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Academic Affairs & Student Success » Online Education Pilot Programs

Online Education Pilot Programs

The University of Tennessee is committed to testing new approaches to teaching and preparing students for life beyond the classroom. One of those ways is through online learning platforms. UT currently uses a handful of platforms such as Blackboard and McGraw Hill and is considering several new offerings. Pilot programs are being launched to study each model’s effectiveness and will involve faculty and student feedback.

FAQ: Pilot Programs to Test Coursera and edX Technologies

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  • The UT System and the Tennessee Board of Regents have partnered to test new online learning platforms through pilot projects in 2013 and 2014.
  • The pilots will study the effectiveness of new technologies compared to other online learning platforms currently in use, such as Blackboard and McGraw-Hill, and how online or blended learning approaches compare to traditional classroom teaching.
  • In May 2013, an agreement was announced with Coursera to create an 18-month pilot program. UT’s first class using the platform launched in a hybrid offering at UT Chattanooga in September 2013. Two additional classes are expected to launch by fall 2014.
  • A similar agreement was finalized in September 2013 with edX.
  • Universities have an obligation to test new approaches to delivering education, particularly those regarding the impact of technology on higher education. By directly working with multiple online platforms, UT hopes to add to the tools already available to deliver instruction - not replace existing, proven instructional methods.
  • The pilot programs align with Gov. Haslam’s “Drive to 55” campaign to have 55 percent of Tennesseans earn a postsecondary degree by 2025, and because of that connection, are being funded by a special appropriation from the state.
  • Coursera and edX are nationally recognized for offering massive open online courses or MOOCs. However, Tennessee’s pilot programs will not include MOOCs at this time. UT hopes to evaluate the platforms’ effectiveness by piloting modules used by large numbers of students, such as first-year studies courses.
  • The primary objective is to evaluate the efficacy of additional teaching platforms and technologies and to use findings to determine future plans.
  • UT has not agreed to provide Coursera or edX classes from another institution to UT students.
  • Faculty using other platforms for online classes will not be dissuaded from continued use of those platforms.
  • Faculty leaders at each of UT’s undergraduate campuses identified courses well suited for testing Coursera’s technology.
  • UT Martin volunteered to test a general education music course, and UT Chattanooga offered to test an English composition course. UT Knoxville plans to join the pilot in spring 2014 with an introductory level mathematics course.
  • The courses will only be offered to students of their home campus, and the cost of the course will be included in existing tuition models.
  • The sections will be offered in concurrent terms.
  • The pilot program will study the completion rate and student learning outcomes and use feedback from faculty to gauge the success of providing the section online.
  • Coursera is leading the industry in areas including teaching structure, concept mastery, student engagement, testing patterns and technology support.
  • Course material is delivered in 12-minute “bites.”
  • Students must master each concept before moving on to the next. Mastery involves passing a test based on each “bite.”
  • Students receive immediate feedback if they answer the question correctly or incorrectly.
  • Tests and assignments are graded by auto grading by computer; peer grading also is used.
  • Final exams can be proctored by a web camera.
  • UT anticipates offering three courses for evaluation using the edX platform in either spring or fall 2014 and is working now to identify which courses are appropriate and faculty who are interested in participating.
  • Just as with Coursera, courses using the edX platform will only be offered to students of their home campus, and the cost of the course will be included in existing tuition models.
  • The edX platform is based on interactive learning experiences such as video lesson segments, embedded quizzes, immediate feedback, student-ranked questions and answers, online laboratories and student-paced learning.
  • edX was created in 2012 as a nonprofit venture between Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  • Coursera has sophisticated analytics that study, among other things, whether the enrolled student is the one submitting the work based on a pattern of keystrokes. Coursera provides feedback to faculty when a large amount of students do not answer a question correctly, and faculty can modify their responses. A website is available for faculty to help understand what is working in the class and what is not.
  • At last count, 91 universities have signed on with Coursera, and more than 5 million students have enrolled in courses in its open format.
  • edX has similar analytic tools as well as open source software that allows instructors to share methods, assessments and innovative online exercises or tools with other instructors using the platform.
  • Approximately 30 elite universities have partnered with edX to deliver rigorous courses.
  • Participating faculty and students from both UT and TBR schools will be asked to provide feedback about their experiences.
  • Results will be shared and used to determine future plans.