METANOMICS: EDUCATION FOR EVERYONE
EXPANDING ACCESS THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
MARCH 10, 2010
ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is brought to you by Remedy Communications and Dusan Writer's
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hi. I'm Robert Bloomfield, professor at Cornell University's Johnson Graduate
School of Management. Today we continue exploring Virtual Worlds in the larger sphere of social media,
culture, enterprise and policy. Naturally, our discussion about Virtual Worlds takes place in a Virtual
World. So join us. This is Metanomics.
ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is filmed today in front of a live audience at our studios in Second Life. We
are pleased to broadcast weekly to our event partners and to welcome discussion. We use ChatBridge
technology to allow viewers to comment during the show. Metanomics is sponsored by the Johnson
Graduate School of Management at Cornell University and Immersive Workspaces. Welcome. This is
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Welcome to Metanomics. Today we are joined by two Drexel professors who
will be talking about access and engagement in online education. Dr. Rebecca Clothey is the director of
Drexel University's Higher Education and Global and International Education programs, and she's an
associate clinical professor in the School of Education, and has been very well-traveled. She lived in
China for five years, speaks Mandarin Chinese and previously conducted elections training for the U.S.
Statement Department in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Dr. Kristen Betts is an associate clinical professor in the School of Education's Higher Education program,
also at Drexel University. Dr. Betts was named as one of Drexel University's award recipients for
outstanding online instructor. Dr. Betts has also had a very interesting consulting practice, was the
principal of an educational research company that worked with corporations, government agencies and
educational institutions. And I notice among her client list is an organization close to my heart: the
Securities and Exchange Commission. So I hope to learn a little about that sometime during the session.
So, Rebecca, Kristen, welcome to Metanomics.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Thank you so much for having us today.
KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much. It's a real privilege to be here with Metanomics.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, thank you. I should say actually it's an honor that we've been able to
generate a big enough community that we're still doing this. This is our ninety-fifth show, and I was feeling
a little bit nostalgic so you'll notice I'm dressed a little casually today. This is the outfit that I wore for the
very first episode. So for what it's worth, these are my old duds.
So the timing for this session is a good one because we're in the midst of the 2010 Virtual Symposium -
Education for Everyone: Expanding Access Through Technology. Rebecca Clothey, you're the
conference organizer so can you tell us what's in store for the remainder of the month?
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Sure. I'm the conference co-organizer. I do need to give credit to all of the people
who are helping out. But the conference is, I think, a very unique event. We are focusing on the aspects
of expanding access through technology, as you mentioned. And we've had people from around the world
submit presentations that are just different kinds of projects that people are doing around the world to
expand educational access. We have people from China, from Austria, from Germany, all over the United
States, who are just doing all kinds of different things, things that really I didn't even know was going on
and I think would be extremely fascinating for anyone who is interested in technology in general, but also
Some of it is related to distance learning. Some of it is related to Virtual Worlds, different kinds of training.
For example, Boeing has a presentation on what they're doing to train employees through their virtual
environment. We also have another gentleman who trains counselor educators in Second Life. We also
have connected community colleges throughout China; it's a technology center based in Shanghai that
connects different community colleges around the country, which is actually a pretty unique technology
environment. And the presenter from Shanghai Normal University emphasizes that it's not distance
learning, and it's not specifically technology, but it's using technology as a venue to expand the access
and the reach of these other institutions.
So starting on March 1st, we started posting a lot of these presentations on demand, and, if you go to the
website, you can view them and log in. One of the unique features is that there is interactivity so you can
interact with the presenters and ask them questions through the website. And then, on the dates of
March 23rd through 25th, we'll be having live events. So we'll have a keynote speaker, two keynotes in
On March 23rd, Curtis Bonk, he's a professor at Indiana University, in learning technologies. He's going to
speak about his book which recently was released, called The World is Open. And I think his work is
really exciting because he looks at ten trends in technology over the last five to ten years, that have, in his
view, monumentally changed the face of education, in terms of providing new opportunities for people to
get access to information. E-books is a perfect example. And he just looks at a lot of different trends, and
we'll be going through his trends. He's an excellent speaker, and I think that will be a very enjoyable talk.
Then we'll have a response to that by Phil Carp. He's the director of the Global Development Learning
Network, the East Asia regional manager in Beijing for the World Bank Institute, and he will be giving a
response that looks more at some of the challenges and obstacles. So one thing I like to think about for
access is, technology is incredible these days, and every year it changes. There's always something new
coming down the pike, and those of us who are excited about technology and the bells and whistles like
to experiment, all of that technology means nothing if you can't actually utilize it, and that would mean it
requires training. It requires being able to get an internet connection, having the most up-to-date
computer and software. So this is something that the World Bank speaker will be responding in his talk.
And then we'll have two days of panel discussions. Dr. Betts, who's sitting on my right, will be one of the
panelists. On the first day we'll be talking about policy issues and how government policies have really
promoted the use of technology and distance learning in various contexts, as well as public and private
partnerships and how those have really built opportunities in education and technology.
