Friday, July 4, 2014

Best offers a superficial analysis at best in: Are Universities Gouging Online Students?

Thanks to my colleague, John, for pointing me to Best's (2014) essay.  The "comments" sure counterbalance the essay's argument ....

Best, R. (2014). Are Universities Gouging Online Students? Inside Higher Education. Available online:

The comments from professors who teach online and students who benefit from the accessibility and diversity of online programs are right on point.  I have taught online for 16 years and believe that I have achieved some of my best teaching online - I also love teaching on campus, and believe I offer an engaging and interesting experience for students no matter what the delivery method.  What I have learned over the past 16 years is that to design, develop and teach an online course tends to take me at least double the amount of time that it takes me to design, develop and teach an on-campus course. Part of the extra time is spent on the design and development of the online learning environment itself, and then supporting the immersive, interactive and engaging knowledge building activities that I have sponsored in online discussions and case groups. Part of the extra time is meeting 1-2-1 and 1-2-many with my online students to discuss assignment expectations, review assessment criteria and provide feedback and support when work is returned. On campus, I can often meet with groups for this kind of interaction. Part of the extra time online is the preparation for an active and engaging synchronous session, carrying out the session and then the follow up required after each session. On campus, I can follow up with students who have questions right after class in the hallway.

As the Associate Dean, Graduate Programs in Education, I have deep knowledge of the organizational and governance structures, the program design, development and delivery structures, the program office staffing and resources needed, and the academic expertise and experience required to offer blended and online programs. With a little reflection, I was able to assemble this partial list of the additional investments that Werklund School of Education and Graduate Programs in Education make in order to design, develop and offer high quality, robust and accessible blended and online professional graduate programs and provide excellent support and service to our global community of graduate students:
  • Double the number of Graduate Program Assistants
  • A Distance Delivery Coordinator
  • A Team Lead
  • A Practicum and Internship Coordinator
  • An additional Graduate Program Director (academic)
  • A Director, Professional Programs (academic)
  • Academic Coordinators for every cohort in every program (academics)
  • Ongoing, professional learning and development opportunities for staff and instructors (academics and graduate students)
  • Release time for new program / course development (academics)
  • Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, who provides leadership and support with high quality teaching in the Werklund School of Education
  • Two Distance Technology support staff in the School, and the army of staff in the Taylor Family Institute for Teaching and Learning Center  who provide technical and pedagogical support for students, staff and academics
  • Over 80 full time, tenure track academic staff and 60+ contingent term academic staff who hold the expertise and experience to teach courses online using engaging and appropriate signature pedagogies
  • Graduate Assistant Teachers, who are doctoral students who are mentored and supported in their own development as post-secondary educators, who provide support for online courses
I will keep adding to this list -- it is a complex, multifaceted enterprise when higher education offers blended and online programs. Ongoing orientations, research events, blended symposia, online resources and tutorials and integration with contemporary learning technologies is part of the human and technological infrastructure that underpins good quality blended and online learning experiences.  There is a large list of additional investments that need to be made in order for Graduate Programs in Education, Werklund School of Education to be able to consistently offer high quality, research informed and research active learning experiences in our professional programs -- we are very proud of the quality of students in our programs, we are proud of the quality of courses and programs we offer, and we are focused on continual improvement and expansion of services. 

I appreciate the essay written by Mr. Best even though I feel it is, at best, a superficial analysis of the issues and needs associated with offering blended and online programs in higher education.  I am sure Best's (2014) essay will provoke a range of comments and reactions over the next few weeks, which is likely the most important point - to get a thoughtful conversation started.  I appreciate the opportunity and motivation that Mr. Best's essay provided for me to reflect upon the human and technological infrastructure and essential conditions required to offer high quality blended and online graduate programs. 

UPDATE: A great contribution to the conversation:  Online Pricing, by Matt Reed, July 6th:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Great Quotes about Research

As a researcher, I have always understood research to be a form of disciplined inquiry -- when I conduct research, I usually start by surveying what is known - by talking to colleagues, by attending conferences, by reading journal articles, books and resources about the topic or problem of interest. Based on the review of literature and consultation with other researchers to survey what is known, I can identify what questions that other researchers are asking, what themes are emerging in the literature, what findings have been achieved, what new problems are arising, and where the gaps are in current knowledge.  Based on the review of what is known, I can design a research protocol to explore what is not known.

Thanks to Jenn McKay, EDD Candidate, for sending along these great quotes about research:

“Research is creating new knowledge.”  ~ Neil Armstrong

“If we knew what it is we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”  ~ Albert Einstein

“Research is formalized curiosity.   It is poking and prying with a purpose.”   ~ Zora Neale Hurston

“You'd be amazed how much research you can get done when you have no life whatsoever.”  ~ Ernest Cline