Affordable and At-Scale
Affordable degrees at scale have arrived. The momentum behind this movement is undeniable, and its impact will be significant.
How many times have we been told that major change in our field is on the near horizon? Too many times, indeed.
The promises of technologies and practices have fallen short more often than not. Just seven years ago, I was part of the early MOOC movement and felt the pulsating potential of teaching thousands of students around the world in a single class. The “year of the MOOC” was declared in 2012. Three years later, skeptics declared that the MOOC had died an ignominious death with high “failure” rates and relatively little recognition by employers.
However, the skeptics were too impatient, misunderstood the nature of MOOCs and lacked the vision of those at Georgia Tech, the University of Illinois, Arizona State University, Coursera, edX and scores of other institutions that have persevered in building upon MOOCs’ premises to develop high-quality, affordable courses, certificates and now, degrees at scale.
No, these degrees are not free, but they are less than half the cost of on-campus versions. No, they are not massive in the hundreds of thousands, but they are certainly at large scale with many thousands enrolled. In computer science, the success is felt across the country.
Georgia Tech alone has enrolled 10,000 students over all in its online master’s program and is adding thousands of new students each semester in a top 10-ranked degree program costing less than $7,000. Georgia Tech broke the new ground through building collaborations among several partners. Yet, that was just the beginning, and many leading universities have followed.
I recently attended the third “Affordable Degrees at Scale” symposium at Georgia Tech. This small, limited-invitation gathering provides an insider’s view of the technology, pedagogy, design and financial aspects of reinventing higher education in an affordable, effective and worldwide format. Sidebar conversations abound on how to fine-tune delivery, design, engagement and effectiveness. It has the feel of the gathering of start-up entrepreneurs who are sharing their “secret sauce” as well as their goals for new initiatives with peers whom they respect.
Much credit goes to Nelson Baker, dean of professional education at Georgia Tech and incoming president of UPCEA, who created this symposium. Along with Associate Dean Yakut Gazi, they brought together the national leaders in this field and created an open discussion atmosphere through the implementation of “Chatham House Rule” that protects anonymity and respects confidentiality in the symposium.
A highlight of each of the three symposia I have attended has been to share some minutes with Professor Ashok Goel, who is well-known for his creation of the virtual teaching assistant “Jill Watson,” and her later iterations as well as nano-tutors that populate his courses.
It is his work and the work of others who share his passion to bring effective learning practices to scale that has made “at-scale” learning possible by engaging students and meeting their needs through artificial intelligence. As AI technologies are deployed, there is the prospect that such programs will more fully offer personalized learning than on-campus programs.
This advancement in higher education is expanding rapidly. Know that these initiatives will impact your recruitment and enrollment in graduate programs in the coming years.
Master’s tuition at half price or less among top-ranked universities in at-scale programs with essentially unlimited capacity is a factor that all of higher education must consider. If your university is not engaged in planning for this, perhaps you should lead the discussion today.
This article first appeared October 31st, 2018 in Inside Higher Education Inside Digital Learning.
Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow, and Founding Director of the National Council for Online Education at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.
Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.
We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.
The National Council for Online Education is dedicated to advancing quality online learning at the institutional level. The National Council is uniquely focused on excellence at the highest levels – leadership, administration, strategy – applying a macro lens to the online teaching and learning enterprise. Its engaged members include the stewards of online learning at most of the leading universities in the nation.
The National Council for Online Education offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.
Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs
On March 21st, President Trump signed an executive order on “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability on Campus” that directs federal agencies which provide funding for university research to be sure that they are funding colleges that support free speech on their campuses. This was an “historic action to defend American students and American values…Read More
The White House released their vision of what reforms should be made to the Higher Education Act (HEA) during the reauthorization of it in Congress. It’s proposals within mirror the budget it also proposed just one week prior. Some of the major retooling includes: changing accreditation process to focus on outcomes; a significant cut for…Read More
As I deepen my liberal arts side by reading Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One, it caused me to flashback to my 70s and 80s childhood of videogaming and skateboarding. It also piqued my interest in exploring the impact of today’s esports world and trends in the gaming community. In professional, continuing, and online (PCO)…Read More
It was encouraging to read an UPCEA blog post from August 2018 in which Mindmax CEO Lee Maxey critiqued our data and knowledge environment. Mr. Maxey’s description of how we’re drowning in data was on point; the sheer mass of analytics, metrics and all things measuring is indeed a problem. With Big Data, comes Data…Read More
On Monday March 11th, the Trump administration released their budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year. Included in the proposal is a $7.1 billion cut to the Department of Education, approximately equal to 10% of its total current operational budget. These proposals follow similar attempts in past budgets the administration has put forward. The cuts…Read More
Are you reading the blogs on technology by Ray Schroeder, Director of UPCEA’s National Council for Online Education? When he’s not talking about augmented reality or robotics, he’s talking about blockchain. Are you at an awkward mixer and everyone is talking about blockchain? You’re not alone. It’s a simple, but challenging concept that is coming. …Read More