It’s been determined: Online learning works!

Online Learning is Just as Effective as Traditional Education, According to a New MIT Study

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More than 7.1 million students are currently taking at least one online course. Despite the apparent popularity, however, educators have given the trend low marks.

But a new study from MIT suggests naysayers should think otherwise. Massive open online courses are not only effective, researchers have discovered, they are as effective as what’s being traditionally taught in the classroom — regardless of how prepared or in the know students are.

Researchers’ findings have been published in the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, and co-author David Pritchard, MIT’s Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics, knows they will be controversial.

“A number of well-known educators have said there isn’t going to be much learning in MOOCs,” said Pritchard to MIT News, “or if there is, it will be for people who are already well-educated.”

The group, comprised of researchers from MIT, Harvard and Tsinghua University, completed a before-and-after test on students taking “Mechanics ReView,” an introductory mechanics course offered on massive open online learning platform edX. Researchers then conducted a similar test on students taking the class residentially, discovering:

The amount learned is somewhat greater than in the traditional lecture-based course.

And that goes for even the least prepared, as reflected by their scores on pretests. Pritchard said improvement levels increased across the board, explaining that, even if a student with a lower initial score ends the online course with what would be equivalent to a failing grade, “that person would nevertheless have made substantial gains in understanding.”

Translation: Online learning outcomes are equal, or even better than, those produced in a traditional classroom.

If professors want to improve outcomes in either setting, researchers suggest an approach called “interactive engagement pedagogy,” where students regularly interact in small groups and participate in peer-to-peer learning.

Pritchard told MIT News the study is “just the start of a process of mining the data that can be gained from these online classes.” How long students spend watching lectures, or how often they pause or repeat sections, can all be recorded and used to discover what method of online learning works best.

MIT recently released its final report on what the school’s future will look like, education-wise. At the time, President L. Rafael Reif said the Institute will be engaging in bold experiments — exactly what this new research suggests. Faculty might even begin blending traditional, residential learning with online education to keep tuition costs low.

So, for the remaining naysayers out there, consider this statement by Reif:

As with any disruptive technology, MOOCs have been viewed with enthusiasm in many quarters and skepticism in some. However, the underlying facts are inarguable: that the rising cost of education, combined with the transformative potential of online teaching and learning technologies, presents a long-term challenge that no university can afford to ignore.

It’s been determined: Online learning works.

Read the article by Lauren Landry in BostInno at

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October is Connected Educator Month!

Millions of educators and others around the world have participated in hundreds of professional development opportunities as part of Connected Educator Month (CEM) the last two years. Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education and its partners as part of the Connected Educators initiative, Connected Educator Month offers highly distributed, diverse and engaging activities to educators at all levels, with the ultimate goal of getting more educators more connected, spurring collaboration and innovation in the space.

Based on its success in 2012 and 2013, the initiative is poised to reach even more educators in 2014 through expanded partnerships and enhanced programming. To help CEM continue to scale, the US Department of Education is distributing the event’s management out to the connected community, led by the American Institutes of Research (AIR), Digital Promise (DP), Grunwald Associates (GA), and Powerful Learning Practice (PLP). This core team will further push out leadership for elements of the celebration to other groups, and empower individual educators to take ownership in a variety of ways as well.

Some of the other key ways we are hoping to build on CEM 2013’s success in 2014 (based on participant feedback, and general trends) include:

  • Making the event more fully global, to better incorporate learnings from around the world, supporting multiple countries in the development of full event slates as part of the celebration.

  • Making the event more fully mobile and blended, in reflection of the trends in educational practice and use.

  • A greater emphasis on collaboration and capacity-building in our planning, tools, and activities, as the logical next step beyond connection, and to address participants’ desire for a more action-oriented approach (led by the National Center for Literacy Education)

  • Launching a series of ongoing connected education initiatives during the month (our own and others) to keep momentum building throughout the year, as well as developing more year-round resources (like 2013’s district toolkit).

  • More events/activities that pull in other education stakeholders–parents, students, whole school communities, policymakers–to magnify the event’s creative impact.

  • Enhancements to features and programming to keep the event fully accessible as it continues to grow.

Thanks to infrastructure built in 2012-13, we’ve also got a lot more “runway” this year to work with participating organizations and individuals on event/activity development than ever before.

