Thursday, November 12, 2015

Engaging Alumni and Students Using Online Education Technology

Key Takeaways -Small, undergraduate liberal arts colleges can take advantage of technologies used in massive open online courses offered by larger research universities to create small, private online courses. -Colgate University designed a SPOC using MOOC technologies with the goal of engaging students and alumni through interactive online activities. -Students who used the interactive capabilities of the course demonstrated engagement with the course materials, answered comprehension questions that affected their test scores, and developed relationships with alumni online. -Alumni who participated in the course's online activities reported feeling reconnected with their alma mater through their involvement in the course's academic setting. Declared "The Year of the MOOC," 2012 saw expansion and heightened interest in massive open online courses offered by top-tier research universities.1 Despite focusing on a wide variety of topics, all MOOCs share several features: open and free registration, publicly shared curricula, social networking mechanisms, and facilitation by leading experts in the field.2 To date, the expense and intensive labor necessary to design, implement, and support a MOOC have meant the institutions most suited for MOOC production are large, research-based universities. Small, undergraduate liberal arts colleges, in contrast, do not have the same resources.3 Consequently, liberal arts colleges have not been major players in the MOOC movement to date. Furthermore, liberal arts colleges emphasize high faculty-student ratios, the expectation of time-intensive student-faculty interactions, and more hands-on teaching styles. Small liberal arts colleges also often have a loyal alumni community that is strongly motivated to engage with the students and can serve as an invaluable educational resource for them. The effective integration of alumni into the campus community often has multiple additional benefits for the institution. The fundamental philosophical and practical differences between small undergraduate liberal arts colleges and major research institutions raise important questions regarding the use of online educational technology; in particular, how can online platforms benefit students in a liberal arts setting, and how can MOOC technology serve the liberal arts institution? In this article, we describe an experiment conducted at Colgate University (table 1) adapting MOOC technologies and methodologies to enhance connections between Colgate students and alumni, and to construct a learning environment compatible with the ideals of a small college. Read the article...

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