Ellucian Stops Support for Brainstorm, its CBE platform

In a surprise move, Ellucian has decided to end support for Brainstorm, the competency-based education (CBE) platform it acquired from Helix Education two years ago. All Brainstorm customers are being notified of the end-of-life and aggressive measures are being used to help these customers quickly migrate to alternative platforms.

Ellucian staff contacted me to share the general news of ending Brainstorm support. The stated reason for this change is that Ellucian perceives that there is insufficient market demand for full CBE programs, with many schools looking to ease into CBE in a minimalist fashion (I’m paraphrasing here). Brainstorm was designed primarily for non seat-time courses that are fully based on a competency framework and self-paced student access. We have covered Brainstorm / Helix on these issues here, including this observation:

One educational model that is becoming more and more important is competency-based education (CBE). One of the challenges for this model is that the traditional LMS – based on a traditional model using grades, seat time and synchronous cohort of students – is not easily adapted to serve CBE needs.

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Scaling Educational Access

There’s an interesting piece in EdSurge about the potential access to education challenge that CUNY will face if Governor Cuomo makes good on his proposal to make college tuition free:

According to the CUNY 2016 Student Experience Survey, 21 percent of the system’s community college students were not able to take required courses, most citing “lack of seat availability” as the reason. In an interview, George Otte, CUNY’s director of academic technology, described the “bottleneck” created by course shortages. Students were not able to take required courses because demand for space exceeded capacity—a problem that could get worse if more free tuition-seekers pour in. “We have always had lots of enrollment, which is one of the reasons I think we were late to the online course offerings. Our mission was never to gain students from the outside,” he explains, “but we are just beginning to realize that this has an enormous impact on capacity.”

“The real challenge is that eligibility is predicated on full-time enrollment,” Otte says, citing a caveat community colleges cannot ignore. Without taking 15 hours a semester, which equals full-time enrollment, students are not elible for Gov. Cuomo’s free tuition program—the Excelsior Scholarship. However, at least half of community college students work full-time. It is unlikely that such a population can opt-in to campus-based instruction that requires them to commute and show up for courses offered only at, say, 9 a.m. or 4 p.m.

It turns out that we’ve done a lot of work in this area, particularly in the state of California, and have some lessons learned that are worth sharing.

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Understanding Learning Science and Its Value to Educators

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In a world where we are constantly barraged with product claims about “learning science,” most educators have very little sense of what that really means and how it is relevant to what they do. I was lucky enough to be able to hear from and interview some actual academic learning sciences last year at Carnegie Mellon University’s Simon Initiative. The trip itself was paid for by CMU—I was part of a group of “media fellows”—and the video production was paid for by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The result was a trio of interview videos that I’m particularly pleased to share. Continue reading

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Improved NAU Student Success in Subsequent Courses After Math Emporium

Last week I published three e-Literate TV episodes on Northern Arizona University and their suite of initiatives aimed at helping first-year (and often first-generation) students. In those videos, NAU staff made some interesting claims, in particular that they are seeing improved student performance in subsequent courses after students take one of their modified emporium math courses in the Lumberjack Mathematics Center.

(YouTube playlist: http://bit.ly/etv_NAU)

(Video source specific claim: http://bit.ly/NAU_SMCclaim)

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Northern Arizona University: Modified math emporium for first-year students

In episode 1 of our e-Literate TV case study on Northern Arizona University, we gave a broad overview of the suite of initiatives (primarily) targeted at helping first-year students amidst the tensions coming from growing enrollments.[1] In episode 2 we covered their advising and student support, including work with IPASS initiative. In this episode we look at their modified math emporium approach leveraging the Lumberjack Mathematics Center.

Math emporia have a mixed reputation, occasionally described as “the place where all the non-math majors are generally sent to virtually teach themselves subjects” or that “we’ve outsourced jobs for professors to a bunch of students on hourly wage”. Yet studies have shown positive results in many cases. Just saying there is an emporium approach doesn’t tell you much – some are run well with plenty of support for students, and some leave students on their own with poor support. So it is useful to see a specific case. How has NAU implemented a math emporium approach, what does it look like, what support is provided, and what are the results? NAU has implemented a modified emporium, and they have invested in a new facility to support this model.

(Video source: https://youtu.be/A1GLmGri1So)

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  1. Disclosure: Our e-Literate TV series of video case studies and explainer videos is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. []
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