Tag Archives: engagement

A conversation about a conversation….


Last week I attended a symposium at MIT on the topic of quality in online learning.  In addition to visiting this amazing local museum and an opportunity to hear the talents of MIT’s oldest vocal ensemble, I had a chance to participate in a whirlwind 48 hour idea and design fest devoted to quality in online learning. Jointly organized by our colleagues in the College Ready team and  MIT’s Office of Educational Technology and Innovation, the meeting brought together about 80 individuals (grantees and non-grantees that included researchers and faculty, representatives from online learning solutions and tools, and representatives from grantee school districts and CMOs). The stated goal of the symposium was to “launch a national conversation on the quality of online learning in K-12 education.”

The meeting agenda, list of participants, and presentations have been posted online. In addition (if you’re interested) you can also view the twitter stream from the entire 2 days.The meeting was organized into a half day of presentations. Panels included a number of CRW grantees including (Arizona State University, Creative Commons) as well as representatives from industry and the broader online learning sector (Bror Saxberg from Kaplan and Judy Codding from the Pearson Foundation). The panels focused on three broad topics:

  • Immersive Gaming / Focused Tutoring
  • Quality Assessment: Assessing Course Quality
  • Scaling Quality

The symposium also brought together a student panel consisting of four high school students, two teachers from Highline School District and Bellevue School District, as well as a team of researchers led by Dr. Phillip Bell from the University of Washington’s College of Education. The student/faculty panel discussed in detail their use of Educurious in the classroom. A core highlight from this session was learning first-hand how the resource enables students to tap into a network of accomplished and seasoned professionals (as thought partners and information resources) over the course of completing particular assignments and research problems. It was also really interesting to hear how teachers felt “relieved” by having a resource like Educurious to depend on because it reduced the pressure that they felt “relieved for not having to know everything” and more importantly, were now empowered to connect students to other external resources that could provide students with the expertise and information that they needed. The students’ excitement and engagement in their learning and the process was also palpable and very cool.

In a talk titled the “Opportunity and Challenge of Pervasive Quality”,  Jim Shelton pushed us all to create more durable and lasting learning innovations that benefit our students, faster. Mr. Shelton first spoke about two recurring challenges regarding innovation in education:

  • A tendency to think learning will happen because of innovations in hardware (i.e., magical device + student = improved student learning and mastery)
  • A tendency to focus on the perfect rather than the good –  we tend to focus on “what would be great”) and swirl in circles rather than focusing on “what can be great”

While he acknowledge  the existence of weighty academic debates regarding the attributes and characteristics of a high-quality online learning experience, Mr. Shelton (ever the pragmatist) asked us to focus on the most important factor. Find, test, build, and scale learning experiences and environments that first and foremost deliver better student learning outcomes and mastery. Online learning should be about learning – not bells and whistles.

Learning. Plain and simple.

P.S. I expect in a couple of months that we will actually see the outcomes and learning from the workshop delivered back to the public for further discussion.

P.S.S. A special shout out to colleagues in our College Ready team for organizing such a great symposium.

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Looking under the hood of student engagement with CCCSE

TRIP REPORT: Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE)

I recently visited with Kay McClenney and her team at the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE). 

Some things you might not know about CCCSE:

  • Located at UT-Austin in the Community College Leadership Program
  • Employs 28 people all working on survey administration and/or technical assistance to help colleges digest and respond to survey findings
  • Administers four surveys each year (2 student surveys, 1 faculty survey, and 1 for college leaders)
  • Have surveyed over 2M students in 819 colleges in 49 states since 2002
  • Makes “IR in a box” services available to all participating colleges

We are working with CCCSE to help them enhance their annual surveys by adding a special item module that will help us (a) better understand which specific practices individual colleges are deploying to try and improve student engagement and (b) better understand the link between student engagement and improvements in student outcomes.

Some things you might not know about this project:

  • Jointly funded with the Lumina Foundation
  • Designed to help organize and map diffusion of the various practices that colleges are employing to improve student engagement
  • Will formulate a view of “high impact” practices from a composite of special item modules embedded in all four CCCSE surveys
  • Will include a matching of survey responses to student unit record data in a subset of colleges (still TBD)
  • Includes a technical advisory panel that will fine tune survey design

The meeting was a great opportunity to get better acquainted with CCCSE’s organizational structure, mission, and vision.  Over the long term, they want to build out their institutes (perhaps taking a regional approach) that can serve as annual opportunities for community college leaders who are serious about using data to redesign a student’s first year experience (i.e. help them gain “early momentum”).

The meeting left me thinking about all of the intersections that CCCSE’s work might have with the Completion by Design project.

Other items of note:

  • Byron McClenny joined us for the last hour and gave an update on a powerrful project that he is leading for the Houston Endowment.  This is a project designed to improve the transition from high school to college in the Houston area.  The Institute for Evidence Based Change (national Cal-PASS model) is providing data support for this work.
  • Both Kay and Byron encouraged us to lengage trustees as agents of change in the completion movement.  The unique positioning of trustees creates opportunities “down” to presidents seeking support to pursue completion agendas and “up” into the state policy infrastructure.

For more about CCCSE, check out the 2010 CCCSE National Report, The  Heart of Student Success: Teaching, Learning, and College Completion.

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