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September 13, 2011


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Cali Morrison

@Allison, I have to disagree here, I think the students are new because the mix of traditional aged, which you describe above, to non-traditional aged has, in the not so recent past, reversed itself. Only 15% or so of students fall into that category of the 18-to-22 year-old straight out of high school. The other 85% of students are older and have broader responsibilities in addition to school. These students, who are the key to meeting the national goals of increasing credential attainment, are who will benefit most from improving elearning in many of the manners Ellen suggests. However, on one level you’re right – the twenty year old probably still misses his Mom and his high-school girlfriend. Or does he? Much of the academic research published on “the college student” is on students from 2, 5, 10 or even more years ago - it's just the way peer-reviewed academic research works. I still find articles that quote research that was done on me – or students like me - when I was a traditional aged college freshman in 1997. A traditional freshman today has grown up in a much different world than did I. And he has so many different tools to stay connected than I did, for better or worse.

That said, if I’m reading you correctly, I agree, the key to success for all students – traditional and non-traditional alike – is having systems in place that help guide students through the online learning process, to ensure they have support when they need it and are allowed to spread their wings when they don’t. This is exactly what Ellen is talking about when she says, “I want to hear how online learning professionals are going to use descriptive, inferential and predictive analysis of de-identified student records to better predict when students might benefit from a bit of extra help to stay on academic track.” It’s about finding places where attrition happens and putting programs in place to support students through those times to help them reach that credential. Behind all the fancy statistical measures are students who are struggling and need support, those data just help us mine when those periods of weakness are and help shore them up.

And I am ever-so-hopeful that, even with higher ed moving as it sometimes does (more tortoise than hare), the future will be better than the past. That we’ll find ways to engage and ignite passions within our students to create the things that have yet to come to market. We’ll find ways to make going to class, in whatever form that is, exciting not dread-inducing. That we’ll move away from the sage on the stage dumping from their knowledge buckets into the buckets of their students to a place where everyone, students and faculty alike, add from their bucket to the greater pool of knowledge. I know that’s all a little whimsical, but hey, a little whimsy helps keep the engine moving in the right direction.

Bill Waters

I don't think it's the mainstream that is having the difficulty...it's the administrations in the middle that are having the problems.

Also, why is a 'Future of Online Learning' Conference limited and not available 'online'?

Allison Rossett

With higher ed, I tend to doubt that the future will be all that different from the recent past.

The technology is new and accessible, for sure, and of course, I like you am fascinated by the implications of mobile everything and lower cost degrees. For starters. I could go on.

But the students aren't new. Twenty year olds are easily distracted, uncertain, enthusiastic, changeable, lost, peer oriented, anxious, careerist, techie and not so much so. This means that the way-cool independent modes might not be suited to them. Consider a freshman who misses his mother or, more likely, his high school girlfriend.

Those students, even my grad students, require nifty guidance systems that help them use the technology to make good and consistent choices. Instructional designers used to rise and fall on the creation of programs and assets. Now, maybe, success will come from development of guidance systems with just the right amount of direction, interaction, and freedom.

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