Innovative Practices that Work!

Technology has driven change in many ways.  It can be seen within the dynamic of the household, the manner in which people participate in the community, and it also has had a very profound impact on the manner in which we educate and train the future leaders of our society.  These changes, shifts in roles, manners of relation have greatly increased the responsibility of the university to provide a more “with-it” and “student-centered” approach to education and has greatly reinforced the drastic need for pedagogical change.  “Colleges and universities are confronting new types of students—younger and more technology-driven, as well as older and more career-driven. They are confronting unprecedented competition, aggressive accountability demands and a view of operating in a global context” (Fullan & Scott, 2010, p. 1).  Universities must find innovative ways to further meet the needs of the student while setting themselves apart from the old and the common.

Innovation comes from the ability to consciously consider multiple perspectives while looking for answers and solutions to relatively new and foreign ideas.  “Without the ability to see value in what others say, and without the capacity to think about issues within a futures context, there will be few truly innovative approaches that emerge to ensure that people, organizations, and communities remain vital and sustainable” (Marx, 2006, p. 151).

Portland State University, took quite seriously the changes in technology and the need for shifts in pedagogical styles within their university.  As a preemptive effort, Portland U began addressing technology needs from the beginning—understanding that the “student” has a much different role today, then he/she did twenty years ago.

According to Newbaker (2012) today’s college student is quite different than the student of twenty years ago. “54 percent of adult learners are age 25-29…34 percent of adult learners are 40 and over” (para. 3).  These full-time students represent a majority that have time constraints such as families, careers, and other limiting factors that impede their ability to attend schools during regular hours.  They want an education that is streamlined, efficient, accommodating to the time pressures and constraints that they must face on a daily basis.

Portland University’s accredited online program addresses the needs of the growing majority of student; a student that is unlike those of the past. According to Portland State University (2017), “The strength of our online degree programs is a big reason why U.S. News and World Report named us one of America’s top 10 most innovative universities” (para. 2).  The success of Portland can be replicated through a strong accreditation process that strongly monitors its inputs.  Professors with strong experience, refined and accredited programs, and flexibility have helped to maintain the rigor of its programs while addressing the individual needs of its students.

“Portland State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)” (Portland State University, 2017, para. 2).  Manning (2014) suggests that accreditation has always served the innovation of the institution.  I chose Portland State because it has become a strong hybrid between the sterile education that traditional universities provide and the loose and immeasurable education the MOOCs offer.  If other schools want to see the successes of Portland U in their own universities, they need only do two things.  1. Follow an accreditation process that strictly enforces the processes, educational methods, and solvency of the university. 2. Plan for a program that specifically caters to the needs of its population.

Portland State            Computer Hall


Fullan, M., Scott, G. (11/2010). Turnaround Leadership for Higher Education, 1st Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781118570302/

Manning, S. (2014). Launching new institutions: Solving the chicken-or-egg problem in American higher education. Retrieved from http://www.aei.org/publication/launching-new-institutions-solving-chicken-egg-problem-american-higher-education.

Marx, G. (2006). Future Focused Leadership, 1st Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/MBS1526230/

Newbaker, P. (2012). More than onethird of college students are over 25. Retrieved from http://www.studentclearinghouse.org/about/media_center/press_releases/files/release_2012-04-19.pdf

Portland State University. (2017). Portland State PSU Online | Welcome. Retrieved May 23, 2017, from https://www.pdx.edu/psu-online/




MOOCs et al

MOOC File retrieved on 05-10-2017 technologyenhancedlearning.net/2013/02/mooc.png

The reality is, education is expensive.  Not only is it expensive, but the cost analysis of the education, the opportunity cost expensed, and the marginal utility received from its consumption can be seen as dwindling.

Christensen et al., (2011) suggest:

Our country’s dominant higher education policies have focused on expanding access for more than half a century—allowing more students to afford higher education. Yet changing circumstances mandate that we shift the focus of higher education policy away from how to enable more students to afford higher education to how we can make a quality postsecondary education affordable (para. 3).

