Monday, March 4, 2013

Organizing Thoughts on Delivery and Assessment

There is no question that lots of things are happening in higher education.  New programs and new strategies show up at a rapid clip.  As you think about the future, you will necessarily make choices about course and program delivery, and those choices will have a major impact on how attractive you are to prospective students.

Consider this range of possibilities for delivery:
·      Face-to-face in a traditional classroom
·      Synchronous delivery with some students in the same classroom as the instructor and others participating through interactive video
·      Hybrid delivery, which may include asynchronous streaming videos, online elements, and occasional classroom meetings, which themselves can occur in a variety of forms; this might include use of the “flipped classroom,” which offers significant creative opportunities
·       What I’ll call “traditional” online, with an instructor teaching 15-25 students
·      Scalable online, enrolling, say, 75-300 students in each course, with one instructor and facilitators supporting smaller “sections” of students
·      What I used to call “massively scalable” courses, with a thousand or more students per section, but still supported by a team of facilitators, working under the supervision of a faculty member
·      Massive open online courses (MOOCs), sometimes with more than 100,000 students enrolled, usually for free, but typically not offered for credit

Now, consider how students might be credentialed for their work:
·      Traditional grades, leading to a degree
·      Traditional grades, leading to certificates that document specific skills and experiences
·      No grades, but the awarding of a badge (similar to a certificate) or a certificate of completion; students might receive traditional course credit through some additional process, probably for a fee
·      Recognition of prior learning and the awarding of academic credit for that work

And how might we assess student learning?  How about:
·      Traditional exams, projects and papers, perhaps with exams taken at a testing center
·      Portfolio assessment
·      Demonstrated competencies

Then, how will institutions generate revenue or otherwise cover their costs?
·      Through tuition, fees, state support, and endowments
·      Employers pay a fee to access resumes of top course/program completers
·      Content producers, such as Coursera and Udacity, license high quality course content to institutions, which then provide support and flipped classroom experiences to students; colleges and universities can create niche opportunities to do the same, including internationally
·      Industries/employers “sponsor” courses and programs, covering the cost of development and delivery
·      Students pay a fee to have competencies assessed and “certified”

Each of these lists can be expanded, and some of my bullet points may need further description to be clear.  My advice is to read newsletters, surf the Internet, and network with creative people.  I don’t think it is all that overwhelming, explored in a thoughtful way, but it does take time and energy.  Hence the concerns I expressed awhile back about making sure that you focus on the so-called “important but not urgent” items that will create your future. 

As you consider audience, cost, price, content, delivery and support services, you can work your way through the options.  You may well make different choices for different programs and audiences, and your competition will affect what makes sense.  It’s important to be nimble and engaged!

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