Monday, March 4, 2013

Online Education: Will it Make Us Smarter? #SXSWedu

Notes from panel discussion at SXSWedu.

Predictions are 1/2 of higher Ed will be online in the next 10 years. K-12 will follow by 2019.

How do we assess quality with all of the online education providers that are out there? Small start ups and giant MOOCS.

Think a lot about how to get personalized support to individuals. Think about scaling content while not losing the focus on the individual.

Adult learning space, higher Ed, and K-12 all have different needs so they create different markets. All of the panelists are from companies that connect teachers directly to students.

InstaEdu - even split between high school and college with about 10% adult learners. Students come at first for immediate need and then wind up staying because they build a relationship with the tutor. Teachers are students at high end universities.

Course Hero - 80% higher Ed students. Building learning content that students can access on their own. Building quality content from students and teachers takers time. Requires feedback from students.

Udemy - 80% male because focuses on tech space. Adult learners adding to skill sets or learning about hobbies. Students like the on demand aspects of the learning. Teachers are industry experts, half of whom have some sort of previous education experience. Motivated by reach they have and ability to share their passion. A few instructors have earned $100,000.

Important to get feedback from students through surveys to assess quality of teaching and content. Make sure reviews are available to future students. Can base revenue sharing on popularity/effectiveness of teacher.

Also important to support course developers/teachers with instructional design training since many may not come from education backgrounds.

Certification: In some cases, must have gone to a particular school (top colleges) and have prior experience in tutoring. See very few problems after getting through the initial screening process for tutors.

How do you know it is working? Re-engagement is huge. If students are willing to pay more for more tutoring, that's a good sign. Comments and reviews from students are also important. Survey students to see if they feel they have improved in their understanding or have gotten other benefits such as job advancement or career change.

What is the motivation for online learners? Often it's increasing a grade or obtaining a certification.

What is on the horizon for building the online learning space? We are still in the early days - 1st or 2nd inning. To get more mainstream: build quality content in multiple languages, bring down costs, provide more certificates/certifications. Mobile devices will help integrate online learning into people's busy lives. Need to watch for over-regulation and under-regulation.

Q From audience: How do you scale giving rich feedback to thousands of students with budget constraints for hiring staff?

A: Peer to peer tutors or peer grading can help. One to one teaching will never be free. It is a tough problem.

Q: Any unexpected gains from online tutoring?

A: Learning is on demand any time you need it. Can take courses in subjects not available locally. Badges make it fun for students to learn beyond basic requirements.

Q: How can online learning help students that traditional schooling fails?

A: More diverse set of teachers to choose from so more chance of connecting. Online learning in conjunction with in person can help support students. Finding niche content that engages students in ways that in-person only schools with more limited offerings can't. Offer practical, job-focused and passion focused content to students.

Q: Are any courses accepted by colleges?

A: Udemy has a few professors who use their online courses as part of blended learning. Not transferable to just any institution though. People are willing to pay for high quality content even without a degree plan.

Q: What about copyright?

A: Instructor is responsible for content copyright. If company receives a DMCA notice they remove the content. Course Hero runs a filter to detect content that might be a copyright violation and works with instructor to verify.

Q: How do you avoid mistakes in growing your company?

A: There will be mistakes. And it takes time to build success. You can't do everything overnight but you can do a lot over a longer period of time.

Q: How do you deal with communication problems from students?

A: Try having visual elements with text. And don't forget in person tutoring might be the best if there are communication/language barriers.

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