How Nontraditional Educators Will Influence Digital Learning #DLNchat

Digital Learning

How Nontraditional Educators Will Influence Digital Learning #DLNchat

By Michael Sano     Oct 16, 2018

How Nontraditional Educators Will Influence Digital Learning #DLNchat

Could the rise in MOOC-based and other certificates affect how traditional college degree paths are designed? What role should employers have in the design or execution of digital learning opportunities? Those were a couple of the questions debated at #DLNchat on Tuesday, October 9, when we discussed how nontraditional education providers could influence the future of digital learning.

But first, who are these nontraditional providers? Many #DLNchat-ters define them as MOOC providers including edX and Coursera and bootcamps such as General Assembly and Kenzie Academy. What defines these providers as “nontraditional,” Cali Morrison said, is regulation. She defines nontraditional providers as those who aren’t covered by regional or national accreditation.

The lack of accreditation and regulations in this space brought up a new set of questions for the group: “Do we need to have regulators for these nontraditional providers?” asked Andrew Magda. Sean Gallagher said, “It would be useful if there was more consistency across states, especially given the increasingly online/global or interstate nature of the major providers.” Morrison agreed, but added: “Unfortunately some still look down on national accreditation like it's inferior to regional accreditation. It's the Ivy-perception-gap, in my opinion.”

Some #DLNchat-ters, like Davis Jones felt differently. “I honestly see accreditation becoming less important as digital education takes over. For example, our student base of 150,000 students is only 38 percent in the U.S. Our student population is totally global... because the internet is global. There will be new mechanisms/signals of trust.”

If accreditation falls to the wayside, who would assure the quality of education being provided? Gallagher pointed to some organizations that are building models to put quality control in the hands of the providers themselves. Jones sees provider’s brand playing this role. But Morrison pointed out, “If you're looking at the consumer market, they still peg quality to the approval of a third party.” Renee Franzwa, of EdSurge, pondered, “I wonder if the workforce could become a new gatekeeper?”

Many agreed that another characteristic, and strength, of the nontraditional provider, is a tie to the workforce. As Gallagher articulated, “A key hallmark—since the market is mostly professional offerings—is beginning with employer engagement in design... and a discrete focus on outcomes, including skills-related outcomes. Presumably this will be even more fine-tuned in the future.”

So if, “Students' employability is key in determining the value of learning,” as Veronica Diaz stated, what role should employers have in the design or execution of learning? JJ Johnson shared, “In my previous institution, area employers were asked to be on advisory committees for our workforce programs. They would provide advice for programs and outcomes, and would help approve new curriculum that would satisfy their needs.”

Several #DLNchat-ters described the importance of project-based learning opportunities through employee partnerships. “Employers can provide industry skills students require, real world case studies, opportunities for collaborative learning through projects, real world expertise, and input into to student sills acquisition,” said Jim Hounslow.

But, Jones pointed out, “There's a huge disparity between what colleges and employers think about degrees. E.g a 2017 @indeed study: ‘72 percent of employers think bootcamp grads are ‘just as prepared’ to be high performers as degree holders.’” Franzwa added, “Now some of the big tech companies like Facebook no longer require a bachelor's degree. In any case, the process should not be rushed. “Young learners (undergrads and grads) might need to seek advice from their teachers, mentors or academic advisors to better assess the merits of non-traditional learning options,” said Ed Garay. “Hopefully it will not be based on a brief peer-to-peer Snapchat interaction.”

There are other differences when nontraditional providers design educational experiences. Sophia Strickfaden stated, “Nontraditional providers are more narrowly concentrated on efficiency and effectiveness of learning, perhaps more competency-based designs and certainly more opportunity for self-paced, asynchronous learning experiences.” When compared to their traditional counterparts, NIna Huntemann described nontraditional providers this way: “They are much more responsive to thinking about and designing toward market demand.” But who is in that market? Does it include underrepresented students?

Strickfaden is optimistic: “Nontraditional providers reach students who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford or invest in a traditional degree. Not only are MOOCs designed to be free, they offer opportunity to students to explore the topic before they invest and commit.” But others, like Paul Wilson, were a bit more dubious. “You could potentially reach underrepresented students. However, sadly these may be the students who would not be in the market queue for these services due to connectivity, accessibility, and preparation.”

#DLNchat concluded by thinking about the future of collaboration, and perhaps competition, between nontraditional providers and traditional universities and colleges. Hounslow summarized the group’s thoughts well. He tweeted, “Competition and collaboration are not mutually exclusive. Nontraditional providers offer broad reach to new audiences, opportunities for working in new ways/modes, provide access to higher ed expertise and content that can be used and delivered in innovative ways.” As the nontraditional thinker, Jiddu Krishnamurti, said long before our #DLNchat, “Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.”

How do you think nontraditional providers will influence the future of digital learning? Tweet our community with #DLNchat to share your ideas! You can also RSVP for our next chat: Designing an Online College Degree from Scratch on Tuesday, November 13 at 1pm PT/ 4pm ET. For more topics, check out our summaries of past chats. #DLNchat is co-hosted by the Online Learning Consortium, WCET, Tyton Partners and EDUCAUSE.

#DLNchat: Designing an Online College Degree from Scratch
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