And although technological forums are being created to curtail this bleak trend, they are still illustrating a less than advantageous defense against the traditional university. There has to be a way.  The most recent adventures in technology have led to an initiative known as Massive Open Online Course or MOOC.  MOOCs have been established for a great many reasons, but their objective is to create a platform that allows for easy access, null cost or cost considerate programs, that provide for flexibility in time frames while shortening courseloads towards the achievement of certificates within the programs.


How do MOOCs fit into the general higher education landscape? Or are they more suited to the “fringe?”

When massive open online courses first grabbed the spotlight in 2011, many saw in them the promise of a revolutionary force that would disrupt traditional higher education by expanding access and reducing costs” (Selingo, 2014).  MOOCs are an opportunity to educate–with relatively no or little expense–socio-economically deprived populations that need a way to reach the coursework while working around the diverse and taxing schedules.

However, what has been witnessed by a majority of the MOOCs community has been contrary to their cause and the fundamental rationale behind this was the manner in which the MOOCs were structured.  Although it was true that creating a free schedule to complete assignments offered flexibility, the reality was that the flexibility often created opportunities for students to do anything other than their studies.

When it offered an open forum for all to access, those that utilized the programs in a successful manner were students that came from more affluent backgrounds-well-versed in technology or already held a degree and were, according to Selingo (2014),   “far better equipped to navigate such a course, especially one covering difficult material” (para. 4).

MOOCs are a great way to educate given you are well-versed, have experience in the expectations of higher education, and require little assistance and/or motivation to navigate your own learning.  Although MOOCs provide additional learning experiences as relatively low to no costs is great, but the programs should be geared towards specialization coursework and even mini certificate type programs that can be short enough in duration to keep the prize at hand and deadline driven in order to promote successful completion.

What can traditional higher education institutions learn from MOOCs to use them effectively as a learning tool?

The idea behind MOOCs is incredibly powerful.  Educating the masses in a cost efficient, catered to approach.  Students can afford to take the courses with relatively no costs associated aside from the opportunity costs for time spent and they are able to cater their learning format, lessons, educational pursuits in a manner that fits their needs.  “The MOOC provides learning in chunks, at a student’s own pace” (Selingo, 2014, para. 15).

The traditional higher education facility has the opportunity to look at MOOCs, their rise in popularity, and ultimately their platform to come to realizations in order to restructure their purpose and more importantly their message to the learner.  Do we value your attendance?  Can we provide you with the level of education that with providing you with a competitive advantage when moving into the job sector?  Can we keep tuition, fees and other expenses down to make the pursuit of a degree affordable and within reason?  Can we streamline the process to offer you a catered learning experience that is specific to your career pursuits?  How can we better help the learner through the process?  Today, the education world (specifically higher education) must begin to realize that the role of the educator is changing.

Traditional higher education must:

  1. Must customize the learning process to meet the needs of the individual student
  2. Create a format that allows for an experiential process
  3. Target a larger audience
  4. Create more affordable coursework
  5. Create a format that is specific to the time constraints of the learner
  6. Remove excess coursework that drives tuition expense and timeframe to complete degree or certificate programs

Traditional universities to have some advantages.  Despite current efforts to create online simulated learning programs, the truth is, new learners still learn best within the confines of a traditional classroom.  I see a large movement towards creating hybrid programs–where the students are scaffolded through the process of online learning–while still being able to take classes on campus.  Selingo (2014) explains that “when MOOCs replace traditional courses, an extremely high number of students fail….much lower rates than for the on-campus equivalents (para. 6).

How can institutions measure the quality of MOOC design, delivery, and outcomes such that they can be included in a student’s transcript and graduation requirements? 

