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Distance Learning

Higher ed institutions driving courses online to meet increasing demand sometimes need outside help in developing or designing their digital curriculum. Of more than 2,000 colleges and universities with online programs, about 10 percent have used third-party vendors for any course development, estimates Richard Garrett, vice president and principal analyst for online higher education at the consulting firm Eduventures.

Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium girl on computer

As distance learning programs are developed and then refined, there are many options for national, regional, and statewide distance education consortia that the institutions can, and often do, join. The consortia help in sharing resources and tips to help each other with distance learning efforts.

Organizations like the American Distance Education Consortium, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), and Sloan Consortium offer member schools access to networking, resources, conferences, and learning opportunities.

Members of distance education consortia can turn to their fellow members in times of need. But that’s just one benefit of membership. Another is the opportunity to easily consult like-minded individuals, which can spark new ideas in distance learning education programs.

Technology has enabled higher education to extend instruction outside of the traditional classroom. New lecture capture technology such as the McGraw-Hill Tegrity Mobile App allows professors and students to record information on-the-go. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on October 18, 2012, instructors from Laramie County (Wyo.) Community College demonstrated how they use the app to enhance their lab, online, and hybrid classes in the Geosciences department.

As a consultant to schools on programming for students with autism, I’m used to proposing ideas and hearing, “Sounds great, but sorry, we can’t do that.” Good intentions sometimes can’t overcome limitations in resources. But when I proposed the development of a bachelor’s degree designed to meet the specific needs of students with autism to The Sage Colleges (N.Y.), the response was very different. From the president on down, the prevailing attitude was, “How can we make this happen?”

The American Council on Education (ACE) has announced a research effort examining the academic potential of massive open online courses (MOOCs), in which it will evaluate select Coursera courses for college credit. If the ACE College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) decides to recommend these courses for credit, it could mean an improvement in college affordability for hundreds of thousands of students. It will also raise some logistical questions for administrators at colleges and universities.

With  smartphones and mobile devices everywhere on campus, students expect complete mobile access to everything from course assignments and grades to events and sports news. This web seminar, originally presented on April 11, 2012, explored how two schools use AT&T Campus Guide, enabling them to keep students and staff connected, informed and engaged while on the go.

Nadir Khan
Education Industry Solutions Consultant

Harvard President Drew Faust (left) and MIT President Susan Hockfield announce edX.

At the beginning of the 21st century, MIT began a bold, pioneering experiment in bringing higher learning to the masses. Originally intended for students traveling abroad to keep up with their studies, the OpenCourseWare Project enabled anyone to access the OCW site and read course materials from more than 2,000 MIT classes. While there was no interaction with faculty and no grades or credit given for doing any of the work, it opened the door to a variety of possibilities for online learning.

As college acceptance letters began popping up in mailboxes across the country this year, incoming students were left once again with the daunting task of choosing the right school. While cost has always been a consideration, more students than ever before are now considering it as a key factor—not only in terms of which school to attend, but whether they go to college at all.

Recently, McGraw-Hill Higher Education issued a white paper, “The Tipping Point in Development Education” stating that adaptive learning technology in higher education can bridge remedial education gaps.

The report noted that technology-enabled developmental education programs that are designed specifically for underprepared students entering or returning to college can improve educational and other outcomes. These benefits can include increased retention and completion rates, a more accelerated and efficient process for students bound for college, and greater affordability.