Category Archives: Distance Education

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Meet the New, Self-Appointed MOOC Accreditors: Google and Instagram

Some of the biggest MOOC producers, including Daphne Koller’s Coursera, may have figured out how to get employers to accept free online courses as credentials: Get big-name companies to help design them. (Neilson Barnard, Getty Images, for The New York Times)

A big question for MOOCs, the free online courses that hundreds of colleges now offer, is whether employers will take them seriously as credentials. But some of the biggest MOOC producers may have figured out how to jump-start employer buy-…

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The MOOC Hype Fades, in 3 Charts

Few people would now be willing to argue that massive open online courses are the future of higher education. The percentage of institutions offering a MOOC seems to be leveling off, at around 14 percent, while suspicions persist that MOOCs will not generate money or reduce costs for universities—and are not, in fact, sustainable.

The latest figures come from the Babson Survey Research Group’s annual survey, which was based on a 2014 survey of more than 2,800 academic leaders and was released …

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3 Things Academic Leaders Believe About Online Education

The Babson Survey Research Group released its annual online-education survey on Thursday. The Babson surveyors, Jeffrey Seaman and I. Elaine Allen, have been tracking online higher education since 2002, soliciting responses from chief academic officers at thousands of institutions.

You can read this year’s report, based on a survey conducted in 2014, here. But if you don’t have the time, here are three things academic leaders believe about online education:

1. Online education has become mission…

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In STEM Courses, a Gender Gap in Online Class Discussions

Women and men behave differently in online class discussions, at least in science, engineering, and computer-science courses, according to a new study conducted by Piazza Technologies, a company that makes a digital class-participation tool.

The company found that women use its program, called Piazza, to ask more questions than do their male peers, but that they answer fewer questions. When women do answer, they are more likely to answer anonymously.

The findings come in the midst of an online d…

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Call for Nominations: Who Are the Top Tech Innovators in Higher Education?

We’re reviving our annual feature profiling influential technology innovators and the ideas they’re advocating, and we’d like your suggestions.

Our hope is to cover a wide range of areas within the college world—teaching, scholarship, administration, libraries, student life, and more. So this is not just about decisions made in the top tech offices of colleges. And we hope to hear about a wide range of institutions—we’re just as interested in a scrappy project on a shoestring budget as we are a…

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Sexual Harassment in the Age of MOOCs

Following an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Tuesday severed ties with Walter Lewin, a retired physics professor known for his lively lectures and live demonstrations.

The story of the professor who makes sexual advances on his students is as old as academe itself, but this one was unusual because of its ultramodern setting: the free online courses known as MOOCs.

But even old problems are made new by the dynamics of MOOC…

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Rethinking Low Completion Rates in MOOCs

Completion rates in free online courses are low—to critics, laughably so. But exactly how low are they? The answer might be a matter of interpretation.

Let’s say 79,500 people sign up for a handful of massive open online courses offered by Harvard University. About 44,500 of those people say they are there to complete the course and earn a certificate. About 23,000 say they are there either to browse the course materials or to complete a few assignments. The remaining 12,000 say they haven’t…

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At Liberal-Arts Colleges, Debate About Online Courses Is Really About Outsourcing

Lifetime residents of Maine tend to look askance at people who are “from away,” an epithet reserved for transplants, summer vacationers, and college students. Such people might mean well, the thinking goes, but ultimately they do not belong.

Bowdoin College, a 220-year-old institution in Brunswick, Me., takes a similarly protective view of its curriculum. At a time when online education has blurred campus borders—and institutions face growing pressure to train students for specific jobs—Bowd…

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For New Course, U. of Oklahoma Seeks Boost From Old Media

Many colleges are turning to online “enablers” to help them get new online courses off the ground, but the University of Oklahoma is looking to generate buzz through an older channel: cable television.

Oklahoma is producing a new course with the History Channel, which will provide content from its archive and advertising on its airwaves.

The 16-week course, which covers American history since 1865, will be open to both credit-seeking students and noncredit learners, although it is “emphatically …

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Coursera Expands Its MOOC Certificate Program

Coursera, the online education company, announced on Wednesday that it was expanding a program that awards special certificates to students who pass multiple MOOCs.

The company unveiled the program, called Specializations, earlier this year. The idea was to create certificates that, while not supplanting traditional degrees, carry more weight than a certificate of completion from a single massive open online course.

The program, which requires learners to take Coursera’s fee-based “Signature Tra…