Friday, June 19, 2009

The College of 2020 Today

The Chronicle Research Services recently released a report, "The College of 2020", an overview of some of the demands that students will make for flexibility and technology integration. As I read the executive summary, I realized these are all conveniences available to me at the University of Florida. (BIG caveat: They would not be available in all colleges or departments. At this point, I would expect at least this much from an educational technology program.) Here is the list:

Putting more courses online
Of 26 classes taken as part of my Educational Technology Ed.S and Ph.D programs:
Total face-to-face (4)
Blended (3)
Completely online (19)
Note: This does not include doctoral qualifying and dissertation research credits.
There are now full-time online options for Masters and Ed.S students, as well as an Ed.D cohort that is conducted primarily online. At this time there is not a fully online Ph.D program.

Taking classes at multiple colleges
This took some minor navigation through administrative red tape, however I was able to take the Connectivism Course for 3 credits through the University of Manitoba (because no such course was available at UF) and 8 credits of quantitative research from nearby University of South Florida (because this was required for my degree and not offered at the time I needed it at UF)

Monitoring classes on cell phones
Every single class I took, including F2F had some online presence whether is was Moodle, Blackboard, WebCT, or a simple website. Not only did I monitor these classes on my cell phone, I continue to monitor the classes I teach with it, as well.

Starting courses at multiple times throughout the year
Online education courses at UF are conducted in 8 week mini-mesters. They are offered on a rotating basis six times during the academic year.

Sign up to take classes F2F, then opt to monitor online
This was a little trickier, but not as difficult as you might think. I took qualitative research F2F with a retired professor who returned specifically to teach this class. You might think that he was very traditional, and to some extent he was. His courses were primarily lecture format, but there was good discussion, and significant group work. He integrated technology via PowerPoint in the classroom and online submission of all assignments. I had to be out of town for two of the class sessions, so I approached him about Skyping into the class while I was away. No problem. I was able to participate fully through a classmate's computer, ask questions, and offer my points of view from 2000 miles away. I think it helped that I was already established in the class before asking to do this, but I it was a good experience for both of us.

Office hours, study groups, papers-all online
Group work in the F2F qualitative research course was conducted using a wiki in combination with Google docs. This was initially student-directed by one group. When the others realized the efficiency, everyone was on board.

With the exception of a hand written quantitative (statistics) take-home exam that had to be turned in on the day of the F2F exam in the lab, I cannot remember turning in one paper or assignment in hard copy form. Everything was either submitted to a course management system or emailed directly.

UF is the flagship university in my state. It is nearly two-and-a-half hours away from my home. Nearby USF has an excellent College of Education, but I already earned a Bachelors and Masters from that school. It was in my best interest to obtain my advanced graduate degrees at a different school. This would not have been possible without the flexibility of UF's Ed Tech program. I do not feel that I compromised quality in any part of my graduate experience. In fact, I had a very difficult time transitioning back to the traditional classes. The pace seemed exceedingly slow. We were not able to cover nearly as much content or critical thinking in the F2F format as was possible online. Some of that had to do with instructional design, some with self motivation. Those are topics for further research and discourse. But, I've been very pleased with the education I have received in the program.