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April 30, 2013

We Can Do Better Than MOOCs

Move over MOOCs, a different model is coming to town--blended learning. Deep within the New York Times' article today on online courses, readers learned of the "striking" success of San Jose University's pilot blended course. While MOOCs dominate conversations about the future of higher-ed, it's the blended model, which combines face-to-face interaction with web based instruction, that delivers the results time and again. 91 percent of students who took the pilot blended course passed while only 59 percent of students in the traditional course passed.                                                                                                                    

The blended model makes class time more effective and productive by letting students use the internet to access course content and independent activities. Not only are learning outcomes improved, but when blended courses lead to a reduction in seat time-- time spent in a physical classroom--they eventually create savings.

The University of Central Florida (UCF), recently ranked as one of the "Up-and-Coming" national universities, has a robust selection of classes offered in several modalities, including four versions of blended classes that combine elements of online content, web based instruction and face-to-face class time in various ratios. Research by UCF's Center for Educational Research and Development provides evidence of the blended model's effectiveness. One study examined learning engagement and satisfaction with students' online and face-to-face learning experiences. UCF found that college-age students were frustrated with both the lack of immediate responses in online-only courses and "pointless" class time in traditional courses. Students who enrolled in blended learning program, however, reported the highest levels of satisfaction. Furthermore, these students showed a heightened sense of responsibility and motivation.

MOOC mania has dominated the headlines and minds of many, but America's higher education crisis means that we cannot overlook these alternative models. We can only hope to hear more about the blended model.

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