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Distance Ed Consortia Promoting Innovation

University Business, January 2013

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.

Four years ago, the American Distance Education Consortium arranged a meeting between its members and MIT. That allowed Oregon State University Extended Campus to be “one of the first groups to talk to folks at MIT who were creating open access to MIT courses,” shares Dave King, associate provost of OSU ECampus. “That discussion has changed dramatically how we develop our own online course modules and open access educational resources. It directly influenced how we are doing our distance programs. ADEC provided the platform to let us talk to each other and figure out how to develop these standards.”

For Frank McCluskey, vice president and scholar in residence at the American Public University System, being involved in Sloan-C helped when predictive analytics became a big topic of conversation. “Some schools are using them to look at online learning to see where students fail. We got the idea to start using predictive analytics ourselves from presentations we saw at Sloan-C events. We started learning about the whole concept of big data from Sloan.”

As for Valerie Haven, academic technical coordinator of the Ross Center for Disability Services at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Sloan-C prompted the use of Skype. “I needed a good way to have a group of students communicate with each other that was not a synchronous conferencing system, because of accessibility problems,” says Haven. “Synchronous conferencing systems each have elements of accessibility, but also have problems. Sloan-C turned me on to Skype. It’s a great option, with a built-in level of accessibility, and it was free and easy to use. To be able to come to Sloan and say, ‘This is what I’ve going on, what can you recommend?’ and then to turn around and hear from them, ‘have you thought about this option?’, is incredibly valuable to me.”

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