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Assessing the Value of Synchronous Learning. Phillip Knutel, Bentley University Louis Chin, Bentley University Jim Lee, UMass Online (Lowell) MJ Potvin, Suffolk University. My Background with Online Learning.

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assessing the value of synchronous learning

Assessing the Value of Synchronous Learning

Phillip Knutel, Bentley University

Louis Chin, Bentley University

Jim Lee, UMass Online (Lowell)

MJ Potvin, Suffolk University

my background with online learning
My Background with Online Learning
  • Worked for the VP for IT and Dean for Academic Outreach (online learning) at Michigan
    • He left to start Internet2
    • I left as Director of Academic Technology for Academic Outreach to come to Bentley
    • My Ph.D. dissertation research was on enabling widespread faculty adoption of extant technologies
  • Excelsior College
    • 36,500 online students; 500 employees, and few faculty
    • Competency testing model
    • I serve on Curriculum Development Committee
    • President John Ebersole on Boston Higher Education Innovation Council (BHEIC)
    • I serve on Steering Committee for BHEIC
fellow bheic steering committee members include
Fellow BHEIC Steering Committee Members Include:
  • Kris Clerkin, SNHU Executive Director, College for America
    • $2,500/year associate’s degree for working adults
    • ConAgra sponsor; plan to enroll 100,000 in 1st 5 years
  • Sean Gallagher, Senior Strategist & Market Development Officer, Northeastern University
    • Launching campuses in Charlotte, NC and Seattle, WA
  • Peter Stokes, Vice President for Global Strategy and Business Development, Northeastern University
    • Former Executive Vice President and Chief Research Officer, Eduventures
  • Michael Sandler, Founder, Eduventures
online courses collaboration team members
Online Courses/Collaboration Team Members
  • Received an asynchronous online MS in 2013
  • Completed doctoral dissertation at BU on online learning
  • Worked at and taught for the University of Phoenix Online (asynchronous)
  • Worked at and taught for Northeastern Online (asynchronous)
  • Taken (and even completed!) Carnegie Mellon MOOC (asynchronous)
  • Regularly attend and present at online learning conferences
  • Began creating asynchronous course materials in the 1980s
  • Regularly assist faculty in developing asynchronous resources to enhance learning outside the physical or online classroom
collaboration tools
Collaboration Tools
  • Seek out & implement the best available technology to:
    • Facilitate student engagement
    • Appeal to variety of learning styles
    • Support collaborative & peer-to-peer learning
    • Provide immersive learning environments
    • Improve information literacy
    • Time-shift content delivery (“flipping the classroom”)
    • Enable staff collaboration
  • No allegiance to any particular tool or method
    • Saba Centra, Oovoo, Google Drive & Hangouts, Citrix GoToMeeting (love the phone bridge!) & Podio, Adobe Connect, Wimba Pronto, Cisco WebEx, BaseCamp, etc.
    • Collaborative tools class project
online learning context
Online Learning Context
  • Total enrollment in US higher ed: 21M
  • Students taking at least one online course: 6.7M (32%)
  • Annual online growth rate: 9.3% (lowest in 10 years; was 37% in 2005) = 570K
  • Online “adoption barriers” by chief academic officers:
    • Even at institutions that offer online degrees, only 38% of faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education
    • 89% (highest ever) consider it “important” or “very important” that students need more discipline to succeed
      • Most faculty say students don’t read assigned material in traditional classes
    • 74% (highest ever) concerned over low retention rates
      • Usually due to lack of engagement with professor and other students
    • 40% concerned over lack of acceptance by employers
  • 2.6% of colleges & universities have a MOOC
    • 9.4% planning one, 55% undecided, 33% no plans
our online strateg y
Our Online Strategy
  • Leverage Bentley’s strengths in teaching and state-of-the-art academic technology to offer the highest quality online experience available, and …
  • Do so in the most cost-effective way possible
asynchronous vs synchronous learning models
Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Learning Models

