I was somewhat caught off guard with this CBS News 60 Minutes segment from their April 25, 2010 program. It describes how an estimated relatively large proportion of college students are misusing prescription drugs to enhance their mental abilities for exams, term papers, etc. The more common drugs are Adderall and Ritalin, which are commonly prescribed for attention disorders. They estimated that over a third of college students today have used them at least once, and the percentage climbs to over half of all students. This may be something we as professors and administrators need to be more aware of and concerned about.
I have been finding some very informative summaries of the signficance of the nontraditional student for universities and their enrollment managers. For example, did you know that the traditional, 18-22 year old students living on campus now comprise less than 16% of the total population of college and university students in the United States, and that this number is expected to decrease for the foreseeable future? By far, the bulk of the potential students coming into our hallowed halls of education (many of them virtually through online learning offerings) do not fit the traditional model. The last article listed below (by Peter Stokes, from Eduventures) provides a great wake-up call for us.
I have referenced a 2002 report from the department of education in a previous post that profiles the huge numbers of nontraditional students in the U.S., and it gives a good list of what traits characterize a nontraditional student. These newer articles do a good job of encapsulating what these numbers should mean for those of us trying to reach this huge group of nontraditional students with distance/online learning.
I recently made a presentation at the 14th Annual Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning in Orlando, Florida. In it I described how we are planning to use an interesting combination of mind mapping software and project management software to manage a major online development project (converting about 100 correspondence courses to online courses).
The Sloan Consortium recently published a very important study of the growth of online learning. The comprehensive study was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and included a broad survey of 2,500 colleges and universities. Anyone remotely involved in online and distance learning should read it. Here are some key points:
Background:For the past several years, online enrollments have been growing substantially faster than overall higher education enrollments. The expectation of academic leaders has been that these enrollments would continue their substantial growth for at least another year. Do the measured enrollments match these lofty expectations?
The evidence: Online enrollments have continued to grow at rates far in excess of the total higher education student population, albeit at slower rates than for previous years.
Almost 3.5 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2006 term; a nearly 10 percent increase over the number reported the previous year.
The 9.7 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 1.5 percent growth of the overall higher education student population.
Nearly twenty percent of all U.S. higher education students were taking at least one online course in the fall of 2006.
This is the title of an article every higher-education faculty member and administrator should read. It very well summarizes a driver of the paradigm shift that’s happening in the world related to education: “So much information, so little knowledge about what to do with it.”
The author is a former English professor and currently director of academic computing at MIT. Yes, MIT!
Here is the complete cite. You really should read it.
I recently attended the annual FUSION conference for users of the Desire2Learn learning management system. One of the gems I discovered is the Southern Regional Education Board. I picked up a really useful pamphlet entitled “Standards for Quality Online Courses.” It is a very succinct yet comprehensive framework for assessing online course quality.
You can download a .pdf version of the pamphlet at www.sreb.org