Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lizanne's Notes on the Online Ed Conference

I also attended the conference last Thursday morning and Friday afternoon: below are my notes from those sessions.  Apologies for spelling and grammar errors!

OESIS Conference 10/10: Morning Session – Keynote Speaker


Ed-x: MOOC for MIT and Harvard (rejected by Amherst)

Howard Lurie – "Blend, Don't Break – Thoughts on the Changing Instructional Landscape."

-Unbundled Schools

Disaggregation of schools and education: why now?

Erosion of the public monopoly on education: students can take courses online now.

Multiple pathways for school-college-workplace transitions.  Traditional four-year paths no longer.

Competency-based models rather than time-based models.

Social, emotional and knowledge growth: expectation has been on schools -  now spread throughout the marketplace.

Karen Cator: argues for an "LPS – Learning Position System".

Professional development: Peer-to-peer examples for teachers, e.g., Creative Commons for K-12 Educators.

OEC: Open education content – questions about accuracy etc., but also issues with proprietary resources.

What type of post-secondary experience should students have?

Unbundling of educational material scary for some, but it is happening.


-The Platform Land Rush

Which platform is going to claim key flags? EG: Coursera signed a deal with the MMA, EdX with the French education department. Explosion of this learning style.

K-12 market will be worth approx. $70 billion dollars by 2017.

MOOC world – Coursera, Khan, EdX, Udacity: a lot of venture capitalist backing, Gates Foundation etc.  Often a peak of inflated expectations as to what these can actually do.

EdX platform: first course – a foundation course in Elec Eng.

154,000 people enrolled in the course.  26,000 completed the first problem set.  7,000 certified in the end. Very high attrition rate!

"The Boy Genius of Mongolia" – press coverage of one student, now at MIT.

What does this mean pedagogically?

Variety of platforms – Blackboard, Moodle etc. 

Pedagogically – big questions.

Core instructional goals?

Does a platform lead to measurably significant instructional change?

What problems are you trying to address? What are the results you're trying to reach?

What is the research design? How will/can data be used?

What will be gained/lost?


-More than Rocket Science

Blended learning the new buzzword.

Tons of blended learning models.

Learning engineers – the new instructional designers.  Building a course, design technology yes, but also taking sequencing of learning etc into account. 

Research driven – still early days. 

The DNA of a Successful Online Learning Program

Presenter: Virtual High School

16 years as a platform, 1500 schools.  Work with approx. 700 schools at the moment, 120 independent schools.

Panelists – heads, site coordinators.


-Gail Corder- Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth TX.

3rd year participating in VHS.  40% seniors who graduated took an online course.

Why VHS? Broaden choice of courses available, media literacy, independent learning skills etc.

Teaches a VHS class.  Retained full-time French teacher despite elimination of French program.

Epiphany as a teacher – training and teaching of course were transformative – guiding rather than teaching.

Parent orientation important for students taking online classes.

Courses reported same on transcripts as online classes.

Obstacles: spring senioritis.


-Christopher Chew, Head, North Middlesex Regional High School

7th year with VHS.  Involved primarily to allow students to take classes that wouldn't be offered in the school – e.g., AP courses with low enrollment.

Over time, also due to conflicts with AP schedules (two different AP classes scheduled during the same block).

Also used to help students who have school anxiety, athletes that need time for extra training (creative solutions...).

Also now using KET for AP Latin, Johns Hopkins & Stanford Online: courses looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Summer online courses allowed as well – don't seem to be too selective about what goes on the transcript though...

Blended learning: 9th and 10th graders – math and humanities programs able to be accessed digitally online.  Using Engrade, Schoology and Moodle as platforms.


-Karen Achambalut, Site Director at Wellesley High School

5 years with VHS.

Stats re: achievement (private school analogy?)

Why VHS? Students looking for classes not offered, want to keep class sizes low.  AP driven again.  All students bar one got 4s, 5s, last year bar one.

Don't count VHS courses to GPA. 

Summer offerings – allow to jump levels.  VHS used also to help students with recovery (remedial?) math.

Let VHS classes count towards your graduation requirements.

Duplicate courses – allowed with departmental permission.


-Maura Tucker – Wilmington High School, teaching as an AP Gov teacher on VHS

Seems to be used more to encourage kids to take AP classes that aren't offered due to budgetary etc constraints.

Discussion boards – four post requirement each week.


-Emily Breakell – former VHS student, now at Holy Cross

Took VHS courses to avoid taking AP sciences (more of a humanities person).

Independence in learning – classes were spoon-fed.

Collaboration and team work. Heavy reliance on group work – contact, accountability etc.

No real sense of face time connections with teachers.  Acknowledges a lot of students taking the courses dumped their worked.  "The relationships are what you make of them..."