And then on day two of the discussions, which would be March 25th, and that's the panel that
Kristen Betts will be on, we will be talking about best practices in technology use, and we'll have several
panelists who are working in distance education. We'll have panelists who are working in higher
education in different countries, as well as several representatives from some technology providers. Our
sponsors for the conference are Adobe and Sonic Foundry, and they will also be providing best practice
representatives for that panel.
So we're really excited about the diversity of speakers, about the content, and we just have a great array
of people who have been working in the field for a really long time. So I think it's going to be a fabulous
event. And, from what I've seen so far of the on-demand presentations, it's a really great variety, and I
think there's really something for everybody.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So since it's a virtual conference about access to education through
technology, I gather the medium itself is part of the message. Can you talk a little bit about the technology
that you're using for the synchronous, the live events?
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Sure. Absolutely. We are using primarily Polycom so that each person,
depending on where they are, we've got some panelists beaming in from Tokyo and from Beijing, from
Shanghai, from Sacramento and from Philadelphia, so we'll have people based in many different
locations. And what we've had to do is connect through a bridge. We're using actually the World Bank's
IP, and they have connections through Africa, all through China, through the U.S., through their
Washington, D.C. headquarters, and so they're providing the bridge for all of this. But we will have video
cameras set up here, set up in Beijing, set up in Tokyo and set up in Sacramento so that wherever people
are located we will be able to see them through video, and it will be streamed through the internet.
Now we were very conscientious about wanting to reach as many people as possible because one of our
goals is to get people to interact, get people to meet other individuals who are working on technology or
education projects related to the kinds of things that they're interested in, and it's very nice that all they
need is a computer and an internet connection. You can log in from anywhere. We have a link. All you
have to do is click on the link, and it's free to access, and everything will be recorded as well. Now we
would, of course, like everyone to participate live because then you will have the opportunity to interact
with the presenters and with the panelists, and you can submit your questions online just as we'll be doing
For those of you who are Second Life fans, we'll also be streaming through Second Life, and we'll provide
that link for you as well, and you can join us through Second Life as well. Sorry. I just heard some
feedback music for a second there. I don't know if that was what I was supposed to be hearing.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: These things happen. I didn't hear it.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Caught me off guard for a second. Yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: But it could be any number of things, whether you have any web pages open.
KRISTEN BETTS: No. I think it sounded like some monumental buildup to what Rebecca was sharing. It
was quite timely, Rebecca.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: It was like a drum roll. It made it sound so--it really set the stage. So I appreciate
that. Thank you.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, you gave such a great description of what's available. And you're saying
this is all free.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: It is free.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Is that just so we can all participate?
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Everyone can participate.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Who's underwriting this? Because it's obviously not free to put on.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Right. We have funding from Adobe and from Sonic Foundry. They both
contributed. They're our sponsors so they contributed some money towards it. And then we also have a
small grant from the School of Education at Drexel University. Then we also have in-kind support. So for
example, the World Bank is letting us use their facilities very generously free of charge. So we have a lot
of partners that actually have been investing time and energy because they believe in it, and they're
excited about the idea and scope. And, because we are trying to reach a wide variety of people in many,
many different places, we have worked really hard to keep the costs down, and, as I mentioned, for that
reason we are presenting it for free.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Fascinating. I definitely hope to take part in some of that.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Great. I hope you can.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I'd like to move on a little bit. As I thought about how to structure this show, we
had a little pre-interview discussion last week. It occurred to me that the two of you are sort of a one-two
punch for online education. Rebecca, you tend to focus primarily on access, getting people in the seats.
And then, Kristen, you focus more on engagement, keeping them there, and, of course, getting them and
keeping them are the first two steps in actually educating people. So I thought I'd structure the interview
along those lines. So, Rebecca, I'll just stick with you for a little longer. You wrote an article published by
the Journal of World Universities Forum, called Education for Everyone: Expanding Opportunities
Through Distance Education. And you talk about the opportunities, but also the challenges created by
online learning. Can you just give us the overall view of how you see the opportunities and challenges?
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Okay. Well, I think most people are aware that a lot of universities all over the
world are looking to distance learning specifically as an opportunity. And one reason why it's an
opportunity, for example, if I give you the example of China: There's more demand now for higher
education than they actually have universities. So one way to expand access is to offer courses online,
and that's something that the government has really been pushing because of the fact that they simply
don't have the physical brick-and-mortar space. Now in the United States, the trend is a little bit different.
Universities, I think, are expanding, and the idea is access, but it's more to expand to new markets. So I
would say that perhaps, in the U.S., the trend is more to be able to draw students in, who might not have
physical access to the university, but it's more in general from a for-profit perspective because it does
But no matter how you look at it, the possibility of distance learning has grown tremendously, especially in
the last ten to fifteen years. And, in every country, you are seeing this trend now, in every country. And so
there are just simply more opportunities for people to access higher education, in particular, because of
Now on the negative side, which is something that I also talked about, there are still a lot of challenges in
every country because, of course, although online learning does prevent people from the obstacle of
having to go to a brick-and-mortar institution for their education, it still requires an internet connection and
a computer, and this is not as widespread as you might expect. Of course, computer usage and internet
usage has increased tremendously, but we still see a digital divide in some areas. And this has a lot to do
with income brackets, as I'm sure you can imagine. For example, in the United States, according to the
U.S. Census Bureau--the last census--nine in ten families earning annual incomes of $75,000 or more did
have at least one computer in their home. But those with incomes below 25 percent, only three in ten had
a computer in their home. So there's really a large difference. And then with library funding being cut,
etcetera, it's still a challenge even in the United States for some people to actually get access.
