QU Online hosts conference on online and blended education

Speakers at the conference

June 13, 2013 - The time to embrace open education resources is now, experts told more than 200 attendees of a conference exploring online and blended education.

"We have new audiences that we are serving," Edward Klonoski, president of Charter Oak State College, told attendees of "The E-volution Conference 2013: Online and Blended Education for a New Generation of Learners." "We need to create new services for these new students."

The conference, which was held at Quinnipiac's TD Bank Sports Center, addressed a number of topics, including instructional design, adapting teaching methods for distance virtual laboratories, creating online communities and how to utilize social media to drive learning outcomes.

"We are very interested in how people learn," said Rebecca Petersen, research director for EdX, an online learning startup founded by MIT and Harvard to offer online courses at no charge. "Analytics help us to better understand what students use while learning, which helps us in future course design."

Experts agreed that students want to learn utilizing the technology they want on their schedule. "Accessibility, flexibility and affordability really benefit the students," said David Harris, editor of OpenStax, a nonprofit organization focused on improving student access to quality learning materials.

Open education resources have proven to be invaluable, said Connie Broughton, director of eLearning and open education for Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. "Textbook costs are a burden that are stopping students from learning," she said. In addition to the cost, it can be confusing for a student to navigate the materials, she said. In contrast, online education resources allow faculty to customize materials to their specific courses and present them on a number of platforms, she said. "OERs save $100 on average per class," Broughton said.

The challenge with online education resources is to weave together a coherent package, Klonoski said. "Students want information when they want it, how they want it and on the device they want - and their preference could change by the day," Broughton said.

Printed materials, however, remain an important part of learning, Petersen said.  "Students who are deeply interested in a course are still likely to purchase the textbook," she said.

The transition to open education resources was compared with the transition from landlines to cellphones. "It's really starting to catch on," Harris said. "It is happening very fast," Broughton added.

The biggest challenge today is not finding online education resources, the experts said, but rather sifting through the growing number of options. "They really enhance academic freedom," Harris said. "OERs allow faculty to customize their content and for students to learn in a simple and powerful way."

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