Prior Learning Assessments Done Right

This post has nothing to do with educational technology but everything to do with the kind of humane and truly personal education that we should be talking about when we throw around phrases like “personalized education.” Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs) go hand-in-glove with the trendy Competency-Based Education (CBE). The basic idea is that you test students on what they have learned in their own lives and give them credit toward their degrees based on what they already know. But it is often executed in a fairly mechanical way. Students are tested against the precise curriculum or competencies that a particular school has chosen for a particular class. Not too long ago, I heard somebody say, “We don’t need more college-ready students; we need more student-ready colleges.” In a logical and just world, we would start with what the student knows, rather than the with what one professor or group of professors decided one semester would be “the curriculum,” and we would give the student credit for whatever college-level knowledge she has.

It turns out that’s exactly what Empire State College (ESC) does. When we visited the college for an e-Literate TV case study, we learned quite a bit about this program and, in particular, about their PLA program for women of color.

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Release of Empire State College Case Study on e-Literate TV

Today we are thrilled to release the fourth case study in our new e-Literate TV series on “personalized learning”. In this series, we examine how that term, which is heavily marketed but poorly defined, is implemented on the ground at a variety of colleges and universities.

We are adding two episodes from Empire State College (ESC), a school that was founded in 1971 as part of the State University of New York. Through a lot of one-on-one, student-faculty interactions, the school was designed to serve the needs of students who don’t do well at traditional colleges. What problems are they trying to solve? How do students view some of the changes? What role does the practice of granting prior-learning assessments (PLA) play in non-traditional students’ education?

You can see all the case studies (either 2 or 3 per case study) at the series link, and you can access individual episodes below. Continue reading

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68% of Statistics Are Meaningless, D2L Edition

Two years ago, I wrote about how D2L’s analytics package looked serious and potentially ground-breaking, but that there were serious architectural issues with the underlying platform that were preventing the product from working properly for customers. Since then, we’ve been looking for signs that the company has dealt with these issues and is ready to deliver something interesting and powerful. And what we’ve seen is…uh…

…uh…

Well, the silence has ended. I didn’t get to go to FUSION this year, but I did look at the highlights of the analytics announcements, and they were…

…they were…

OK, I’ll be honest. They were incredibly disappointing in almost every way possible, and good examples of a really bad pattern of hype and misdirection that we’ve been seeing from D2L lately.

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About The D2L Claim Of BrightSpace LeaP And Academic Improvements

Recently I wrote a post checking up on a claim by D2L that seems to imply that their learning platform leads to measurable improvements in academic performance. The genesis of this thread is a panel discussion at the IMS Global conference where I argued that LMS usage in aggregate has not improved academic performance but is important, or even necessary, infrastructure with a critical role. Unfortunately, I found that D2L’s claim from Lone Star was misleading:

That’s right – D2L is taking a program where there is no evidence that LMS usage was a primary intervention and using the results to market and strongly suggest that using their LMS can “help schools go beyond simply managing learning to actually improving it”. There is no evidence presented[2] of D2L’s LMS being “foundational” – it happened to be the LMS during the pilot that centered on ECPS usage.

Subsequently I found a press release at D2L with a claim that appeared to be more rigorous and credible (written in an awful protected web page that prevents select – copy – paste).

D2L Launches the Next Generation of BrightSpace and Strives to Accelerate the Nation’s Path to 60% Attainment

D2L, the EdTech company that created Brightspace, today announces the next generation of its learning platform, designed to develop smarter learners and increase graduation rates. By featuring a new faculty user interface (UI) and bringing adaptive learning to the masses, Brightspace is more flexible, smarter, and easier to use. [snip] Continue reading

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An Example Why LMS Should Not Be Only Part of Learning Ecosystem

In Michael’s initial post on the Post-LMS, he built on this central theme:

Reading Phil’s multiple reviews of Competency-Based Education (CBE) “LMSs”, one of the implications that jumps out at me is that we see a much more rapid and coherent progression of learning platform designs if you start with a particular pedagogical approach in mind.

The idea here is not that the traditional LMS has no value (it can be critical infrastructure, particularly for mainstream faculty adoption), but rather that in the future we both see more learning platform designs being tied to specific pedagogies. This idea is quite relevant given the ongoing LMS users’ conferences (InstructureCon last week, D2L Fusion this week, BbWorld next month, Apereo / Sakai as well as iMoot in the past two months).

Later in the post Michael mentions ASU’s Habitable Worlds as an example of assessing the quality of students’ participation instead of direct grading. Continue reading

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