Measuring an MOOC and its effectiveness and how coursework coincides to degree or certificate outcomes presents quite a challenge.  Morrison (2015) writes, “MOOCs don’t fit into the traditional education mold and given it’s usually unclear what the intended outcomes are for MOOCs, assessment is challenging (Gaebel, 2013)” (para. 1).

Morrison identifies an effective instruction model known as the Merril + which infuses five characteristics of effective instruction infused with five additional principles established by Margaryan and Collins.  Morrison (2015) suggests that learning occurs when these components are present:

  1. Problem Centered Learning: …when learners are engaged in solving real-world problems
  2. Activation: …when learners activate existing knowledge, experience or a skill set as a foundation for creating new knowledge and/or skills.
  3. Demonstration: …when learners observe a demonstration [that includes learning of new knowledge via a primary resource] of the skill [knowledge] to be learned.
  4. Application: …when learners apply their new knowledge or skill through discussion, written work, or creation of an artifact to solve a problem.
  5. Integration: …when new knowledge is integrated and into the learner’s context
  6. Collective knowledge: …when learners contribute to the collective knowledge of a subject or topic
  7. Collaboration: …when learners collaborate with others to expand knowledge of individuals and a community of practice
  8. Differentiation: …when learners are provided with different avenues of learning, according to their need, e.g. scaffolding
  9. Authentic resources: …when quality learning resources are curated from and applicable to real world problems
  10. Feedback: …when learners are given expert feedback on their performance (para. 6)

We can review and adjust MOOC curriculum to emphasize these components, but how and to what degree can we monitor their presence?  The context of learning, Hood and Littlejohn (2016), summate “is situated within and across the institutional contexts of the specific course creator and the platform provider” (para. 5).  This makes the task of assessing the evaluative components, objectives, and course content difficult, but not necessarily unachievable.  It is a daunting task for any university, but I believe it would be necessary for each course to be taken by an evaluator within the university to identify key components, as listed by Merrill, but also content alignment with course completion objectives in order to determine if specific MOOC classes could be considered acceptable for degree or certification requirements.

The reality is, a MOOC degree would be a completely unique and specific degree which could be significant because it would allow the employer to match a very specific need within the company.  With that, the downfall would be that the degree would be so specialized or specific that degree descriptions or even job descriptions (later on) would be so specific and restrictive that it would make the process of evaluating (when graduating or hiring) incredibly difficult.

Without definitive objectives, a strict process and fluid process for measurement, a blueprint to coursework correlation for degree advancement and achievement, the MOOC process may never be a means of degree achievement nor is it about information accumulation .  Norvig (2016) suggests “more important is motivation and determination” (4:46).


Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., Caldera, L., & Soares, L. (2011). Disrupting college: How disruptive innovation can deliver quality and affordability to postsecondary education. Washington, DC and Mountain View, CA: Center for American Progress and Innosight Institute.

Hood, N., & Littlejohn, A. (2016). MOOC quality: The need for new measures. Journal of learning for development – Jl4d, 3(3). Retrieved from http://www.jl4d.org/index.php/ejl4d/article/view/165/155

Morrison, D. (2015, December 12). MOOC quality comes down to this: Effective course design. Retrieved from https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com/2015/12/12/mooc-quality-comes-down-to-this-effective-course-design/

Norvig, P. (2012, June). Peter Norvig: The 100,000-student classroom | TED Talk Subtitles and Transcript | TED.com [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/peter_norvig_the_100_000_student_classroom/transcript?language=en

Selingo, J. J. (2014, October 29). Demystifying the MOOC. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/education/edlife/demystifying-the-mooc.html


Education and Technology! Where are We Headed?

Family WTechnology has definitely had a profound impact on society.  In the next several weeks, while working on my coursework for my degree, I will be working with my peers on conversations highlighting technology, its uses, and its plan for change within the education system.  I’m looking forward to these conversations as they will provide the opportunity to gain great perspective from a variety of sources.  I would love to hear any and all feedback. All are welcome to participate!  Thank you!