Connected Educator Month By The Numbers

Highlights of the 2013 event included:

  • 300+ major education organizations officially participating
  • 600+ national events and activities (many more local)
  • 1 million+ pages, other locations referencing, promoting or discussing the event
  • 14 million+ reached on Twitter alone

Funding Connected Educator Month

We need your help. Representatives from AIR (Darren Cambridge, Marshal Conley), GA (Peter Grunwald, Tom de Boor), PLP (Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach), and others will be raising funds and reaching out for your support and collective ownership of the effort this year.

The original intent of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) was to fund CEM for one year, then turn it over to the community.  As the event has grown, it’s become increasingly clear CEM’s community-driven growth path includes directions that ED is constrained by policy from supporting, e.g. a strong emphasis on global participation.  The department will continue to be part of the core team developing the event, recruiting organizations to the cause, fostering collaborative events & activities, promoting it through all vehicles it has available, and participating at the highest levels (in 2013, the White House and President were involved). But with 14+ million reached in last year’s celebration, ED feels CEM is ready to be sustainably turned over to the community as originally planned.

As a result, we’re seeking funding and in-kind contributions from other sources, with ED’s blessing and support, providing a rare opportunity for close, visible association with–and an opportunity to impact–a highly successful and appreciated, increasingly international month-long online educational event that has grown rapidly year-over-year, with the potential to spread its reach and impact year-round.  More generally, this year’s event will provide a variety of new ways for organizations to get involved.

To get regular updates on all the latest CEM developments subscribe to our blogsign up for the CEM newsletter, or check in with Connected Educator Radio. For more information on CEM, see our reports on the 2012 and 2013 events, and/or this post by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan…

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Highbridge Hill Elementary Flipping Classrooms with Style

The Highbridge Hill Elementary School was the recipient of New Hampshire Society for Technology in Eduation’s Christ Nelson Memorial Grant Program in 2013.  At NHSTE’s Annual Meeting and Night of Networking, Wednesday, September, 24, the Team presented their work to the attendees.

The For more information about Highbridge Hill’s flipped classroom project take a look at their introductory blog post.

To see how Highbridge Hill Elementary School is doing in their Flipped Classroom project read their second blog post Flip Your Class.

Read about Highbridge Hill Elementary School and their Opening Party.

The Highbridge Hill Elementary School Flipped Classroom team had to present to their school board.  Find out how the presentation went and where they are headed next.  Read about the School Board Presentation from one of the team members.

The flipping has begun!  Read about how second grade teacher, Amy Conrad is using the “flipped classroom” concept to teach about addition in her recent blog post Flipped Classroom Blog-Addition with Regrouping

We’re Really Flipping Now!  The fourth grade at HHES had their first flipped assignment about the human body and then in class worked on creating cells, tissues and organs such as the stomach, lungs, heart and brain.  Read about how the teacher things things went well and issues that had to be resolved in the blog post We’re Really Flipping Now.

The 2014 Chris Nelson Memorial Grants have been awarded.  The 2015 grant applications will be released in late March or early April, 2015.

Read more about the Chris Nelson Memorial Grant Program on the NHSTE website at

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Future Ready Pledge Announcement from USDOE Office of Educational Technology

At the request of the Office of Educational Technology, US Department of Education, I wanted to share the following information with you.  This message is targeted to local school superintendents.  Please pass it along as appropriate, and consider taking the pledge.

Today the Office of Educational Technology, US Department of Education is releasing the Future Ready District Pledge, a roadmap to achieve success in the conversion to personalized digital learning and calling on education leaders like you to demonstrate your commitment to leading this transformation by signing the Pledge. Selected Future Ready District Pledge signatories will be invited to join us on Oct. 7th at the White House while others will participate digitally in a virtual signing ceremony.  Signatories will also be invited to attend Future Ready regional summits where they will learn more about the cutting edge of personalized digital learning, how to implement the technical infrastructure to support it, and how to access millions of dollars in funding to help actualize the commitments outlined in the Pledge.

As a leader you are on the forefront of the transition to personalized digital learning.  From the launch of the President’s ConnectED Initiative and the commitment of billions of dollars from the private sector, to the recent modernization of the federal E-Rate program, and the increased flexibility in federal funds, collectively we have made great strides in bringing high-speed connectivity to students across the country. The U.S. Department of Education is further committed to supporting you with new professional development tools and digital learning resources to build upon this foundation and help all schools and districts become #FutureReady.

We hope you will review and electronically sign the pledge today!

Thank you once again for your hard work helping our nation’s students become college, career, and Future Ready.


Seth Andrew
Senior Advisor, Educational Technology
Superintendent-in-Residence, Office of the Secretary

Future Ready FAQ

1. What is the Future Ready District Pledge?

The Future Ready District Pledge is a commitment by superintendents to work with educators, families, and community members to help achieve a district of Future Ready schools. The Future Ready District Pledge is designed to set out a roadmap to achieve successful personalized digital learning for every student and to commit districts to move as quickly as possible towards our shared vision of preparing students for success in college, careers and citizenship.

2. What are Future Ready Schools?

Future Ready schools successfully incorporate the infrastructure, devices, professional development, content and human capacity necessary to successfully implement the ConnectED Initiative and have become local exemplars of an effective transition to digital learning.

3. What do superintendents receive for taking the Future Ready District Pledge?

Superintendents will be invited to attend regional summits where best practices around digital learning leadership will be shared. Regional summit attendees may also have access to consulting services from leading information technology providers.

4. Why should a superintendent take the Future Ready District Pledge?

In addition to participation in the Regional Summits and consulting services, all pledging superintendents become part of an online community of Future Ready district leaders.

5. When does a superintendent take the pledge?

Superintendents can take the pledge via the Future Ready District Pledge page today! In addition, 100 select superintendents will take the pledge in-person during the Superintendents’ Summit at the White House. Superintendents nationwide will be able to view a livestream of the ceremony in their home district and virtually join the 100 superintendents in signing the Pledge.

6. I’m not a superintendent. How can I help to ensure my schools are Future Ready?

Please share the Future Ready District Pledge with your superintendent. Click here to share the Future Ready District Pledge.

7. What Future Ready resources are currently available?

The Office of Educational Technology’s website includes resources for Students and Families, Teachers, and District and State Leaders. In addition, several detailed guides will be released in conjunction with the Superintendents’ Summit.

8. Who should we contact with more questions?

For more information, please contact Seth Andrew, Superintendent in Residence, at superintendents [at]

Additional links and information:

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5 Critical Questions for the Innovative Educator

Technology is a crucial part of what is happening in the classroom, and whenever a new hardware or software comes out, educators are thinking, “How could we use this in the classroom?” Although we should have different ways and options to reach all students, we far too often start thinking about the “stuff” instead of what our students need. For learning to be “student-centered”, then our questions should often focus on the student experience in the classroom.

Here are some questions that can help us create new and better opportunities for our students in their learning:

   1. Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?

In my experience teaching professional learning opportunities, one of the hardest audiences that we can teach are educators. They have truly high expectations of their own learning, not only because they create those same environments for their own classroom, but their time is limited. Educators always have things that they could be doing, so if the professional learning is not engaging and meaningful, we often start thinking about all of the other things that we could be doing with our time to help our students.

These high expectations are something we need to tap into for our students. If we asked this question and started to empathize with the experience our students have in the classroom, it would really help us think about learning from their point of view. For example, if worksheets were handed out in a professional learning opportunity, some teachers would be bored to tears, yet do we do the same thing to our students? That type of learning is not about what is better for kids, but what is easy for teachers. We have to try and think about the experience from our student’s perspective.

2. What is best for this student?

When I think about my experience in school, I had some amazing teachers, but I don’t know if I really understood the way that I learned most effectively. I remember later on in school and university, that I would write notes from my teacher and go over them later (which would never actually happen) not because that is what worked for me, but that is what every other student did. Again, this was more about the teacher than the student. It is important to not only think about the perspective from the class as a whole, but to know each student and what works for them.

How do they learn best? What are some ways that they can show their learning? For example, if a student is trying to share their understanding of any curriculum objective, is writing it down every time the only way they can show what they understand? Could they create a video, share a podcast, create a visual, or something else? There are different ways that kids can learn so it is important that we not only know that, but they know it as well.

3. What is this student’s passion?

When I was in school, I remember constantly being asked to read novel after novel, even though it was not something that I found interesting. I know it important that in school we are exposed to different things, but I was never once asked to read any non-fiction in school, even though that is what I was interested in most. It was near impossible to get me read to a novel, but at any point in a day, I would head off to the library and read every Sports Illustrated that I could get my hands on, cover-to-cover. This is something that should have been tapped into in my school experience.

Relationships are the foundation of every great school, so we need to learn more about our students and what they love, and tap into them, One of the best experiences that I have ever had in school as an educator was “Identity Day”, where kids would share things that they loved outside of school in a type of display or presentation. There was such an enthusiasm to share their interests, and it is important that from this knowledge, we help to create better experience for our students that taps into these passions.

  4. What are some way that we can create a true learning community?

I remember once hearing someone say, “Why is it that when kids leave school, they have a ton of energy, and teachers are tired? Why is not the other way around?” The reality is, we often create experiences that students become dependent upon the teacher for learning. What would be beneficial for not only our students and ourselves, is if we can have them tap into the expertise of one another, not just the teacher. Things such as blogging, edmodo, google apps, and using twitter hashtags in the classroom, help us to open our students learn from one another. We need to embrace the idea that everyone in our classroom is a teacher and a learner, and tap into this community, especially in a world where we can learn so much from networks.

5. How did this work for our students?

At the end of the year, I would always ask for feedback from my students on my teaching. This would really help improve my teaching for the next set of students, but did nothing for the kids that were in my classroom that year. Getting feedback often throughout the year, not just in the form of grades, but through conversations, both open and anonymous to ensure our students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, helps us to reflect on how we are serving our students that in currently in the classroom. Reflection is a crucial part of becoming a better educator and learner, and should be a process that we embrace as teachers so that we can also see the benefits of reflection in learning for our students.

Again, to create new and better opportunities for our students, it is important that we empathize with the experience of our students and try to understand what it is like to be a learner in our classroom. Teachers need to be experts in learning first, before they can be truly effective teaching. Just because a pencil or a computer works for us in our learning, doesn’t mean that it works for each student. We have to remember that each kid is different and unique, and the more we know about them as learners, the better they will do. But it is also important that through this experience, it is not only teachers that understand how their students learn, but the students themselves. After their time with us, if they have a deep understanding of how they learn, they will be able to continuously grow after our time with them. That is a true measure of teacher effectiveness.

Read the entire article by George Couros on The Principal of Change at

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A National Look at Student Data Privacy Legislation

As the legislative session wraps up, student data privacy bills are headed to the books in 20 states.

State policymakers introduced 110 bills on student data privacy in 36 states this session, with 30 of them passing both houses and 24 being signed into law, according to an analysis by the Data Quality Campaign. Four companion bills were not signed into law because they did the same thing that their counterparts did in the other house, and two bills in California are still on the governor’s desk for review.

These bills tackled biometric, social and personal information, and they generally fall into two types of approaches: governance and prohibitive. Some bills included a mix of both types, but the ones that focused more on data governance tended to make it into law, said Rachel Anderson, associate for policy analysis and research at the Data Quality Campaign.

“A lot of the bills that are going to have the greatest impact in states are those that are looking very carefully at the value of data and really looking at what the state can be doing with the data to help students,” Anderson said.

Quite a few states built off of each other’s language, and the Idaho, Colorado and West Virginia bills are based on Oklahoma’s HB 1989 that passed last year, Anderson said. Colorado’s new law, HB 1294, requires the state’s Department of Education to publish both an index of the types of data they use and privacy policies that lay out who has access to the data and what students’ and parents’ data rights are. It also requires the creation of data retention and destruction policies and guidance for school districts and staff about data use.

In West Virginia, HB 4316 mandates that the state’s Department of Education publish a data inventory, privacy policies and procedures, and a data security plan, among other things. The bill also establishes a data governance manager position appointed by the state superintendent that will be responsible for the department’s privacy policy.

This flurry of legislative action stems from a number of incidents and activities in the last year that have driven the public to associate data with bad things, said Thomas Murray, state and district digital learning director at the Alliance for Excellent Education, who testified before Congress on student data privacy in June. These incidents include a high-profile Target breach, the National Security Agency “spying” incident, and increased awareness of school and state collection of student data for accountability purposes. As a result, parents and legislators have been looking for answers about what happens with their children’s data.

