A Sneak Preview of e-Literate TV at ELI

Phil and I will be chatting with Malcolm Brown and Veronica Diaz about our upcoming e-Literate TV series on personalized learning in a featured session at ELI tomorrow. We’ll be previewing short segments of video case studies that we’ve done on an elite New England liberal arts college, an urban community college, and large public university. Audience participation in the discussion is definitely encouraged. It will be tomorrow at 11:45 AM in California C for those of you who are here at the conference, and also webcast for those of you registered for the virtual conference.

We hope to see you there.

Posted in About This Site | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Flat World and CBE: Self-paced does not imply isolation

As competency-based education (CBE) becomes more and more important to US higher education, it would be worth exploring the learning platforms in use. While there are cases of institutions using their traditional LMS to support a CBE program, there is a new market developing specifically around learning platforms that are designed specifically for self-paced, fully-online, competency-framework based approaches.

Several weeks ago Flat World announced their latest round of funding, raising $5 million of debt financing, raising their total to $40.7 million. The company started out by offering full e-textbooks (and was previously named FlatWorld Knowledge), developing 110 titles that included 25 of the 50 most-used lecture courses. The e-textbook market was not working out, however, and the company pivoted to competency-based education around the time that Chris Etesse became CEO two years ago. Now the company is developing a combined CBE learning platform with integrated course content – much of it repurposing the pre-existing e-textbook materials. Their first academic partner for CBE is Brandman University, a non-traditional part of the Chapman University system and is currently one of the CBEN network.

One central tenet of the Flat World approach is based on their history and pivot – a tight integration of content and platform. As Etesse describes it, content is a 1st-class citizen in their system whereas other loosely-coupled approaches that do not tie content and platform together can be difficult to navigate and collect learning analytics. In other words, this intentionally is a walled-garden approach. For Brandman, approximately 70% of the content comes from the pre-existing FlatWorld texts, 25% comes from various OER sources, and about 5% has been custom-designed for Brandman.

In other words, this is very much a walled garden by design. While there is support for outside content, I believe this integration must be done by Flat World designers.

As was the case for the description of the Helix CBE-based learning platform, my interest here is not merely to review one company’s products, but rather to illustrate aspects of the growing CBE movement using the demo. Continue reading

Posted in Higher Education, Notable Posts, Openness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Instructure Releases 4th Security Audit, With a Crowd-sourcing Twist

In the fall of 2011 I made the following argument:

We need more transparency in the LMS market, and clients should have access to objective measurements of the security of a solution. To paraphrase Michael Feldstein’s suggestions from a 2009 post:

  • There is no guarantee that any LMS is more secure just because they say they are more secure
  • Customers should ask for, and LMS vendors should supply, detailed information on how the vendor or open source community has handled security issues in practice
  • LMS providers should make public a summary of vulnerabilities, including resolution time

I would add to this call for transparency that LMS vendors and open source communities should share information from their third-party security audits and tests.  All of the vendors that I talked to have some form of third-party penetration testing and security audits; however, how does this help the customer unless this information is transparent and available?  Of course this transparency should not include details that would advertise vulnerabilities to hackers, but there should be some manner to be open and transparent on what the audits are saying. [new emphasis added]

Inspired by fall events and this call for transparency, Instructure (maker of the Canvas LMS) decided to hold an public security audit using a white hat testing company, where A) the results of the testing would be shared publicly, and B) I would act as an independent observer to document the process. The results of this testing are described in two posts at e-Literate and by a post at Instructure.

Instructure has kept up the process, this year with a crowd-sourcing twist: Continue reading

Posted in Higher Education, Notable Posts, Openness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Babson Study of Online Learning Released

Babson Survey Research Group (BSRG) just released its annual survey of online learning in US higher education (press release here). This year they have moved from use of survey methodology for the online enrollment section to use of IPEDS distance education data. Russ Poulin from WCET and I provided commentary on the two data sources as an appendix to the study.

The report highlights the significant drop in growth of online education in the US (which I covered previously in this e-Literate post). Some of the key findings:

  • Previous reports in this series noted the proportion of institutions that believe that online education is a critical component of their long-term strategy has shown small but steady increases for a decade, followed by a retreat in 2013.
  • After years of a consistently growing majority of chief academic officers rating the learning outcomes for online education “as good as or better” than those for face-to-face instruction, the pattern reversed itself last year.
  • This report series has used its own data to chronicle the continued increases in the number of students taking at least one online course. Online enrollments have increased at rates far in excess of those of overall higher education. The pattern, however, has been one of decreasing growth rates over time. This year marks the first use of IPEDS data to examine this trend.
  • While the number of students taking distance courses has grown by the millions over the past decade, it has not come without considerable concerns. Faculty acceptance has lagged, concerns about student retention linger, and leaders continue to worry that online courses require more faculty effort than face-to-face instruction.

BSRG looked at the low growth (which I characterized as ‘no discernible’ growth’ due to noise in the data) and broke down trends by sector.

Growth by sector

Continue reading

Posted in Higher Education, Notable Posts, Openness | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Is Standardized Testing a Pediatric Disease?

In my last post, I wrote about the tension between learning, with the emphasis on the needs and progress of individual human learners, and education, which is the system by which we try to guarantee learning to all but which we often subvert in our well-meaning but misguided attempts to measure whether we are delivering that learning. I spent a lot of time in that post exploring research by Gallup regarding the workplace performance of adults, various dimensions of personal wellbeing, and the links of both to each other and to college experiences. One of Gallup’s findings were that workers who are disengaged with their work are less healthy. They are more likely to get clinically depressed, more likely to get heart conditions, and more likely to die young. I then made a connection between disengaged adults and disengaged students. What I left implicit was that if being disengaged as an adult is bad for one’s health, it stands to reason that being disengaged as a child is also bad for one’s health. We could be literally making our children sick with schooling.

I am in the midst of reading Anya Kamenetz’s new book The Test. It has convinced me that I need to take some time making the connection explicit.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment