At a recent conference entitled “What is Liberal Education For?,” scholars gathered at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of its Santa Fe campus as well as to continue the debate about the merits of a wide, knowledge-encompassing degree versus something more practical and focused.
By Jeffrey McCafferty, Associate Vice President, Strategic Planning at the American Public University System
Late summer and early autumn is one of my favorite times to visit New York City. The weather is warm, people are bustling, and there is a sense of starting anew as summer vacations have concluded and all are back to work.
(keynote delivered at the Distance Learning Administration Conference on June 5, 2013)
I began writing this speech nearly three months ago. A week and a half ago, I wrapped it up and thought I had better run through it one last time in case any new educational technology had been released that I needed to discuss today.
Earlier this week, the California State University System (CSU) announced an online pilot program with Udacity, a for-profit provider of MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses). Udacity will provide a remedial algebra course, a college level algebra course, and a statistics course as part of the pilot that will initially be limited to 300 students at San Jose State University and several local community colleges.
Ithaka S+R recently published a report funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and titled, “Barriers to Adoption of Online Learning Systems in U.S. Higher Education.” I have written extensively on this blog about the economic constraints facing institutions of higher education, issues of student persistence and retention, and the litany of other issues daunting the American higher education system today.
Vincent Tinto’s research related to student retention is well known among academicians. His 1975 paper in the Review of Educational Research creating a theoretical construct of the major factors leading to student retention has been cited in hundreds, if not thousands of papers and publications. Additionally, Tinto’s sociological construct of the college dropout influenced future researchers toward examining the cause of dropouts instead of blaming the victim.
In the early days of online education, a commonly discussed phenomenon was the low completion rates of students. Some chose to explain the departure of students using characteristics such as lack of social integration and academic integration for students matriculating in online programs as identified by Vincent Tinto and others. As technologies utilized in the classroom improved and subsequently, online teaching techniques, student persistence improved as well, but not close to the levels sustained by some of the best face-to-face programs.
I had the opportunity to present a paper this week at the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education’s (AACE) E-Learn 2010 conference in Orlando along with Dr. Phil Ice, our Director of Course Design, Research & Development. The paper, Comprehensive Assessment of Student Retention in Online Learning Environments, originated from research that I conducted as part of my doctoral dissertation at The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.