With more schools and states contracting with online education companies, legislators saw a need to lay out practices and procedures for these contracts, particularly with the news that Google mined student email for advertising purposes until earlier this year. Twelve new state laws spell out what those third-party contracts need to include, established procedures for security breach notification and data deletion, and prohibited companies from advertising to and selling data from students.

“The good thing that we’ve seen is that the bills haven’t been overarching to the point of limiting classroom instruction,” said Murray, a former classroom teacher, principal and technology director.

While schools need the services that these education technology companies provide, they also need to ensure that the student data stored on them is protected. In light of these new laws, Murray recommends that technology directors and other administrators do the following:

  1. Review third-party contracts carefully to identify how student data will be kept secure and what happens to student data when the contract ends.
  2. Educate teachers so they understand how to keep sensitive data secure and within the guidelines of privacy legislation including the federal FERPA law.

When administrators communicate what’s happening with data clearly and effectively, parents and the public are more likely to be on board, Murray said. Transparency is important, and it helps to allay the fears of parents and make sure they know what’s going on. And data transparency is what most of these bills are all about.

While many bills went through state legislatures this year, Anderson cautioned that student data privacy will pop up in the next legislative session as lawmakers take a closer look at issues such as biometric data. Many of the 14 states with new laws that address biometrics will have to deal with it again in the future as they consider ways that special education programs use biometric data with students.

“Privacy is not a one-time activity,” Anderson said. “This is going to be an ongoing conversation for states, and an important one.”

“Privacy is not a one-time activity,” Anderson said. “This is going to be an ongoing conversation for states, and an important one.”

Look at a Google Map of Student Data Privacy Legislation 2014 with Descriptions and Bill Links

Read the article by Tanya Roscorla on the Center for Digital Education at

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E-learning more about education, less about tech

Using high-tech gadgets simply as means of delivering learning content not enough, experts say

Thomas Reeves, a professor emeritus of Learning, Design and Technology at the University of Georgia, speaks Wednesday during the e-Learning Korea 2014 conference at Coex in southern Seoul. (e-Learning Korea 2014)

With the flow of high-tech gadgets into education, many thought that e-readers are on track to replace paper textbooks completely.

This appeared to be the thinking behind the comments of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan when he said, “Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete,” and South Korea’s recent policy to expand the use of digital textbooks.

But Thomas Reeves, a professor emeritus of Learning, Design, and Technology at the University of Georgia, said that focusing primarily on the technological aspect of digitized learning will not be enough to enhance the quality of education.

“Technologies, media are vehicles for instructional methods. Instructional methods are what account for learning,” he said. “It has zero impact, per se, by itself.” Reeves said during his keynote speech at e-Learning Korea 2014. During the two-day conference at Coex in southern Seoul, scholars from around the world shared their views on recent trends in e-learning such as Massive Open Online Courses and Flipped Learning.

Much of the focus of existing research on e-learning today emphasizes “things” like how to utilize smart devices, Reeves said. Technology is important, but not the most crucial aspect of digital learning, he said.

Reeves likened the various means of education to taking aspirin: No matter what way you deliver the drug, it is the acid compound that relieves the pain. As long as the course materials and teaching methods are kept the same, there are no significant differences in the outcome.

Although the actual focus should be on the pedagogy, Reeves said some people continue to assume that technology will be enough to improve education.

Reeves said rather than focusing on “things,” like how to use gadgets to teach content, e-learning research should be more about “problems” impairing the learning process. They include ineffective teaching, poor learner motivation, failure to engage learners and a lack of preparation for the real world.

In his book “A Guide to Authentic E-learning,” he said that designers of an e-learning environment should focus on being careful not to make their courses so that the learner has to find one right answer to the tasks, and the educator simply delivers re-packaged knowledge and assesses how much the student knows.

Instead the ideal model would have robust objectives, content providing multiple perspectives, experimental instructional designs, and authentic tasks. The technology should provide authentic simulations with problems related to the real world, and the role of an educator should be a mentor and a facilitator rather than trainer in both teaching and assessment.

In spite of the shortcomings, e-learning has the potential to take education to the next level. In addition to delivering learning content to more people faster and cheaper, technology allows students from all over the world to collaborate online with each other, said Reeves.

“They learn about other cultures, they learn how to communicate with other cultures. To me that’s one of the most important outcomes of 21st century education,” he said.

Read the entire article by Yoon Min-sik on the Korea Herald at

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