Insights

Education News

Cannibalism in Higher Education?

April 26, 2018
Sagence Opinion Corner

A recent story in Inside Higher Education (IHE) described Georgia Tech’s efforts five years ago to make its Master’s Degree in Computer Science available to far more students by using a MOOC strategy. In fact it had an audacious goal of enrolling 10,000 students by the third year.

“…the Georgia Institute of Technology began a bold experiment -- to take a high-profile graduate program, put it online and offer it to students at a fraction of the cost of the in-person degree…. The tuition was $6,630 -- about a sixth of the cost of an on-campus degree. It was a huge gamble. Could an online degree really match the quality of a degree taught on campus? Would the institution cannibalize its in-person degree applicants? Would the program make any money?”

IHE summarizes the analysis by two researchers published in Education Next, a journal focused on school reform and concluded that the report

“suggests that the gamble paid off.”

We found these summary points in the IHE article the most persuasive that this was a groundbreaking effort

“enrollment has grown from 380 students in spring 2014 to 6,365 this spring”... “widened access to education by appealing to a group of people who would not otherwise have pursued master’s degrees.
“widened access to education by appealing to a group of people who would not otherwise have pursued master’s degrees."
“People thought … that Georgia Tech was going to cannibalize its own revenue stream. But the profile of people applying online is so different, there’s virtually no overlap.”
“.. typical applicant to the online program was a 34-year-old mid career ..., while the typical applicant to the in-person degree was a 24-year-old recent graduate ...”
“Of the 18,000 students who applied to the in-person and online degrees, less than 0.2 percent applied to both…”

The most intriguing point we read in the IHE summary

“Students admitted to the online program typically had slightly lower academic credentials than those admitted to the in-person program, but they performed slightly better in their identical and blind-marked final assessments -- a finding the study hailed as “the first rigorous evidence that we know of showing that an online degree program can increase educational attainment.” 

Several current surveys and reports have found that Competency Based Education programs achieve these same kinds of results; they are as effective as traditional programs in terms of student demonstration of mastery of material.

The article reports that Georgia Tech strongly feels that one of the biggest results of their efforts was demonstrating how to address the needs of previously underserved students. Kudos and congratulations to Georgia Tech.

It is true that many institutions have been serving the unmet needs of working adult students who desire programs that fit into their personal situations and match their career and life goals. Unfortunately and too often these are simply Online courses and programs that are duplicative of on campus programs; requiring structured attendance, inflicting too high of a cost, and are not well enough connected to the job needs and career aspirations. Its imperative that traditional colleges and universities create programs that will appeal to these students, if not their enrollments will continue to decline.

There is need for a rethink, a redesign, and a purposeful consideration of technology that can support these learners in an online or blended learning experience. 

One of the most promising trends at traditional campuses is the creation and delivery of Competency Based Education programs. Any college and university can design and launch a CBE program, they do not need the level of resources that Georgia Tech acquired for its MOOC program. But they do need to consider the right tools for the job (like GA Tech did for its program). We need to stop putting all programs in one size fits all traditional LMS built to manage courses.

CBE courses and programs come in a variety of flavors but share certain fundamentals. 

-- Designed around the needs of the individual learner, not a course

-- Measure achievement and mastery, not seat time (the learning is constant, the time is variable) 

-- Allow students to work on their own paces and paths while engaging with all material. 

-- Insure students are always fully supported, but supported exactly when they need it, not when the course schedule dictates. 

-- Create relevance that students seek; academically sound but clearly connected to the skills, knowledge, and competencies required in job and career path.

Almost any college or university can pursue this model, it doesn't require the level of investment that Georgia Tech made. It does require a reach out to the employers you serve for support.  If you plan and collaborate with employers around competency based learning programs, they are very likely to offer assistance and encourage their employees to enroll.

Many colleges do worry about disrupting existing programs. But it seems that new programs designed for an underserved audience do not cannibalize from your current programs. They appeal to a segment of students whose other choice is no program at all.

 

A recent story in Inside Higher Education (IHE) described Georgia Tech’s efforts five years ago to make its Master’s Degree in Computer Science available to far more students by using a MOOC strategy. In fact it had an audacious goal of enrolling 10,000 students by the third year.

“…the Georgia Institute of Technology began a bold experiment -- to take a high-profile graduate program, put it online and offer it to students at a fraction of the cost of the in-person degree…. The tuition was $6,630 -- about a sixth of the cost of an on-campus degree. It was a huge gamble. Could an online degree really match the quality of a degree taught on campus? Would the institution cannibalize its in-person degree applicants? Would the program make any money?”