I know in our program in higher education, it's an online program, we have had students who have said
they have to stay at work after hours so that they can do their course work because they don't have that
high-speed internet connection at home. That kind of situation is becoming more rare, but I do think that
more can be done. More can be done to make sure that we don't see that kind of issue continuing.
Because the internet and technology in general, I believe it has a great deal of potential, but it is always
important to look at the challenges and see how those challenges can be overcome.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Thank you. There's another article that I thought was really interesting. I
guess this is more on the opportunity side. You wrote an article called Building a Sense of Community
Through Online Video. The first thing I'd like to note is that it's published in the International Journal of
Web-Based Communities. So I want to make sure that our audience is aware, and I was not, that there is
an international journal of web-based communities. I think people who are part of this virtual community,
web-based community, may want to follow up on that. But, Rebecca, I'm wondering if you can just tell us
a little bit about this case study that you discuss there: the U.S.-China Virtual Symposium. Is that the
forerunner of the symposium coming up?
REBECCA CLOTHEY: It is. So last academic year, it was actually 2008, fall of 2008, we did our first
virtual symposium, and we specifically focused on two countries: the U.S. and China. And that was partly
because of connections that the people involved in the project had and also partly because the two
economies are more and more intertwined, and China actually is one of the largest distance-learning
providers now. Ten percent of their university population actually is taking courses online. So it seems like
a good fit to look at the two countries. Now our specific goal with that symposium, in addition to having
great and very interesting speakers talk about the different types of things they're doing specifically with
distance learning, was, we wanted to created a community of scholars and practitioners who would
continue to communicate and interact and network after the program, after the official live portion of the
program was over.
And one of the ways that we thought we might be able to do this was if we had video because so often,
with internet resources, it's very text-based. People might upload pictures, but they don't as often upload
video for example, and studies have shown that people feel more comfortable with others when they do
have visual cues like facial expressions. So we thought video would be a nice way to really personalize
the event and make it kind of parallel a little more a face-to-face conference because I think most people,
who go to face-to-face conferences, do have the intention of meeting people and connecting with
professionals in their fields. So we wanted to replicate that in an online format.
What we had was, we were working with a provider, Netbriefings, and they allowed us to utilize their
technology, which was user-based where each person who participated in the symposium could create an
introductory video. All they had to do was click a video with a web cam, and they could go through it and
say, "Hi. I'm John Smith. I work at the University of Austria, based in Linz, and my research is on
community building in online settings," etcetera. They could say as much or as little as they wanted, and
then they could post their videos on the symposium site. We actually were extremely interested about this
option because we just thought everyone is going to love it, and we're going to get so much participation.
It really, again, had a lot of potential.
What we found was that our participants, who we surveyed after the event, did say they felt a lot more
comfortable reaching out to people when they had a video introduction, and people who had posted
presentations that included video capture received more interactivity. However, we did find that not very
many people actually did post videos. So while people said that they loved seeing other people's videos,
not very many people took the initiative to do that themselves. And one of the conclusions that we drew
from that is that video technology is one of the new waves.
I know a lot of people use web cams, and they use Skype, and they use all different kinds of instant
messaging with video cameras, but the actually recording and posting of videos doesn't seem to be as
popular with the over-30 generation as it is perhaps now with the under-30 generation. We hope to do a
similar study after this event, but we do believe that, over the long term, we will see an increase in this
trend as each technology kind of needs to work its way into mainstream and move from the expert
technology users to the novice technology users. I think Facebook is a good example. At first, it was a
very small group of people who used it, and now it's very, very mainstream. In fact, my mother, who is 73
years old, just sent me a friend request from Facebook yesterday. I almost fainted.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Did you accept it? I mean a lot of kids don't want a friend there: their parents.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: I actually debated, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings so I did accept it. I did
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, hopefully, she won't see something on your page that makes her faint.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Right. I hope so. But it's a good example of how, right, someone wrote in a
comments box here they're intimidated by the technology and the learning curve. So I think video, as an
example and as an example in this case study, does have a lot of potential, but maybe we're not at the
mainstream usage level for it yet. And I certainly think we will move to that. I do believe it's getting there.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me follow up on that because at Drexel you're actually using a very familiar
mainstream technology in education, the iPod and the iPhone. Can you talk a little bit about how you're
integrating the iPod and the iPhone into education?
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Certainly. And we started out with the iPod, and one of the reasons why--I guess
there's two reasons why. One is that it's novel. At the time at least that we started using it, it was novel.
And Drexel is known for being innovative in technology use so we were trying to just try something new.
