Time Needed to Develop/Teach Online Courses

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday my colleague from  the Macauley Honor’s  College, Joe Ugoretz and I met with administrators and faculty at Baruch College.  It was a good session devoted to issues of online and blended learning.  A question was raised regarding the time it takes to develop and to teach online courses.  It was both Joe’s and my opinion that it takes more time to develop and teach  online than in a comparable face-to-face course but there are trade-offs in terms of convenience and less commutation  to the college.  Jeff Seaman (Babson College Survey Research Group) recently completed a survey (N=10,270) of faculty attitudes to online learning.   Among the findings were:

“Nearly 64 percent of faculty said it takes “somewhat more” or “a lot more” effort to teach online compared to a face-to-face course.

The results for online course development are even more striking: Over 85 percent of the faculty with online course development experience said it takes “somewhat more” or “a lot more” effort.”

The complete report, “Online Learning as a Strategic Asset, Volume II: The Paradox of Faculty Voices: Views and Experiences with Online Learning” is available at the URL below.



Organic Software, Ecosystems and Blended Learning!

Dear Commons Community,

This morning I upgraded by Mozilla Firefox web browser.  Upon completion, I was directed to the Mozilla website to review its latest software offerings.  What caught my eye was a reference to “organic software”.  In reading the description, organic software referred to people oriented software design as sometimes seen in open software development.

About a month ago, I was asked to be on a panel at a conference on blended learning to be held in Chicago in April.  The title of the panel is:  Ecosystems and Blended Learning.  An abbreviated description of this panel follows:

“Blended learning is the artful design of a teaching and learning experience that leverages instruction, technology, administrative and support services, into a seamless experience for learner and teacher…Blended learning can result in either a disjointed sometimes  confusing learning and teaching experience or can be one of the most rewarding environments in which to teach and learn.”

The terms “organic software” and “ecosystems” reflect the fact that we are beginning to look at online technology  as a “naturally occurring” activity.  This is good and it may be that we are at a point of maturity in designing online learning environments with enough refinements that can move us beyond what are sometimes “disjointed confusing teaching and learning experiences” to “seamless” or “natural” experiences. 

In sum, I like these terms/metaphors  “organic software” and “ecosystems” as applied to online technology and we should use them more to guide our instructional designs.


Recession Hurts the Lowest Wage Earners the Most!

Dear Commons Community,

Although we see and hear little signs that the recession is alleviating a bit, a recent study by two professors at Northeastern University describes a fuller picture of those most affected.  The study says those in the lowest income group (making $12,499 or less) and the second-lowest group (making $12,500 to $20,000) account for 30.8% and 19.1%, respectively, of those unemployed during the fourth quarter of 2009. By contrast, those making $100,000 to $149,000 or $150,000 or more accounted for 4% and 3.2% of the unemployed.   The unemployment numbers for the two lowest groups are comparable to the Great Depression while the most affluent are technically at full employment.

The full study can be found at:  http://www.clms.neu.edu/publication/documents/Labor_Underutilization_Problems_of_U.pdf

An article in the NY Times summarizing the article can be found at:



Binghamton University Sports!

Dear Commons Community,

It is a little sad to see how a great public university and one of our sister colleges in the SUNY system could have made such major errors in judgment to set aside its academic integrity in pursuit of a higher-profile sports program.   A report recently released by a former judge of the New York Court of Appeals is highly critical of the way the sports program was operating at Binghamton University under the watch of President Lois DeFleur and the athletic directors she appointed.   Credit for soft courses, pressure on instructors to inflate grades, and recruiting athletes with troubled pasts were among a number of criticisms identified in the report.  In reading a couple of articles on this story, I kept wondering if Binghamton represents an isolated sorry case or is it representative of many big time college sports programs that have sold their souls in pursuit of athletic fame and revenue.

A recent NY Times editorial and an article can be found in the links below.




E-Book Prices Going Up?

Dear Commons Community,

There is an interesting discussion in an article in today’s NY Times regarding e-book pricing.  It suggests that many owners of Amazon’s Kindle and other e-readers are cost conscious and will rebel if prices for an e-book go much above the standard Amazon price of $9.99.  I don’t know if this is true but in my own case, I know that the appeal of an e-reader surely relates to pricing.  I love my hard copy (dog-eared, pencil (not pen) marked-up in my favorite chair reading style) but I am very close to purchasing an e-reader because of price.  For instance, while writing an article recently, I came across a reference (book) that I would have loved to read a chapter for some particular point, when I checked to see its availability on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I was shocked at the $95. price but an e-book version was available at $9.99.  I would definitely have purchased the less expensive version and instead passed  on the hard copy.    I keep thinking about this experience and am leaning  to purchasing a Kindle or one of the other e-readers this summer.


The NY Times article is available at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/technology/11reader.html?th&emc=th

Early College Programs!

Dear Commons Community,

Early college programs – programs that combined high school with one or two years of college – are gaining in popularity.  They are one of several strategies that are aimed at trying to improve the graduation rates of high school students which in many areas of the country including New York City hovers around 60 percent.   While there are hundreds of these programs nationally, City University of New York operates about a dozen of them.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded a number of these programs and is gearing up to invest even more over the next half-dozen years.  The Obama Administration as part of its emphasis on community college and workforce development also appears to be looking to support more of these programs nationally.

For more information:

a 30-page report completed by Jobs for the Future is available at: http://www.jff.org/publications/education/innovators-college-readiness/921

a NY Times article on these programs is available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/08/education/08school.html?th&emc=th


New Sloan Survey on Online Learning!

Dear Commons Community,

The seventh annual Sloan Survey of Online Learning was recently released and indicates that online enrollment in American colleges and universities rose by nearly 17 percent in Fall 2008.   The survey, a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group, the College Board and the Sloan Consortium, is the leading barometer of online learning in the United States. Using results from more than 2,500 colleges and universities nationwide, the report finds approximately 4.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course.  This survey is well-done and conducted by two colleagues of mine at Babson College, Jeff Seaman and Elaine Allen.  It is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the state of online learning in higher education.    The complete report, “Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009” is available at the URL below.



More Cloud Computing!

Dear Commons Colleagues,

Microsoft is taking another step into cloud computing with the announcement that it will be making its cloud computing facility available gratis to university researchers. As part of this announcement. Microsoft also indicated it would be using its Windows Azure operating system.  A key goal of this is to provide an interface to its “cloud” that is as easy to use as possible.

An article on the announcement  can be viewed at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/science/05cloud.html?th&emc=th

For a bit more info on  cloud computing,  see  my earlier post on this blog at:  https://apicciano.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2009/12/15/the-fourth-paradigm-of-science-research-more-cloud-computing/