A Sensible Higher Ed Business Model for Online Degrees: Are We There Yet?

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

Not yet, but we’re getting close.

Devon Haynie, in “10 Most Inexpensive Online Bachelor’s Programs for Out-of-State Students,”1 provides signs that higher ed has reached a milestone in the quest for a business model for online degrees that makes sense for the population that needs it most — students and families of students who simply can’t afford today’s high cost of a bachelor’s degree.

For students from low-income families, the bottom line is tuition that can be paid through minimum-wage part-time jobs. In other words, can they earn enough working 20-30 hours a week to pay their tuition?

In a time when tuition is rising instead of falling, online technology has been the light at the end of a very long tunnel. But until now, that light has remained distant and dim, receding rather than growing closer, with colleges viewing technology as added value to onground traditional courses and calling the mix “blended” while driving the cost of education even higher.

To further stymie the growth of online courses, they make them as unattractive as possible, continuing to charge online students the same fees as their onground counterparts even when they don’t use the same resources. To further stick it to online programs, out-of-state fees are also charged, effectively shutting out the potentially large disruptive population of nontraditional and low-income students.

But all of that is changing. At last.

For example, Mary, a hypothetical student who lives at home with her parents and works 20 hours a week at the counter of a fast-food restaurant in Wai’anae, Hawaii, can now earn enough to pay her tuition at Texas Tech University, where she’s working toward a bachelor’s in Special Education and Teaching. The cost per credit hour is $213, and she needs 120 credits to graduate. The total cost for four years is $25,560, which breaks down to $6,390 a year or $3,195 a semester.  Continue reading

MOOC Sightings 007: The Battushig Factor in College Admissions

MOOC Sightings2

The difference between SAT scores of students from the lowest (<$20K) and highest (>$200K) income brackets is approximately 400 points. This point difference is mirrored in comparisons between the lowest (<high school) and highest (graduate degree) parental education levels.1

Battushig Myanganbayar

Battushig Myanganbayar

This correlation seems immutable. Parental education and income levels impact SAT scores and determine who gets into the most selective colleges. Then along came Battushig — Battushig Myanganbayar of Mongolia, that is, “The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator” — who, in June 2012, at 15, “became one of 340 students out of 150,000 to earn a perfect score in Circuits and Electronics, a sophomore-level class at M.I.T. and the first Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC.”2 His accomplishment didn’t go unnoticed, and he is now a research student at the MIT Media Lab.

Battushig is, of course, a rare exception, but his success adds to the already enormous potential of MOOCs and raises the possibility that they could become a factor in college admissions. In an editorial yesterday, Pitt News broaches this very idea: “Universities sometimes directly accept a student that excels in one of their MOOCs…. If not, the student may still choose to list the MOOC on his or her resumé under skills or relevant education. A completed MOOC is a valuable asset, comparable to a week-long leadership conference.”3

The message for parents and students is clear: MOOCs are poised to clear their current wildcard status and earn credibility as a key factor in college admissions.
1 Zachary A. Goldfarb, “These Four Charts Show How the SAT Favors Rich, Educated Families,” Washington Post, 5 Mar. 2014. Also see Josh Zumbrun, “SAT Scores and Income Inequality: How Wealthier Kids Rank Higher,” WSJ, 7 Oct. 2014.

2 Laura Pappano, “The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator,” NY Times, 13 Sep. 2013. Also see her “How Colleges Are Finding Tomorrow’s Prodigies,” Christian Science Monitor, 23 Feb. 2014.

3Massive Open Online Courses Better Depict Student Potential,” op-ed, Pitt News, 23 Mar. 2015.

A Network for Under-served Populations

By Bonnie Bracey Sutton
Associate Editor

The article below is from a dear friend, Joyce Malyn-Smith. Please send her names and interests. We are trying to get funding for programs and grants for more minorities.

A Network for Under-served Populations

By J. Malyn-Smith

Joyce Malyn-Smith

Joyce Malyn-Smith

I want to expand my own professional network in order to share information and opportunities I come across in my work to build the next generation of technology enabled citizens and workers. As someone who has spent many years working with under-served populations I am particularly concerned that persons of color, Hispanics and Native Americans may not be aware of many of these opportunities, or may learn of them too late to participate. For example, I am working with NSF’s Cyberlearning and ITEST resource centers, both hosting workshops in June aimed at helping people, who have not received Cyberlearning or ITEST funding, to develop strong NSF proposals.

The first goal for the expansion of my own professional network is to do what I can to ensure that these workshops are accessible to persons of color, Hispanics and Native Americans. To that end, I am asking you to help me expand my network so that I can forward relevant information, answer questions they might have about the events, and make sure a diverse group of potential participants are aware of when applications open so that these types of events are more accessible to them.  Continue reading

Digital Equity and Social Justice

VicSutton80By Vic Sutton

The challenges of digital equity and social justice were recurrent themes in two recent meetings looking at ways to leverage technology to improve education.

“Digital equity” is shorthand for the bundle of problems that prevent many from accessing online resources, in particular the Internet.

Some would-be users live in areas that do not have broadband access. Other users, even in areas where there is high-speed broadband, cannot afford it. Yet more people have simply not gotten around to getting online.