But in addition to that, 80 percent of college students today have some kind of MP3 player, use some kind
of mobile device anyway. So using an iPod actually just taps into a technology that is very mainstream
As Kristen can tell you actually, she was the director of the higher education program for several years
before I took it over. When we first started using Blackboard, some of the options in Blackboard wasn't as
robust as it is now. We used Blackboard as our platform, as our course management system, and, for
example, it didn't have voice capability and some other things that you could do with an iPod at that time.
You could record your voice and upload an MP3 file right into the course. So it expanded the things that
we were able to do. But it was also nice because students were using an iPod anyway so it just simply
made--oh, okay. I said 80 percent. Someone is putting a comment in the box that it's 89 percent. So as
you see, the usage is quite high.
Now we've moved over to experimenting with iPhones and iPod Touches now. We have a
Sacramento-based campus, which is a blended format, a blended model. They have face-to-face
interactions once a week, and then they do some of their course work online. And we wanted to
experiment with using iPhones in different capacities, to make the learning mobile. I guess this is really
the main idea here as we work with a lot of nontraditional students, and, in fact, the majority of our
students are nontraditional, meaning they probably have complicated lives, including fulltime jobs,
families, children, husbands, wives, and school is just one of the many things that they're juggling.
We wanted to provide them with options to access information so that they didn't have to be physically
sitting down at a computer and make time for that. We have lectures that they can download onto their
mobile device, if it's an iPhone, an iPod Touch or an iPod. And, if they have an internet connection, they
can access our mobile resource portal which has a great deal of information for them, including course
syllabi, introductory videos of the faculty in the program. Students are uploading information about
themselves onto the resource portal. Booklists. Just plenty of information for them. And that resource
portal actually has been in existence for only six months, and we've already had more than 4,600 clicks
on it, so we know that the students are using it, and we know that it's made a very positive impact in the
lives of our students who, as I said, have very complicated lives. What we're trying to do is help them to
take their learning anywhere, wherever they are.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, great. Very interesting. Thank you. Kristen, I'd like to turn to you.
KRISTEN BETTS: Sure.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Welcome to Metanomics.
KRISTEN BETTS: Well, thank you so much. It's a real honor to be here with you today.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great. I did not realize you had that directorship position before Rebecca so
that explains why the two of you seem to be together on so many issues.
You wrote a two-part article in the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, which just coincidentally has
the acronym JOLT. But your article was Online Human Touch Instruction and Programming: A
Conceptual Framework to Increase Student Engagement and Retention in Online Education. First, can
you tell us a little bit about the state of engagement in online education? Do you see attrition as being a
KRISTEN BETTS: I'll give you just kind of a historic answer that'll lead up to a current answer. I think
there's been a lot of misperception of online education, a course where you simply log in. You submit a
lecture, almost like a glorified correspondence course. But, in fact, with all of the robust technologies that
are out there, students are finding the programs to be as engaging, if not more engaging, than traditional
face-to-face programs. And I say this because, when you look at the set of indicators U.S. government
uses to define nontraditional students, approximately 70 percent of all U.S. college students are
considered nontraditional. That may be that they're working part-time. They have a dependent that they're
responsible for. They've taken time off of school and gone back. So when you're looking at all of this and
you're looking at adult learners in terms of time, adults have very limited time.
So even if you're in a face-to-face program, you've got to really look at what is engagement. Is it
engagement on a campus where you're driving as quickly as you can to get a parking spot, to get into
your course? And at the end of the class you're packing up to get back home because you have family
you're responsible for. Perhaps you have a second job that you're working at. So when we look at
engagement, is it engagement in the campus? Is it engagement in the course? And so with the higher
education program, we developed the program; it took one year to develop the program. We did a very
large market segment analysis. We did an environmental scan. We put together just a wonderful
compendium of higher-education professionals to go through the curriculum. And we wanted to make
sure that students didn't simply go into an online environment and download lectures and simply post to a
discussion board. We wanted them to be engaged in materials that were current and that would challenge
them to really develop skills. They would be engaged in online experiences that would give them firsthand
knowledge that they could apply immediately in the workplace. And so we were able to look at the
technology, and, as Rebecca mentioned, the program we started in fall of 2005 with 26 students, we now
have over 200 students, and our retention rate is approximately between 82 and 85 percent. Why?
Because the students are engaged.
And what we found was, early on, when we had attrition and we looked at exit surveys, we found students
were leaving because they did not feel connected to the program or they weren't connected with the
faculty. And this is one of the reasons we partnered with Apple. Blackboard didn't have a voice
component. They didn't have a video component. So we were able to integrate that before Blackboard
even started using it. And our students felt much more connected. It had that online personal feel. And
even when students would come to graduation, you would hear them say, "Dr. Betts. Oh, my gosh, that's
you. I heard your voice down the hallway."
And, in fact, kind of wrapping up on online human touch, I presented yesterday in Chicago at the NASPA
Conference, talking about the online first-year experience. And one of our students, who happens to be
an alum, was there, and, at the end of the session, he raised his hand, and he said, "Dr. Betts, it's
wonderful to be here. I graduated last year, and I have my iPod with me, with the Drexel name engraved
on the back." And he says it was such a personal connection to Drexel itself. So there's a lot. Technology
is a wonderful way to reach out to students and connect them. It's not the end-all, but we can certainly be
innovative and creative with technology.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You have a figure in your paper that shows a cycle from student engagement
to community development to personalized communication, work-integrated learning and data-driven
decision-making. And you use that as a framework for your discussion of engagement. Can you just very
quickly give us a sense of the key linkages there?