IHE summarizes the analysis by two researchers published in Education Next, a journal focused on school reform and concluded that the report

“suggests that the gamble paid off.”

We found these summary points in the IHE article the most persuasive that this was a groundbreaking effort

“enrollment has grown from 380 students in spring 2014 to 6,365 this spring”... “widened access to education by appealing to a group of people who would not otherwise have pursued master’s degrees.
“widened access to education by appealing to a group of people who would not otherwise have pursued master’s degrees."
“People thought … that Georgia Tech was going to cannibalize its own revenue stream. But the profile of people applying online is so different, there’s virtually no overlap.”
“.. typical applicant to the online program was a 34-year-old mid career ..., while the typical applicant to the in-person degree was a 24-year-old recent graduate ...”
“Of the 18,000 students who applied to the in-person and online degrees, less than 0.2 percent applied to both…”

The most intriguing point we read in the IHE summary

“Students admitted to the online program typically had slightly lower academic credentials than those admitted to the in-person program, but they performed slightly better in their identical and blind-marked final assessments -- a finding the study hailed as “the first rigorous evidence that we know of showing that an online degree program can increase educational attainment.” 

Several current surveys and reports have found that Competency Based Education programs achieve these same kinds of results; they are as effective as traditional programs in terms of student demonstration of mastery of material.

The article reports that Georgia Tech strongly feels that one of the biggest results of their efforts was demonstrating how to address the needs of previously underserved students. Kudos and congratulations to Georgia Tech.

It is true that many institutions have been serving the unmet needs of working adult students who desire programs that fit into their personal situations and match their career and life goals. Unfortunately and too often these are simply Online courses and programs that are duplicative of on campus programs; requiring structured attendance, inflicting too high of a cost, and are not well enough connected to the job needs and career aspirations. Its imperative that traditional colleges and universities create programs that will appeal to these students, if not their enrollments will continue to decline.

There is need for a rethink, a redesign, and a purposeful consideration of technology that can support these learners in an online or blended learning experience. 

One of the most promising trends at traditional campuses is the creation and delivery of Competency Based Education programs. Any college and university can design and launch a CBE program, they do not need the level of resources that Georgia Tech acquired for its MOOC program. But they do need to consider the right tools for the job (like GA Tech did for its program). We need to stop putting all programs in one size fits all traditional LMS built to manage courses.

CBE courses and programs come in a variety of flavors but share certain fundamentals. 

-- Designed around the needs of the individual learner, not a course

-- Measure achievement and mastery, not seat time (the learning is constant, the time is variable) 

-- Allow students to work on their own paces and paths while engaging with all material. 

-- Insure students are always fully supported, but supported exactly when they need it, not when the course schedule dictates. 

-- Create relevance that students seek; academically sound but clearly connected to the skills, knowledge, and competencies required in job and career path.

Almost any college or university can pursue this model, it doesn't require the level of investment that Georgia Tech made. It does require a reach out to the employers you serve for support.  If you plan and collaborate with employers around competency based learning programs, they are very likely to offer assistance and encourage their employees to enroll.

Many colleges do worry about disrupting existing programs. But it seems that new programs designed for an underserved audience do not cannibalize from your current programs. They appeal to a segment of students whose other choice is no program at all.

 

Webinar Sign Up

Sign up for the Webinar by providing your name and email below.
Thank you. You have successfully been signed up for the Webinar. To access please visit the below link on the date and time provided:
Webinar Link
Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please refresh and try submitting again.

Resources

CBE Network.org

A National Consortium for Designing, Developing and Scaling New Models for Student Learning

CBE Info.org

Discover the impact of Competency-Based Education on higher learning and how to implement CBE programs at your institution

HLC Commission.org

Common Framework for Defining and Approving Competency-Based Education Programs

US Dept of Education.gov

Competency Based Learning or Personalized Learning; Transitioning away from seat time.

Case Study

Evaluating Empire's First Competency-Based Learning Pilot

SUNY Empire State College piloted their first CBL courses. These findings and recommendations are based on the experiences of Empire State’s coach, faculty, technical staff, and student participants.

Read more

Connect With us

How can Sagence Learning partner
with you?

Complete the form and a
Sagence Learning representative will contact you.

By selecting "Submit" I understand that I will be contacted by a member of the Sagence Learning team via email.

Thank you. Your submission has been received.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form