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Survey: community colleges remain wary of MOOCs.

No higher education topic commands more attention today than MOOCs: the massive open online courses seen by some as the key to open access and improve achievement for college students around the world.

Colleges have been clamoring to become part of edX and Cousera, the high-profile consortiums that offer online access to elite college curriculum to anyone with an Internet connection. California is testing whether MOOCs can case a severe capacity crunch in its community colleges. Two community colleges in Massachusetts are testing a MOOC approach tailored to the needs of community college students.

But community colleges in general remain skeptical of MOOCs, according to the 2012 survey of the Instructional Technology Council.

An affiliate of the American Association of Community Colleges, the ITC has been measuring distance education trends since 2004. In 2012, for the first time, the council including questions about MOOCs.

The survey found that just 1 percent of community colleges are offering course credits or certificates for the completion of MOOCs. While 44 percent of community colleges said they are "beginning to explore" incorporating MOOC content into programs, 42 percent reported that they had no plans to do so.

"Many community colleges are skeptical that a large-enrollment solution is appropriate for campuses that believe in smaller, more personalized instruction," the survey report said.

It added: "Many educators are concerned that the student completion rate for MOOCs is extremely low and the courses lack the student support services necessary to help students succeed. A survey of MOOC professors found that the average student enrollment in a MOOC is 33,000, with a 7.5 percent average passing rate. Only 350 of approximately 12,700 Coursera users who registered for a MOOC on bioelectricity from Duke University took the final exam--a dropout rate of 97 percent."

A growing number of educators argue that MOOCs could actually cost community colleges money over the long haul because of the intense support services that would be needed to help students pass a MOOC.

The survey also found that distance education enrollments continue to grow at community colleges, providing the sector with nearly all of its enrollment growth.

Distance education enrollment grew by 6.5 percent from fall 2011 to fall 2012, the survey found. This pace was slower than in previous years, but the increase far outpaced the overall 2.6 percent decline in student enrollment that entire student population (including those enrolled in face-to-face classes) that colleges experienced.

Fred Lokken, dean of WebCollege at Truckee Meadows Community College and director of the ITC, has been involved in the survey since its was first administered in 2004.

He said this year's results underscore several long-term trends:

* As online instruction continues to mature, distance education administrators see a pressing need to address course quality and design, faculty training and preparation, course assessment, and improvements in student readiness and retention.

* Growth in the use of blended, hybrid, web-assisted, web-enhanced and web-facilitated classes continues.

* The gap between distance learning and face-to-face student completion rates has significantly narrowed. Nearly half of the survey respondents indicated that they have achieved equivalency.

* 90 percent of respondents to the 2012 survey identified their online classes as equivalent (83 percent) or superior (7 percent) to traditional instruction. This is up ten percent from 2011, when nearly 80 percent of respondents indicated their online

* Community colleges are looking for ways to use eTextbooks and open education resources to help cut the costs students face. They are also looking at ways to overcome real and perceived barriers to their use by faculty and administrators.

* The availability of virtual student services has declined in the past few years. This trend is likely due to the budget and staff reductions many community colleges have faced. Distance educators hope college administrators will see these services as a priority as budgets and staffing return to pre-recession levels, especially since accreditors increasingly expect online student services to be equivalent of superior to the college's face-to-face, on-campus offerings.

* Many campuses continue to lack compliance with the accessibility requirements for online instruction outlined in sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

* The learning management system (LMS) market continues to be volatile. Despite migration fatigue, nearly one third of campuses report that they intend to change their LMS in the next two years.

* Online program administration has shifted so that more academic administrators, such as deans and academic vice presidents, are responsible for distance education, rather than library services or the IT department.
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Author:Bradley, Paul
Publication:Community College Week
Date:May 13, 2013
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