KRISTEN BETTS: All of the previous research shows that students need to be engaged early on so
instead of just waiting until they matriculate. What we developed back in 2005, and we're still doing it
today, is, we are personalizing engagement from point of first contact, and that's something as simple, as
Rebecca mentioned, as using a student's name in correspondence, personally inviting them to an online
open house. And it's an online open house where we have a student, as well as alumni who are present,
so when students or potential students ask questions, they're already connected to a community that's
developing because their community could be support services, which is the academic advisor and the
director. It could be a social or professional which would engage them with future students that they'll be
in classes with, or the alumni. And so by the time they enroll, they've already connected with the different
individuals who are engaged in the program.
Something else that we did, and I think it has been so successful, the student talked about this yesterday
as well. When students are accepted into the program, the program director personally calls each student
and welcomes them to Drexel. So it would be something as simple as saying, "This is Dr. Kristen Betts.
And, Rob, I'm calling to congratulate you on being accepted to the Masters Degree program, and we want
to welcome you to the Drexel family. You'll be receiving a call from your academic advisor. My contact
number and email is the following. You will hear from Maria, and we are really looking forward to working
with you in the program." And the students almost inevitably will send an email shortly after, saying, "I
can't believe that she would call you, the program director." But again, it's that personal connection. So
we start with engagement before they get enrolled.
What's wonderful, and Rebecca has done just such an outstanding job with access, is, we know students
want to get engaged, and there are different access points so the question is: How do we create access
points that will engage them? We have a portal. Certain parts of the portal do not get used, which is very
common amongst most campuses. But, if we can find links or areas where they will be engaged, such as
Facebook, students enroll and, as they're enrolling, even prior to getting enrolled in the classes, they're
getting engaged in Facebook and posting information about themselves so the potential of developing
community is happening again before the first day of class.
When you go from student engagement to community development, as I mentioned, we really try and
blend what we would call personal, professional, social and academic communities. We want individuals
to feel that Drexel is a point of engagement where they may have a community that could be the librarian
support services and the academic advisors. They may have community which are people that are big
Philadelphia Eagles fans. There are going to be certain points that connect them. And what we find is
when students are connected, even if it's just one point of contact, they're more likely to stay engaged in
And also we have what we would call an early alert system as part of our community, and that's mainly
with our faculty, where students aren't engaged online. We have a red flag or an SOS system that's set
up to reach out again to engage. When we talk about personal engagement, it goes back to simply using
names in the discussion boards, using names in the emails, sending out personal invitations. We have a
wonderful virtual orientation tea that students are invited to in week two of the higher-education program.
And they receive a letter in the mail that is hand-signed. It's signed in blue ink so they know they're all
individually signed. And students get a sachet of Earl Grey decaffeinated tea because we were told that
our nighttime tea-totallers wanted decaffeinated.
And in that venue, we send them a link, and they are able to log in through WIMBA or Second Life, and
they personally meet the librarian, tech support, the Writing Center director, Career Development
Centers, our IRT support services that tell them about how to download software. So again, now they've
got this personal interaction, but they've expanded their community. And, again, there's a point of
The next part is really the work-integrated learning, and the program builds upon what we call learning
simulation. Within every single course, instead of simply giving an assignment and saying, "Can you
define privatization," we design learning simulations, which may be role-plays. It could be psychodrama,
sociodramas, gaming, reflective practice, but students are actively engaged and using the knowledge and
skills that they're garnering in class. And they go from learning simulations, in terms of assignments, into
the co-op, which is work-integrated learning: 400 hours that everybody is required to do on top of their
traditional work. And they work on their thesis, but really in the role of a consultant. So they identify a real
problem within their organization or another organization, and they use either mixed methods, quantitative
or qualitative research methods, to help find solutions to these issues.
So again, it's building upon the curriculum, engaging them in the skills and the knowledge set, extending
their community now in their place of practice, outside of the classroom, within different organizations,
and really personalizing that experience, so it's not just a program they're going through, but it's a
program that they're a part of. It's about you.
And then the last part is data-driven decision-making. And when I spoke at NASPA yesterday, I sat
through a couple of sessions, and they talked about differences in generations. That's all you heard about
were differences. And when I spoke, I talked about finding commonalities. As Rebecca talked about her
mom in Facebook, my father is such a techie that I can't even afford to keep with all the bells and whistles
he has. He has the latest telephone. He's probably using more, I don't know, bandwidth with Facebook
because he's in charge of his fortieth high school reunion coming up in the summer. And I often tell
people we can't look at the differences. We need to look at the commonalities, and you need to look at
the individual programs.