As Dr. Louis Gomez of UCLA put it, we are facing “epic inequality.” The U.S. education system, Dr. Gomez maintained, “is marked by racial and class inequality.” He added that poor educational performance “has persisted for decades for large swaths of the U.S. population.”

Dr. Gomez was speaking at this year’s Cyberlearning 2015 conference, organised by the Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL) and held in Arlington, VA, on 27-28 January.  Continue reading

Technological Advances for the Disabled Benefit Everyone

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

Captioned Films for the Deaf became a Federal law in 1958. Television was a more difficult problem. Open captions on television were opposed by a percentage of the hearing population. Therefore, we had to develop a system that, on the same broadcast, could have captions and a broadcast that was free of the captions. We experimented with the broadcast technology and discovered that we could in fact encode the caption in the broadcast signal and with the proper decoding system have a clear non-captioned broadcast and with the decoder have a captioned program. The FCC approved the system and it works today.

Curb cuts benefit everyone.

Curb cuts benefit everyone.

Ironically the side effects of captions have made caption television an interesting product. Bars have used it in crowded environments. Doctors and dentists have used it and captions are widely used in hospital rooms. Like so many devices the captioned TV has been used beyond its original purpose. We see many applications of systems devised for the disabled being used by the wider community. The IQ test was originally developed to identify mentally limited children. The typewriter was developed for cerebral palsied individuals. In fact, Alexander Graham Bell was a teacher of deaf children when he developed the telephone. While he was not specifically developing the telephone to aid deaf people, his concern for deaf education provided the background for the telephone.

Many advances in our society have come from work among the disabled that was designed to enable them to more effectively compete in the world.

Today’s advancements with high technology lead us to believe that cochlear implants and optical implants will lessen the limitation of hearing and sight loses.

We know that the human brain can overcome many obstacles. Digital technologies will open many doors in the future. For example, we have the technology today to translate a severe speech problem into understandable speech. If the speaker has consistent speech even if it is not understandable we can use digital technologies to make it understandable.

Wheelchair curb cuts benefit parents with babies in strollers. I had a DC bicycle delivery boy tell me they were for them.

The larger community also uses things that benefit the disabled. Education for the disabled makes them taxpayers rather than tax users. Good programs for the disabled are wise investments for society.

Broadband for Schools: Do We Need Gbps Bandwidth?

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

A great many people are agitating for broadband in schools.1 They insist that our young people will not be prepared for the future without it. If you look at these people carefully, you’ll mostly find technophiles and members of companies making online learning products.

[Disclaimer: I am the president of a company that makes an online learning product.]

They are taking the easy way out. Schools have greater needs than broadband Internet access. Eventually they’ll all have it as the broadband wave sweeps our nation. (I’m writing in the U.S.)  However, has anyone really assessed the necessity for really high bandwidth, 1 Gbps and above? If so, I haven’t seen it.

ScreenHunter_06 Aug. 03 11.44

Consider what’s really important for schools to have. Number one is good teachers. Broadband has nothing to do with that. Number two is good leader/administrators. Again, no broadband here. Somewhere well down the list is new technology. But, what technology?

To know what the requirements will be, we must have a good crystal ball. We don’t have that so think about what’s available today rather than attempt to predict the future. You can find plenty of interesting online learning options. What are their bandwidth requirements? Leave out non-learning options such as students downloading the latest horror flick or porn movie. Consider only the requirements for learning software.

How many students at one time will be using the Internet for learning? Maybe half. What fraction of the time on the Internet actually involves downloading media? Media are the major bandwidth users. Now, average out the bandwidth for everyone. You’ll probably get a smaller number than you thought you would.  Continue reading

Cloudy with a Rain of Data

I attended the press conference for the release of SETDA’s (State Educational Technology Directors Association) report Transforming Data to Information in Service of Learning. It was hosted by SETDA’s executive director, Douglas A. Levin, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, May 21, 2013.

The presenters had RTT (Race to the Top) funding* and spoke in an alphabet of words that few regular people, including school board members who make big decisions, understand. SETDA had the task of trying to make it understandable and explain fluent ways to help schools and communities understand the task, cost and rationale. There was an attempt to make us understand the terminology and to explain the importance of the topic.

[*Update 5.23.13, 2:10pm: See the correction from Douglas A. Levin.]

As I sat there I knew I was privileged to be a part of the audience. My concern is that we have a digital divide, and one part of it is big data information. The report spells out data standards and interoperability initiatives. I know these topics and descriptions from my work on the NIIAC, but the school boards, parent committees and people dealing with the transformational change in education, as well as regular citizens, have a lot to learn. This is actually a Race to the Top project, and SETDA is trying to facilitate learning and understanding across the states.

Douglas A. Levin, SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) executive director.

Douglas A. Levin, SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) executive director.

The presenters ... spoke in an alphabet of words ...

The presenters … spoke in an alphabet of words …

Click image for PDF report.

Click image for PDF report.

Posted on 5.23.13 at 10:23am.
Updated on 5.23.13 at 10:30am.
Updated on 5.23.13 at 2:10pm.