over 35-plus years of experience in the education and technology industry.

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Still Time to Enter 2018 EdTech Awards

2018 EdTech AwardsThere is still time to enter The 2018 EdTech Awards. The annual program recognizes people in and around education for outstanding contributions in transforming education through technology to enrich the lives of learners everywhere. Featuring edtech’s best and brightest, the annual recognition program now in its 8th year shines a spotlight on cool tools, inspiring leaders, and innovative trendsetters. Finalists and winners of the 2017 EdTech Awards were announced in March. The 2018 EdTech Awards program is open for entries through our FINAL DEADLINE: Thursday, October 19, 2017, enter here: 2018 Entry Form. For assistance with category selection, or for help or guidance, email us.

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An EdTech First: LiveEdu “ICO”

CREDIT Live Edu.pngThe future is already here and is now appearing in the edtech sector: this month, LiveEdu, a privately-held San Francisco based educational video streaming company, is launching a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The main goal behind the campaign is to collect premium tutorial project suggestions from learners and promote premium tutorial projects on LiveEdu. If you give a pledge, you will get big discounts, early delivery, LiveEdu Pro subscription, a custom built premium project, T-shirt, cap, stickers and other perks. A crowdfunding expansion campaign may already sound rather familiar, but in October, LiveEdu is launching an ICO (initial coin offering), an interesting new funding phenomenon and what may be a first in the edtech world. More details will be released soon on their blog. With LiveEdu (a live and video tutorial learning platform), content creators teach learners how to build real products from the fields of programming, game development, data analytics, design, VR and AR, AI, and cryptocurrencies. As the future unfolds, these trends seem to be on an ever-expanding trajectory. Learn more.

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