Our students in the higher-education program range from 22 years old to older than 65. We need to look
at what they have in common because we need an even playing field, particularly with technology. When
you hear that millennials are tech-savvy, I think tech-savvy is very misleading. I think they are
social-media experienced. In terms of savvy, savvy is somebody who's cutting-edge doing stuff with
technology. They come in with a comfort level, and I think that's a differential. Most of them haven't done
Blackboard. Most of them haven't worked with SPSS or the other software packages. So our older
students are in the same boat; they just don't have the comfort level.
So when they engage in a virtual tea in week two and they're introduced to a technology specialist who
says, "Please call me. Here I am. A video comes up. My name is [AUDIO GLITCH] that you have, and
you have free training." These older students not only become as engaged, if not more engaged. And so
really the whole spectrum of online human touch really works with the students as a whole, the program
as a whole, as well as the faculty. It's very, very exciting.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thank you very much. There have been just a number of comments and
questions that I'd like to get to. We'll see how many we can do in the next 15 minutes or so. I'd like to start
by talking a little bit about teachers, and, Rebecca, Kristen, I'll let you two negotiate about who's going to
answer these, and you both might want to weigh in.
So first, Gayle Cabaret made the point in the chat that, ultimately, so much of education comes down to
having good teachers. Being a teacher, not an administrator, I know how much we resist change in what
we're doing, whether it's technology or content or anything like that. I guess I really have two questions on
this. The first is: What do we know about what makes a good online teacher? And the second is: How are
you going to get faculty to actually learn new tricks?
REBECCA CLOTHEY: That's an excellent question. I'll say a couple words, and then I'm sure Kristen will
want to weigh in as well. I did see that comment come up and I wanted to type something in so I'm glad
that you used that question to start out.
We do train everyone who teaches online for us. And actually I would like to put in a counter-comment for
those people who are naysayers about online learning. I know there still are some in the world that--we've
all been in a face-to-face class that is deadly because the teacher is poor. So professors, college faculty,
don't necessarily get trained on how to teach. But online, faculty, at least in our programs at Drexel, are
required to take our online training. We have training that teaches them what good pedagogy is, what
best practices are. We've also had seminars that instructors in our program are required to go, that are
very engaging, where we go through what some of the best practices are, which I'll let Kristen speak to
because she's done research on that.
And, as the program director, I do take the student evaluations extremely seriously. Students do let me
know if they're not pleased, and when that comes back to me, I spend time with the instructor and let
them know about some of the feedback that I'm getting and hope that they can improve. And, if I don't see
an improvement, we just don't ask them to come back. That's true of the adjuncts. With fulltime faculty, it
can be a little more of a challenge, but you do hope that, with the training and all of the great support that
we actually do have in the School of Education for online teaching, that the outcomes will be very positive.
And we do, as I mentioned, take the student evaluations very seriously. Kristen?
KRISTEN BETTS: First and foremost, I want to thank some of our students who are in the audience.
Tracey Shaffer is joining us, and she's been in the program, a fully online program, and I'll describe just a
little, and then maybe Tracey would like to type in a couple of things. But my original dissertation research
back in the mid 1990s looked at the recruitment and retention of online faculty. And I was told, "Oh, it's
not going anywhere. People only care about the technology and the student learning." I really fought that
because it is the teacher, really, that I think connects the students to the technology and to the program.
So when we developed the higher-education program, what we did was, we recruited area experts. We
knew that we would have on-campus faculty who were core faculty, and they would teach in our
foundation’s courses. But for our areas of specialization, why not go out and hire the top faculty member
for legal issues in higher education? Why not hire a vice present for student affairs for our student affairs
course? Why not hire a director of IR, who also happens to serve on middle states, to teach us some of
our institutional research courses? Now that does present an issue in the fact that many of these content
experts do not have backgrounds in teaching, but that doesn't differentiate them from many of your
on-campus faculty. K through 12 teachers are by far going to be your strongest teachers on campus and
online. They have the pedagogy. They have the training.
And what we found was, when we brought faculty on, we developed guidelines and policies, and we
collaboratively did this with over 20 faculty and adjunct faculty. And we said these are the minimal
requirements, and they were quite high. We had people who were teaching at Phoenix at the time,
teaching with Kaplan, and we developed policies and guidelines that started with shadowing.
If you were to teach, Rob, let's say you send an email and say, "I would love to teach in the program. This
is my current role. I happen to be a vice president of whatever this may be." What we would say is,
"Wonderful! You need to come in, and you need to shadow a minimal time of probably six to ten weeks,
no less than six, in the role of a student." So we enroll you in a course so you can see the online course
through the eyes of a student. You then get set up with a mentor, and this is somebody who is also
teaching in the program and has most likely taught the course that you're going to teach. They will contact
you either through Skype, by phone. If they're in your geographical area, they will meet with you, and they
will tell you about the content, challenges, things that are going on, things to consider. You will also have
people, on campus, who will reach out with you with Blackboard training.
We've got some wonderful videos that you can download to your iPhone or your computer, that will walk
you through things. And then I will personally work with the faculty members. They will call, and I will take
them through personal tutorials in shortcuts, things that will save them quite a lot of time. So before they
even go into a course, they've already shadowed in the role of a student. They've gone over the policies
and guidelines with Rebecca as the director. They've met with our technical support staff, and they've met
with me, in terms of the guidelines and expectations.
