Efficacy, Adaptive Learning, and the Flipped Classroom

Speaking of efficacy and the complexity of measuring it, I had an interesting conversation the other day with Danae Hudson, a professor of Psychology at Missouri State University, about a course redesign effort that she participated in. The initial contact came from a P.R. firm hired by Pearson. Phil and I get a lot of these and turn down most of them. This one interested me for several reasons. First, it was an opportunity to talk directly to a faculty member who was involved in the project. (A tip to all you P.R. folks out there: You will have a better chance of getting our attention when the focus of the call is to put us in direct contact with your customers about what they are achieving.) Second, the project was facilitated by The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT). I am a big fan of NCAT’s work, despite the fact that they seem to have an almost pathological urge to sabotage efforts to bring their work the attention that they deserve. Pearson’s interest lab in the call was that MyPsychLab was an integral part of the course redesign. My interest was to see what I could learn about the interaction between educational technology products and educational practices in delivering educational efficacy.

What I heard tended to confirm my suspicions (and common sense): Educational technology products can produce significant learning gains, but they often doing so by supporting changes in classroom practices.

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Efficacy Math is Hard

David Wiley has a great post up on efficacy and OER in response to my original post about Pearson’s efficacy plan. He opens the piece by writing about Benjamin Bloom’s famous “2 sigma” problem:

The problem isn’t that we don’t know how to drastically increasing learning. The two-part problem is that we don’t know how to drastically increase learning while holding cost constant. Many people have sought to create and publish “grand challenges” in education, but to my mind none will ever be more elegant than Bloom’s from 30 years ago:

“If the research on the 2 sigma problem yields practical methods – which the average teacher or school faculty can learn in a brief period of time and use with little more cost or time than conventional instruction – it would be an educational contribution of the greatest magnitude.” (p. 6; emphasis in original)

So the conversation can’t focus on efficacy only – if there were no other constraints, we actually know how to do “effective.” But there are other constraints to consider, and to limit our discussions to efficacy is to remain in the ethereal imaginary realm where cost doesn’t matter. And cost matters greatly.

David then launches into a discussion of what he calls his “golden ratio,” or standard deviations per dollar. I have long been a fan of this formulation and quote it frequently. I’m not going to try to summarize his explication of it in his post; you really should go read it. But I would like to tease out a few implications here.

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Clarifications on UF Online Payments to Pearson Embanet

I wrote a post over the weekend that included information from the Gainesville Sun about the University of Florida Online (UF Online) program and its expected payments to Pearson Embanet. Chris Newfield from Remaking the University also wrote on the subject today. Chris raises some very important issues in his post, including his point:

Universities may have a cost disease, but they now have a privatization disease that is even worse.

In the article, however, there seems to be a misunderstanding of how the revenue sharing agreement works. Given the importance of the questions that Chris raises, I think it is important to understand the payment model used by most Online Service Providers (OSP) such as in place at UF Online.

The part of the blog post that is mistaken, in my understanding, is this [emphasis added]: Continue reading

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Embanet and 2U: More financial insight into Online Service Providers

While I have written recently about UF Online and 2U, there is actually very little insight into the operations and finances of the market segment for Online Service Providers (OSP, also known as School-as-a-Service, Online Program Management). Thanks to 2U going public yesterday and the Gainesville Sun doing investigative work on UF Online, we have more information on one of the highest growth segments for educational technology and online learning.

2U’s IPO

2U went public yesterday, initially offered at $13.00 per share and closing the day at $13.98 (a 7.5% gain). The following is not intended to be a detailed stock market evaluation – just the basics to present the general scale of the company as insight into the market. While there is not a direct comparison, this IPO is a much better IPO than the most recent ed tech offering when Chegg (down 2.7% its first day and down 26% to date). Based on 2U’s first day of trading and the IPO filing: Continue reading

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Two-Year Anniversary of Blackboard Acquisition of Moodlerooms and NetSpot

Two years ago today, Blackboard made a dramatic change of course with a series of public announcements:

At the time I described these changes:

Most of the discussion in articles and blogs follows the meme of Blackboard entering open source, or even the meme of Blackboard acquiring competitors. I think the news is more significant than either of these two memes.

Blackboard just did a 180-degree turn on their strategy for their core LMS business. They have moved from consolidating all customers into Learn 9.1 to providing products and services that are almost LMS-agnostic.

Archive of Statements

Given this dramatic turn of events, I wrote an additional post that captured the public statements (press releases, blog posts) from Blackboard, Moodlerooms, NetSpot, and even Blackboard competitors for the purpose of checking to see if the acquisitions really did signal a true change in strategy and support for open source. This two-year anniversary seems the perfect time to check up.

Bb’s Previous Open Source View

Just how big of a change did the announcements represent? Consider Blackboard’s moves regarding alternative LMS solutions in the previous six years. Continue reading

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