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Jump Off the Coursera Bandwagon - Commentary

By Doug Guthrie Like lemmings, too many American colleges are mindlessly rushing out to find a way to deliver online education, and more and more often they are choosing Coursera. The company, founded this year by two Stanford University computer scientists, has already enrolled more than two million students, has engaged 33 academic institutions as partners, and is offering more than 200 free massive open online courses, or MOOC's. A college's decision to jump on the Coursera bandwagon is aided—and eased—by knowing that academic heavyweights like Harvard, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are already on board. As one college president described it to The New York Times, "You're known by your partners, and this is the College of Cardinals." In our haste to join the academic alphas, many of us are forgoing the reflection necessary to enter this new medium. Coursera and its devotees simply have it wrong. The recent history of the newspaper industry is instructive.

Online Degrees Don't Impede Job Searches Rather than go to college after graduating from high school, Scott Marrone opted to join the armed forces. After a three-year stint in the Army that ended in 2001, Marrone was equipped with expertise but no college degree. While in the Army, his facility with computers earned him a position as a network systems administrator, which he thought would serve him well as he transitioned into the "real world." He was able to earn contract positions at computing giants IBM and Microsoft but was told pointedly by superiors that despite his experience and information technology certifications, he would never be hired full time without a college degree. "The job market was very challenging," he says. "I realized that just having experience without a degree wasn't going to cut it." In his mid-20s and supporting himself, Marrone knew he couldn't afford to take time off from work to earn a degree, no matter how badly he needed one. [See our complete coverage of Online Education.]

The University’s Dilemma By one, and only one, measure, the institutions of higher education around the world are remarkably successful: They reach far more people today than ever before. About a third of Americans over the age of 18 have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher — up from less than 20 percent 30 years ago. In the rest of the world, far more people than in the past are seeking higher education, especially in emerging economies, where immense numbers of young people yearn for professional careers. First, they fail to help students fulfill their goals. Second, the cost of a college or university degree is out of control. Third, institutions of higher education fail to meet the needs of another critical constituency: employers. In the business world, such poor performance typically leads to industry restructuring fueled by new entrants, as well as innovation by a subset of incumbents. For years, experts have predicted that online learning would change the basic operating model of higher education.

Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Education - Eric Hellweg - Our Editors by Eric Hellweg | 12:12 PM January 29, 2013 The advent of massively open online classes (MOOCs) is the single most important technological development of the millennium so far. I say this for two main reasons. While at Davos, I was fortunate to attend an amazing panel — my favorite of the conference — with a murderer’s row of speakers. Why this disruption is happening: Peter Thiel, partner, Founders Fund “In the United States, students don’t get their money’s worth. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What is the nature of education as a good?’ Where we are in the evolution of this change: Larry Summers, former President of Harvard “It’s important to remember this really wise quote when thinking about the transition to online education: ‘Things take longer to happen than you think they will and then they happen faster than you think they could.’ Daphne Koller, founder of Coursera “We’re at 2.4 million students now. Raphael Reif, president of MIT “We manage this transition very carefully.

Beware of Online Diploma Mills So you’ve decided to take the plunge and continue your education online. Now the problem is, where do you sign up? Here’s where you have to be extra-careful not to get sucked into one of those bogus online “diploma mills” that are accredited in fantasyland. Translation: a diploma from one of those outfits isn’t worth the bytes it will take up on your hard drive, not to mention the paper it would be printed on. How To Avoid Getting Scammed The first thing to do before you submit your credit card information or sign up for a curriculum is to check the accreditation status of the online institution you wish to take courses at. Don’t Get Fooled By Sophistication and Savvy Many of these “bogus” online diploma mills look for all the world like real institutions of higher learning. Legitimate Degree Programs Lose, Too The proliferation of diploma mill scams has had an adverse effect on legitimate online degree programs offered by venerable colleges and universities.

Lowering the Price of the Valuable Campus Experience Distance Education - Courses Direct Australia Avoiding Common Online Training Content Mistakes Online training courses are meant to be convenient, cost-effective alternatives to seminars and other forms of training that usually put most people to sleep. When we were young students, there was nothing worse than having to slog through a boring textbook. When we entered the workforce, the bane of our existences was having to endure lengthy training sessions during which consuming rocket fuel wouldn’t keep us awake. Here are some suggestions: Avoid Using the Wrong Tools The two biggest mistakes made when creating online training courses are poor content and the wrong tools. Powtoon | A DIY animated presentation tool Pixlr | Free online photo editor that functions almost like Photoshop Font Squirrel | Free designer friendly commercial use fonts ColourLovers | A community that discusses the latest color trends and palettes Avoid Content Overload It is very easy to overload our senses, especially when we are trying to learn something new. Be Time-Conscious Troubleshoot Audio and Video