When they do enroll and start teaching their first course, the person who was mentoring is typically
enrolled in that course, to be a shadow in that course, just to make sure, if there are any technical issues,
that they're there for the support. Once they go through that initial quarter, then they will be off on their
own. But we certainly monitor the evaluations both formative and summative. And what we find is, and I
don't want to bias any of the data, but for many of our adjunct faculty they are so innovative because
they're living the problems, and they'll be the first to come back and say, "I've got the most amazing
assignment I want to incorporate. I need to talk with the tech support and the course development team,
to find out how we can replicate this scenario."
So really, it's very much a collaborative effort, and the curriculum is constantly being driven by experts in
the field and by the technology with our tech support team. And our guidelines, actually our program will
have been in existence now for five years. And we have a five-year program review that we will begin this
summer. And it's wonderful. Our faculty are really a keystone in our program.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You mentioned a document that lists minimum requirements and best
practices. Is that something that is publicly available?
KRISTEN BETTS: I would be happy to share parts of it. I mean it's something that we have within Drexel.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, I'd love to see it. We can talk about that also.
KRISTEN BETTS: But there are certain things that we discuss. For example, if you're an on-campus
faculty member, you are required to go to class Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 4:00 to 5:00,
whenever your teaching schedule is. Within online, there aren't requirements unless the program
develops them or the university has them. And so the challenge is making sure students feel that the
faculty are visible, and so the faculty decided that there needs to be a minimal number of posts every
week. There needs to be so many posts in the discussion boards, and what we found when we do our
annual survey with the students, that the number of posts within the announcements makes a difference.
Students will say that having text or voice announcements on a weekly basis connects them to the
institution. Having faculty send emails out with reminders, something as simple as reminders, connects
them to the program as well. And so we're really trying to engage them in what would be very much like
an on-campus experience.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: There are a couple other questions and comments that I think are a little
skeptical of some of the goals of engagements. I'll just summarize these. I mean you're talking about a lot
of things that, well, let me say in the brick-and-mortar classroom, it's very obvious when you're in class
and when you're not, and then you might have assignments. At a business school, we call them
deliverables, things you actually need to turn in. But there's a very clear distinction between what's part of
your class, what's part of your educational experience and what's outside of it. Certainly, the boundaries
become much less clear in online education. I'm wondering at what point does that personal phone call
from an administrator and so on become more intrusive than engaging. How do you handle that?
KRISTEN BETTS: In terms of engagement, and I'll mention that, and then I'll go back to the
administrative call. But engagement, when you look at accreditation, and this is really the beauty of
accreditation, it states that there has to be credit equivalency for engagement. So you can't simply have
somebody listen to this five-minute video segment and then post in the discussion board and read three
chapters. That does not justify three hours of engagement that would traditionally happen face-to-face. So
for online faculty, you really have to be creative and innovative in terms of how you engage students. And
also, in your systems, such as Blackboard and Angel and all of the other systems that are out there, there
are tracking devices. You can pull up how long a student has been in on a daily and a weekly basis. So if
somebody's not logging in, it's going to show up, and it also does that for the faculty. So for faculty who
say, "Oh, no, I'm very engaged," it will show where they've been on the site and how long they've been
logged in. So there are certain indicators that show levels of engagement.
And in terms of the phone call, I'm not sure what type of phone call you're referencing. In the beginning,
the phone call is certainly a welcome, but, in terms of other phone calls, if you could elaborate on your
question, I'd be more than happy to answer that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I was just thinking about starting with the welcome, and I wasn't sure whether
that was just the first of many instances where you're reaching out to students, outside traditional
KRISTEN BETTS: Most of it would be what I would call untraditional boundaries, and I think Rebecca
would agree, initially the call is to introduce somebody. So Rebecca has that personal connection. The
academic advisor does. But with Blackboard and these other platforms now, we can do voice
announcements which our students really like. We have voice debates that go on. We have live
classrooms where we have students doing simulations and recording assignments. And then we go back,
and we reflect, and students grade one another on their assignments. So really, the engagement is what
you would find in a traditional classroom, but the uniqueness is, its flexibility in terms of time. I mean,
Rebecca, if you could share some of the data in terms of the number of students that live in different time
zones. And you have to be flexible. But the exciting thing is, we're replicating the global environment that
we work in today.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Actually, I've a slightly different question for Rebecca. And I see we only have
a few minutes left so we'll need a relatively short answer, and it's a big question. The question is: I'm
wondering what you see as being the economic future of online education, and, in particular, I've heard a
number of people, faculty members, who have interests in these matters, saying that online education,
why not pick the best accounting teacher in the world, to pick my field, and have them give lectures. They
would then do all the lecturing, and you'd use the scale of online education to be able to create very much
a "winner take all" world, where you have a few teachers and then a lot of assistants. I'm wondering, with
your detailed experience, does that sound plausible to you?