Studies show no significant difference in the effectiveness of asynchronous versus synchronous learning. 1

Anecdotal evidence that synchronous learning increases student satisfaction and retention. 2

While students’ general perceptions were slightly better in the synchronous model, and significantly better in “Clear Delivery” and “Enthusiasm”,retention rates were similar (above 80%). 3

our online strategy
Our Online Strategy

Approach designed to

  • Maintain the same quality of education throughout
    • Accreditation teams have praised this consistency
    • Engagement with synchronous resident and online colleagues
    • Leveraging our students as Technical Assistants to ensure faculty can focus on student learning
  • Outreach to students, enabling them to learn from a distance (work or location reasons)
    • Utilize technology used by distributed, global work teams
  • Develop our skill set for an increase in synchronous online communities
    • In hybrid classes, with asynchronous elements
    • Allow growth while constraining the size of physical classroom
online continuum
Online Continuum

(1) Asynchronous Online

(2) Synchronous Online

(3) Bentley Hybrid

  • Online correspondence course
  • Can be offered to thousands or hundreds of thousands of students (MIT)
  • Startup and operating costs are possibly in the millions
  • Live, engaging, interactive
  • Ideal for dynamic content
  • Local students cannot attend in traditional campus classroom setting
  • Broad appeal to local, regional, and distance markets - attend online or in person
  • Asynchronous access to materials via Blackboard
  • Profitable once marginal cost of technical assistant is covered
defining characteristics
Defining Characteristics

Asynchronous Online

Bentley Hybrid

Anytime with internet connection

Set dates for enrollment, assignment deadlines, quizzes, tests

From anywhere except no campus, classroom attendance is possible

Delayed and mostly text-based

Sometimes through recorded videos

Limited to online students

Physical face-to-face networking not supported

10-20% higher than in person

Paid for course development and/or a premium for teaching online



Faculty-student interaction




Anytime for class material and preparatory exercises

Set time for live, interactive class sessions

Students can attend in person or online from anywhere

Live, audio and video with in-class whiteboards boards projected virtually

Online & area students who want to network and build relationships in person

Same as in-person

Nothing above salary for teaching traditional class, but a technical assistant is needed


Bentley Hybrid

Normal course development with any paper materials scanned and digitized

Syllabus usually include links to readings from library databases. Other materials optional due to live class meetings

Normal class meeting time and office hours, email




Faculty requirements:

Asynchronous Online

Multimedia course material development

Post lecture learning materials

Time working with students

Significant faculty time must be invested designing, developing, and revising material with instructional designers who specialize in creating asynchronous content

Syllabus, assignments, online quizzes, discussion boards, blogs, wikis, etc. must be prepared for asynchronous learning

Professor or teaching assistant must respond to student electronic discussions and questions via email or other electronic media




Student potential:

Work on individual assignments or

Collaboratively in groups anytime, anywhere

Work in live, real-time groups during class, with professor’s live guidance

Watch playbacks of live, participative classes for clarification of missed concepts & further reinforcement

since 2001 via word of mouth
Since 2001, via “Word of Mouth”
  • 20,188 students have enrolled in 696 hybrid and online classes taught by 110 faculty
  • This year
    • 30% of graduate classes were offered in hybrid format
    • 37% of graduate students took at least one hybrid class
    • 39% of students in hybrid classes attended online
  • Growth leveled off since 2008-09 due to gradual elimination of PF courses, real estate MS, GS classes for HFID, etc.
quality assessment
Quality Assessment
  • Quality indicators at Bentley include:
    • 80% of online students rate their experience 8/10 or higher
    • 100% want more hybrid classes
    • 90% of all students utilize playbacks for learning reinforcement/missed classes
    • Attrition rates no different than on-campus classes
      • Attrition rates for freshmen average 35% for online versus 20% in traditional courses
    • Same Student Evaluations of Teaching (SET) scores
external validation
External Validation
  • Bose has visited campus twice to see our state-of-the-art classroom setup, digital processors, and ceiling microphone systems in action
  • “While mixing online instruction with face-to-face time is not exactly new, momentum for hybrid learning has been building ever since a Department of Education meta-study in 2010 quietly announced that traditional education simply doesn't stack up. In that study, online education was determined to be more effective than traditional classrooms--and blended learning topped the lot.”