College and real world preparedness. Idea of standing out to colleges.


Q&A: 1. About money, budgetary constraints etc.

Counts as 0.2 of a teacher's load to teach.

2. Limited number of spots?

North Middlesex has 10 spots/semester.  Initially took a while to fill those spots – initial disconnect about how online learning would be received etc. Also allow students to take the courses if they foot their own bill...

3. As a teacher, when do you teach your class?

Log in numerous times during the day. 

4.  Pedagogical approach online?

Guide on the side idea rather than sage on the stage.  Try to get more innovative...seems vague though.  Pushed for an example: watch a video, pair up discussions (nothing too exciting though!).

5. Does VHS have a portal that heads etc can look at?

No – no adults allowed to access their courses.  Get a student to pilot.  Site coordinators do get to shadow.

6.  When doesn't it work?

Get out what you put in.  Students who are not successful are those who don't engage.  Burden is on the student to participate.


Online Learning & Its Impact on School Strategic Planning

Heads of Worcester Academy, Pingrey School NJ, Kiski PA.

WSJ article on MOOCS: "Online learning can be isolating...students lose interest when they're not engaged."

-How does this govern how you lead your school?

Kiski – part of Online School for Boys.  Real time interactions.  Individual interactions with small groups – best practices. 

Pingrey – overall completion rates for MOOCs – 3%.  Issues of engagement.  Students engaged online as it is – social networking etc.  How to find the right fit for online interaction?  Groups of similar values, or a variety.

Worcester: Isolation – can choose to make it an isolated space, or can make it complicated, complex and more rewarding.

-How do you assess these new ideas/initiatives?  How gauging if something his working for their schools?

Worcester – some teachers taking MOOCs online...

-Data: do you worry that your students just become data points if you go down this path?

Pingrey – school is at the beginning of their journey into online education.  Did not believe that you could replace independent school experience with an online learning platform.  Interested in online learning for outreach to other schools, new opportunities for students to connect with other countries, tap into courses they are not able to offer, and also as a potential source of revenue in the future.  Defensive perspective: don't want to be dictated to – be out ahead.  Refers to VHS model (previous presentation) – opportunities are there for students if they want to take them.  Independent schools – more of a constructivist model anyway.

-What problems were you trying to solve when getting involved in online learning?  Kiski model is internally based.  Started in 2008 as a potential revenue stream for the school: offer the classes to home-school students.

Limited pilot model – one student – who subsequently enrolled is Kiski as a full-time student.  Partnerships with local university as well to analyze the programs they are offering. 

-Online learning has to align with the school's value system: how does this manifest itself in your school?

Worcester – community a key core value.  How this has been interpreted over time.  EG cellphone policy.

Pingrey – as things change socially etc, we get challenges to our values in schools.  They should be welcomed though. 

-What are you doing in your school, and why are you doing it?

Kiski: Online School for Boys.  Offering courses online to international students.  Working with 8th graders in China, offering ESL courses as well.  Original vision – open Kiski courses to home-school market, but proved to be a difficult market.  Seems to be more profit-driven here – serving as a provider to an international market.

Pingrey: just beginning.  Lots of individual efforts going on though – students in Adv Comp Sci taking MOOCs as part of their curriculum.  Developing 3-day long courses on international films.  Teachers using Google Hangout for AP Latin review sessions etc.   Skype sessions with partner school in China.  Course facebook groups.  Using webinars with parents around financial aid etc.

Worcester: why are you doing certain things, and not doing other things?  Lots of teachers are trailblazers in the school.  Using Schoology – wanted to create a platform for blended learning.  Started to allow some students to take online courses – level of rigor is questionable though (what provider?).  Seem to be doing it in an ad-hoc way (not as thorough as our conversations!).



Fri Afternoon Session: Hybrid Learning Consortium – Building Community Through Online Partnerships

Kansas City, MO, based.

1:1 tablet program for over 10 years.  Primed as a school then to dive into online learning.

6/8 hours of program are on campus.  Have global connections: Tasmania, Germany, Japan.  Have a satellite school in China.

Not just a one-off exchange: have time to have students work online together.

Other schools have approached – now formalized into a consortium.

Fundamental premise: this should not be done alone.

Key goals – mission: globalization, breadth of content, digital citizenship, rigor.

Non-profit models: increased teacher interactions, niche class opportunities, chance to teach.

Idea of using to complement work going on already.

Scheduling issues for small group work across time zones etc.

Emphasis on shared values.

Importance of communication.

Institutional commitment has to be made for the support of the managerial side of the consortium etc.

Challenges: finances, accepting culture to foster student success, adapting to the constant need for change.

Successes: immediate rewards on campus, ability to share other initiatives with respective institutions, rigor and quality of courses.

Lizanne Moynihan
Upper School History Dept.
Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

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