Friday, September 07, 2012

IDI – 7 reasons why online degree students outperform University campus-based students


The Interactive Design Institute was a revelation when I visited. These guys deliver degree courses, accredited by an English University, to both UK and foreign students (full and part-time). The fact that you can deliver a real academic course with strong vocational ‘learn by doing’ components, online, is interesting, but the real story here is the fact that their students outperform the campus-based students doing the same course. Why?
I spent some time going through a learner journey and this, I think, is why they do so well.
1. Multiple intakes. IDI does three intakes a year, giving more flexibility to students and earnings to tutors in the academic ‘off-season’. This breaks the back of the archaic one intake a year model and makes teaching and learning a year-round activity. Not radical but necessary.
2. Superior feedback. Considered, detailed and constructive feedback is the pedagogic potion that makes them special. They really do follow the advice of Black and William through clear, point-by-point feedback designed to take the student forward. I’ve worked through their tutor feedback, which is brilliant and thorough. Nothing like the cursory, general, not written and recorded and therefore often forgotten advice in many face-to-face sessions.
3. Asynchronous feedback. ALL feedback is asynchronous. This is interesting. They have abandoned Skype, webcasts, videoconferencing and other synchronous, real-time forms of feedback in favour of asynchronous feedback, which they regard as superior. First, it takes away the awkwardness of academic/student face-to-face interactions. Second, it’s archived, giving the student and tutor a good audit trail to check, read, re-read and respond to. This is important, as the feedback si very detailed and needs a point-by-point detailed response. Verbal feedback is too transitory.
4. Exemplary content. Good course material, software tutorials, exemplars and other forms of useful content lie at the heart of the course, allowing the student to proceed at their own pace and get relevant teaching and help, whenever needed. Far too may University courses rely on thin, out of date content delivered in lecture series. The content is also kept bang up to date by dedicated ‘content update’ staff. Give the students access to good content, with strong tutor support and feedback, and they will learn.
5. Quality tutors. Given the quality of the content, the tutors can focus on what they do best – teach. Free from the constraints of lecturing, designing content and departmental politics, they can focus on feedback. It’s that simple.
6. Student support. Students need to be encouraged, helped and even rescued during a long course. IDI have a dedicated person, who really gets to know the students and cares about keeping them on track. She’s proactive, looking for signs and symptoms of fatigue or worry. It’s a vital safety net.
7. Lower costs. What’s surprising is how small their premises are, no sprawling campus, no lecture theatres, no monument building, just minimal administration and year round use. Given the low occupancy rates of most University buildings the savings are ENORMOUS.
Conclusion
What impressed me most about the IDI was the dedication of the staff to their students. This is a private sector organisation with the best of public sector values (they mostly came from that background). What they deliver is superior in many ways to the traditional campus degree, with real scalability, in several senses. First, it allows access to foreign students to complete courses with UK accreditation, free from VISA restrictions. Second, it copes with year round intakes. Third, it provides more flexibility for students. Fourth, it has much lower basic costs, where the money goes towards good teaching, not capital expenditure and the upkeep of expensive real-estate. Every University that has a design degree should consider using them. Given the demand and high costs of HE, this is surely the way forward.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the positive comments Donald; very much appreciated by all at the Institute. Your article endorses our approach to the key areas we aimed to address in our provision when we started the company 8 years ago: accessibility, flexibility, affordability, credibility and a high level of student support. Without doubt, we have witnessed a change in attitudes, not only towards online delivery and assessment across those years but also to the more commercial aspects of education: the cost of student fees, the cost of delivery and the cost of staffing and infrastructure. The unexpected number of Universities opting to charge the maximum permissible fees, the increase in demand for degree level places and a more customer friendly delivery has highlighted a number of issues in the debate regarding alternative provision and the private provider. It is the change in the nature of these issues that is significant. Initially, we encountered resistance to online delivery based on questions centred on viability and credibility, now the issue is one of scalability. Our model is first and foremost a business model but it is based on what we need to provide to create a first rate student experience and while the means of delivery differs from attendance based education, every aspect of our provision is based on traditional educational values. New technologies are there to be used to our advantage and we should be looking to examples of best practice for guidance. Going forward, those involved in providing flexible, affordable degree level education should be looking to new models and modes of delivery to compliment the provision we already have in the UK.
Michael Stewart Director IDI

10:45 AM  
Blogger IDI said...

Many thanks for the positive comments Donald; very much appreciated by all at the Institute. Your article endorses our approach to the key areas we aimed to address in our provision when we started the company 8 years ago: accessibility, flexibility, affordability, credibility and a high level of student support. Without doubt, we have witnessed a change in attitudes, not only towards online delivery and assessment across those years but also to the more commercial aspects of education: the cost of student fees, the cost of delivery and the cost of staffing and infrastructure. The unexpected number of Universities opting to charge the maximum permissible fees, the increase in demand for degree level places and a more customer friendly delivery has highlighted a number of issues in the debate regarding alternative provision and the private provider. It is the change in the nature of these issues that is significant. Initially, we encountered resistance to online delivery based on questions centred on viability and credibility, now the issue is one of scalability. Our model is first and foremost a business model but it is based on what we need to provide to create a first rate student experience and while the means of delivery differs from attendance based education, every aspect of our provision is based on traditional educational values. New technologies are there to be used to our advantage and we should be looking to examples of best practice for guidance. Going forward, those involved in providing flexible, affordable degree level education should be looking to new models and modes of delivery to compliment the provision we already have in the UK.

Michael Stewart Director Interactive Design Institute

10:49 AM  
Blogger John Rogers said...

Donald, thanks for drawing attention to this work. I have posted the links to IDI and to your blog onto a Ning site for the alumni and lecturers for the Lancaster masters in management learning (MAMLL) because it should raise lots of discussionabout current and future practice. Michael's follow up comments only go to underline the value both for the learner and commercially.

By the way, the best feedback that I got when doing MAMLL was asychronous, detailed and very challenging but incredibly useful.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous AboutOnlineDegrees.org said...

In early days professional were not able to attend college so they can not get the position which they deserve but now time has changed and they are pursuing their degree online.

8:05 AM  

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