Campus Technology, May 3, 2013

quality assessment1
Quality Assessment
  • University of Tennessee’s Physician’s Executive MBA program found:
    • Blended learning programs can be completed in half the time, at less than half the cost
    • Rich mix of live/synchronous, asynchronous, and physical classroom delivery improved learning outcomes by 10% over traditional classroom
    • Multiple modes enhanced amount and quality of learning
  • EDUVENTURES 2005 study of 18-25 year olds (now 25-32 year olds):
    • 85% interest in hybrid online + on campus college programs with 56% were more likely to consider a hybrid over a purely online one
third party cost indicators and perspectives
Third party cost indicators and perspectives
  • Over 50% of Fortune 100 companies use Saba Centra in the workplace

- Our online students learn to collaborate with this tool

synchronous collaboration tool costs
Synchronous Collaboration Tool Costs?
  • Bell Canada Return-on-Investment (ROI) Study
    • 2.5 hour asynchronous course w/ short video took 1,487 hours to develop
      • 5 year ROI = 288%
      • For every $1 spent developing web-based training, Bell saved $3
      • Break-even after 111 students
    • 4 hour synchronous course using Centra took 144 hours to develop
      • 5 year ROI = 3,283%
      • For every $1 spent developing web-based training, Bell saved $33
      • Break-even after 4 students

Hybrid approach can offer cost-effective high quality

  • Linking self-paced (asynchronous) material to live e-learning delivery has a profound effect on overall usage and completion rates
  • Can dramatically increase the ROI of self-paced (asynchronous) content
  • Provide an online experience equal in learning & satisfaction of our on-campus students

Bentley University doctoral student’sdissertation research

  • Video
  • Can be much more competitive and profitable when:
    • Content is more static than dynamic
      • To recoup investment in materials development
    • Enrollments are very high (hundreds to thousands)
      • Often use lots of adjuncts and Teaching Assistants to engage students
      • Bentley’s Technical Assistants do not teach but manage the technical issues, so faculty can focus on teaching

Stanford Researchers, December 2003

      • How static is content in Bentley’s technology-infused business curriculum?
    • Asynchronous intro courses?
    • Implications for reputation/brand?
      • MOOC dropout rates average 90%+ (95.5% for MIT’s 1st MOOC)
    • Ownership?

Asynchronous Course Development Costs

  • Campus Technology (June 2004)
    • Estimate of $10K-25K per credit hour or $300K-750K development costs for an asynchronous MS
  • University of Maryland’s University College asynchronous online MBA program
    • Estimated $22,399 loss for a class of 15; $61,838 profit for a class of 20
  • Northeastern Online’s asynchronous program has 23 F/T employees and made $2M profit in 2010 (after third-party provider’s cut)
  • Arizona State’s Online program has 24 F/T employees; generated $6.2M profit in 2011
when you read about high enrollment revenue numbers at umass online etc
When You Read About High Enrollment/Revenue Numbers at UMass Online etc…

high quality and highly profitable
High Quality, and Highly Profitable
  • We’ve largely replaced labor with capital
    • “Hybridized” existing smart classrooms
      • Use investments to support 80+ additional non-course events/year
    • Faculty receive no additional compensation for teaching online
    • Student technical assistants
  • Each hybrid class profitable after 1.3 online students enroll
    • $4615 cost per class covers ALL incremental capital (servers, classroom equipment), depreciation, & operating (student salaries, full-time salaries & benefits, software licenses, etc.) expenditures
    • All online enrollments after this represent pure profit