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Absolutely. It's actually already happening. In China, for example, the
government is giving $10,000 grants to their best faculty, to create online courses. And the idea is that
institutions in the periphery of the country, where they don't have as many resources, they will utilize the
online courses that these star professors in the Harvard's and MIT's of China--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Cornell.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: --are teaching in. Yeah, and Cornell's, of course. That they will utilize those
resources by the best instructors, and those instructors are actually given grants from the government, so
they are trying to use that model.
We actually had a student who was a dentist, who came into our higher-education program, and I love to
talk about him because he did a really fascinating project, which had a similar philosophy. The problem is
in dental schools that they just don't have enough faculty. They have a dearth of faculty because dentists,
who go to dental schools, can make more money being dentists than they can working in a dental school.
So he had an idea to utilize the best resources, work with the most prominent faculty to create resources
that could be utilized again and again.
And it's not unlike what MIT is doing, in fact, with their Open Source courseware, where they've made
some of their best courses available online. Of course, you can watch them, and you can learn quite a bit
from their courses, but you can never get a good degree from MIT no matter how many of their Open
Source courses that you watch. So you won't get the credential, but you will get the education. So it's a
But I certainly think that there is a trend towards compiling resources. We see a lot of repositories now
with course materials that everyone who teaches online draws from. I know in California there have been
some grants to put together such things, and I definitely think that that is a common wave.
Now I don't think technology will ever replace a teacher, and I don't imagine that there will ever be a total
environment where there is no personal instructions involved in some capacity, and I think that's where
the engagement that Kristen talks about comes in. But I do think that there is definitely the opportunity to
compile our best resources and make them more widely available to a wider population. So I hope that is
a quick enough summary answer.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Mm-hmm. That's very helpful. We have time for one more question, and I'm
actually going to take an observation from Fleep Tuque who mentions in the chat that she's finding
resistance to online education a being, in part, that teachers are concerned that students aren't learning
social skills and actually referred to an anecdote where a student was in a job interview and was texting
someone else in the midst of the interview, which, I guess, if I were interviewing, that would be a very
short interview. But I'm wondering, do you worry that online education will make it difficult for--and I'm
thinking here really in the undergraduate level, not so much graduate school. Is that just going to make it
difficult for students to get the socialization that often comes part and parcel with the classroom
KRISTEN BETTS: I'd be happy to jump in because I believe that all educational programs need to have
career-development courses, and they really need to look at the curriculum through backward design,
what skills and knowledge and experience do students have to have to be employed within the market
segment. We have a course called Higher Education Career Development, and the entire course is set up
as a psychodrama. Students enroll in the program. They have to find a job that would be their next job,
either in the programs or when they graduate from the program, in the chronicle or another venue, and
they write a letter, a cover letter. They do a bio. They do their résumé just as if they're applying for this
job, and it goes to the faculty and to the Career Development Center that we partner with.
They then get an email back, and you have to realize we have a wonderful live session that we prepare
students, saying, "This is what's expected, in terms of looking for a job. This is what needs to go in your
cover letter, your bio. This is what you need to do when you get a letter inviting you to participate in an
interview. You have to follow up within 24 to 48 hours. This is how you respond." So we give them that in
Then they send this cover letter with their e-portfolio for this job. They then receive an email from the
faculty member saying, "Dear Rebecca Clothey, We are very excited about your application for the
position of Director of Institutional Research at Northwestern University. Unfortunately, due to the
economic climate, we cannot bring our three finalists to the campus. Therefore, you have an option of
doing your presentation for the search committee in Second Life or in WIMBA. This is the night of your
event. You will be presenting at 8:00 Eastern Standard Time. Please let us know the forum of your
The student then has to respond, using the skills that they have, saying, "Thank you so much. It is a real
privilege to be selected as one of the three finalists." This is the venue.
They then go into that forum. They have a search committee that is set up with members of the Career
Development Center at Drexel, faculty. And we go through as if we were at Northwestern University. We
say, "Thank you. You are the last of the three finalists to present. Please provide us with your PowerPoint
introduction, and we will then ask formal questions as a committee." We ask very, very, tough questions.
We record the sessions so the students can go back and reflect later. We thank them for the interview.
They leave. They're expected to send a thank-you notice within 24 to 48 hours to the search committee.
And then we provide with what are actual notes that have been taken by the search committee, and we
have a whole evaluation system. And we tell them whether or not they would be hired for the position, and
students then go back, and they reflect on the recorded interview and do a personal reflection at the end
of the course. And this is what we call psychodrama, but 30 to 40 percent of our students, prior to
graduation, either get promoted or transition into a new job. And many of them will say it's because of the
experiences that are provided in the program, as well as going through these mock simulations of what to
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Thank you very much. We are totally out of time. I know the folks at
Treet TV are going to scold me as soon as I go off the air. But this was really a fascinating discussion,
and I'm glad to see so much progress is being made really on the details of how to pull off online
education well. So congratulations to both of you, Kristen Betts and Rebecca Clothey, from Drexel
University. Thanks a lot for joining us on Metanomics. And, bye bye.
REBECCA CLOTHEY: Thanks so much for having us.
KRISTEN BETTS: Thank you so much. It was wonderful. And please contact us by email if you have any
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Will do. Thank you very much. See you all next week.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com