What works in online learning?

What works in online learning?  It’s got to be easy to use and easily affordable, writes William Wade, dean of Online Learning at West Kentucky Community & Technical College in Community College Week and the League for Innovation in Community College’s Learning Abstracts, December 2011.

Consistency is key, writes Wade.

 Common menu labels, consistent syllabus procedures, and uniform teacher-student communication policies help students move from one course to another.

For example, testing should be labeled “testing” in all courses, not “quizzes” or “assessment” or “evaluation.”

Creative presentation with on-demand content also is important.

Faculty have added games, puzzles, videos, live audio sessions, and animation to their formats. They have introduced themselves with back-porch videos, animated Voki comments, and on-screen fireworks. . . . What does not work is last year’s lecture from last century’s notes. Standing in front of a class physically or virtually and reciting course material from decades ago won’t make it, and neither will adding that material to an online class.

Success online courses engage students by letting them  create and share ideas and analyze real-world applications of what they’re learning, Wade writes.

The biology class that tests the water in a local river or creek or the composition class that studies political speeches for logic and significance are the ones that move the student forward.

Money matters, but so does quality, Wade writes.

So many quality tools are available free or for a minimal cost that students no longer need to pay hundreds of dollars for software or textbooks.

Mobile learning using the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Zune, and 3G and 4G networks is increasingly important. Students want flexibility and multiple ways to access material.


The excellence prize goes to . . .

Valencia College in Orlando, Florida has been named the first winner of the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The college will collect $600,000.

Valencia’s Start Right program has raised student success rates by providing early advising and orientation and redesigning introductory courses.  “All the failure occurs at the front door,” says Sandy Shugart, the president since 2000.

. . .  because data showed that students who start classes late are the least likely to complete them, nobody could add a course that had already met, even once. But the school didn’t want to slow anyone’s progression. So for the classes first-time students typically take, Valencia created “flex start” sections a month into the semester for students enrolling late.

. . . Two-fifths of Valencia students—including all those with the greatest developmental needs—now take a course called Student Success, where they create a personalized education plan and learn organizational skills. ow.

As a result, more remedial students are passing and moving on to college-level classes.

“Finalists with distinction” are: Walla Walla Community College (Washington),  West Kentucky Community and Technical College (Paducah, Kentucky),  Lake Area Technical Institute (Watertown, SD) and Miami Dade College (Florida).  Each will receive $100,000.

Go here to view the webcast of the event in Washington, D.C.

Community colleges should be included in the discussion about excellence in higher education, writes Kevin Carey.