In Fall 2018, a group of online learning practitioners focused on postsecondary student success participated in a two-day workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah to discuss their challenges, innovative practices, and future opportunities. Participants included the leadership of ASU Online, Western Governors University, BYU-Pathway Worldwide, Penn State World Campus, Purdue Global, InsideTrack, StraighterLine, and ReUp Education. This report includes a summary of presentations, key takeaways, and questions to explore further as educators collaborate to help students succeed in school and in life.
To help all learners succeed, participants recommend that online education providers:
1. Understand current and future student populations: To best serve the online learner population now and in the future, it is critical to gain a thorough understanding of these educational consumers, including their potential risk factors, curricular interests, educational and career goals, and interventions that will support their success. While the average undergraduate in online education today is age 32, the fastest-growing set of online customers are under 24, and many 18-22-year-olds now believe they should be able to get a college education entirely online. This demographic shift will require online providers to adapt their curricula and programs.
2. Design online programs and courses to deliver personalized learning: Students are individuals, and the power of online learning is in using real-time data to identify individual needs and develop curricula that provide individualized instruction, remediation, and tailored support directly to individual students. Avoid attempting to replicate the campus environment online. Instead, build a new culture of engagement and accountability.
3. Leverage new technologies to optimize the impact of human coaching and mentoring: Delivering the appropriate balance between online group instruction, individualized virtual coaching and mentoring, and in-person meetings is important for keeping students engaged, focused, and moving forward in their studies.
4. Explore multiple models for building community: While providers approach community building differently, they share a vision of its strategic importance to the success of individual students. There are lessons to be learned everywhere and customized to fit different institutions.
5. Build a data-driven culture of innovation and accountability: It is crucial to agree, not only on outcome goals, but also on how these goals will be reached, how success will be measured, and how students and faculty will be held accountable. Using hard data that everyone values as relevant can help build a culture that puts student success and lifelong outcomes at the forefront.
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