By Trisha Leon, contributing writer
Universities across the nation are facing more challenges than ever before. According to Mehdi Maghsoodnia of University Business, shrinking budgets are contrasted with higher costs and aging facilities. The government is decreasing funding while getting more involved from a regulatory standpoint. Demand is up, enrollment is unpredictable, and graduation rates are down. Schools are fighting for ways to cope, retain students, and help them graduate on time.
In response to these challenges, many schools are implementing MOOCs, massive open online courses offered by companies like Coursera, edX, and Udacity. Virtually attended by students around the world, these online courses offer access, often at no cost, to top-notch classes.
MOOCs are, ultimately, a product. Schools are using them along with other adaptive learning applications — like flipped classrooms and e-textbooks — to deliver education, leaving schools with the task of developing and delivering potentially hundreds of digital learning tools to thousands of students on hundreds of different devices.
To set themselves up to succeed in this new environment, institutions need to embrace technology at a fundamental level, join a platform — a holistic software solution — that could enable any product to be integrated into the school’s educational framework. This platform would act like a switchboard, providing the ability to adopt and integrate many solutions like MOOCs, gamification, adaptive learning, and e-books.
The type of data that flows into a university from MOOCs is different than that of traditional classes. Without some sort of framework in place to analyze and assess this data, it’s rendered meaningless. In regard to this, universities can imitate corporations, most of who have put in place a common framework. Without a framework such as this organizations could not have taken advantage of advancements like ERP, CRM tools or even simple workplace productivity software like word processing. This infrastructure required the standardization of hardware, operating systems and software frameworks. The need for a common framework for educational content is just as significant. Without this framework, the experience for the educator and student could be severely fragmented, making it harder to adopt new, innovative tools into the academic framework.
IT solutions providers can support MOOCs with cloud-based technology, security, e-commerce support, and data capture and analytics to assist colleges in integrating MOOCs and other types of educational technology into the learning environment.