Technology

March/April 2014

Most Users Still Abandon MOOCs

A study the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education shows that massive open online courses still inspire low levels of student engagement as a percentage of total initial enrollments. The number of active users decreases dramatically after the first one or two weeks.

Co-authors Laura Perna, Alan Ruby, Robert Boruch, Nicole Wang, Janie Scull, Chad Evans, and Seher Ahmad analyzed the movement of 1 million users through 16 MOOCs that the University of Pennsylvania offered from June 2012 to June 2013. All offered via the Coursera platform, the courses were on topics ranging from gamification and microeconomics to mythology, poetry, and genome science. The number of students enrolled in each course ranged from more than 110,000 for "Introduction to Operations Management" to about 13,000 for "Rationing and Allocating Scarce Medical Resources."

The research was supported by the MOOC Research Initiative, which is funded by the Gates Foundation and administered through Athabasca University, as well as a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Some of the study's findings are highlighted on this page.

Yale Launches 'Next-Generation' MOOCs

In light of the low student completion rates in MOOCs (See "Most Users Still Abandon MOOCs" on previous page), many universities are experimenting with ways to encourage more student engagement, increase completion rates, and improve learning outcomes in these delivery formats. One such school is Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, which has launched what it calls its "next generation of free online courses." Among four new courses, offered through Coursera, is "Financial Markets," designed by Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller, the school's Sterling Professor of Economics. The other three will cover topics in architecture, psychology, and law.

The four MOOCs will integrate several new elements, such as interactive features, assessment tools, and shorter lecture formats—each video will be about ten minutes long. The platform now also allows instructors to insert quiz questions and participatory activities at any point during the lectures.

In another departure from typical MOOC format, students will be required to start the course at the same time and turn in weekly homework assignments by posted deadlines. Although students who successfully complete the courses cannot earn credits at Yale, they pay a fee of US$49 to be in the Verified Certificate track. The track provides verification to prospective employers that students have completed the course with satisfactory performance.

Craig Wright, the school's academic director of online education, bills the courses as "opportunities for those around the world to get to know some of Yale's great teachers." It's likely that the industry also will be watching to see if new features such as those that Yale has integrated could lead to better outcomes in MOOC formats.

Career Planning Gets Gamified

It can be a challenge to keep undergraduate business students engaged with their schools' career centers. But Loyola University Maryland's Sellinger School of Business and Management in Baltimore has solved that problem by gamifying the process.

The Sellinger School has created Career Navigator, an online program that uses rewards and social media to guide undergraduate students in career development. Career Navigator has attracted more than 1,500 students—a third of Loyola's undergraduate population—since its September 2013 launch.

Students create Career Navigator accounts online and connect those accounts to their social media profiles. They then earn points for social media activity such as following Loyola's career-related Twitter feeds or checking in on Foursquare at career-development events.

Students also can earn points for participating in career-building activities such as networking events, career fairs, résumé workshops, and internship applications. Participants can redeem their points for prizes, such as Loyola-branded hoodies and water bottles, tickets to a Baltimore Ravens football game, chances to win a plasma-screen television, and lunch with Sellinger School deans.

The program was created in response to a challenging job market as a way "to meet students where they are," says Karyl B. Leggio, dean of the Sellinger School. Using gamification in the career development process, she adds, "makes career development highly visible, fun, and effective."

Learn more about Career Navigator at www.sellinger nav.com.

Big Data Gets Bigger on Campus

"Big data" has been getting bigger, as more schools and businesses help build this burgeoning field. Their goal is to produce graduates who can fill the growing number of analytics-related positions—set to increase by 25 percent by 2018 in the U.S. alone, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Here are just a few new developments focused on analytics:

• Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, has launched undergraduate and graduate concentrations in business analytics. Undergraduate students choose one of four paths for the concentration: functional depth, marketing analytics, financial analytics, or industry sectors. They also can customize a trajectory by choosing from a list of electives. Graduate students must complete courses in three categories, including foundation, application, and depth courses. They also must take a minimum of 12 credits from electives in functional areas such as business intelligence, marketing analytics, and economic and financial forecasting.

• In March, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge offers its first online professional course for technical professionals and executives. Tuition for the four-week course, "Tackling the Challenges of Big Data," costs 495 USD. It covers topics such as data collection, storage, and processing; analytics and visualization; and real-world applications. The course is taught by faculty in MIT's computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory in the school of engineering. Upon completion, students will receive an MIT Professional Education certificate.

• In April, the John Molson Executive Centre at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, will offer a three-week, 4,000 CAN certificate program on data analytics for middle managers, delivered in online and face-to-face formats.

• In 2014, the Goodman School of Business at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, will add a specialization in business analytics to its two-year MBA program.

• IBM recently unveiled its own online skills assessment tool for college students. The IBM Analytics Talent Assessment allows students to measure their preparedness for jobs in data analytics, including their ability to tap data sources and make data-driven recommendations to support a range of business strategies. The questionnaire, which takes 30 to 40 minutes to complete, includes sections that measure cognitive ability, verbal and logical reasoning, and competence in analytics-based skills. After completing the sections, students receive a report on their strengths and weaknesses via email.

Since November, eight universities with Big Data and analytics programs have been pilot testing the tool. They include Fordham University, George Washington University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, Southern Methodist University, University of Massachusetts Boston, and the University of Virginia.

The aim of new programs in analytics is to train students to "make better business decisions through analytics as well as through intuition," says Scott Moore, Babson's undergraduate dean. That kind of knowledge is becoming increasingly important, he adds, because "soon, every business organization will be an analytics-focused organization."