Initiatives: Online Learning

Since its inception, the Kirwan Center has been supporting USM institutions in making strategic forays into online learning. “Online learning” in this context is defined as any learning environment that makes substantive use of a web-based component that enables collaboration and access to content beyond the classroom. Online learning strategies across the USM range from fully online degree/certificate programs, to MOOCs, to hybrid and "flipped" courses.

As part of this work, the Kirwan Center has launched a system-wide online learning strategic planning process to assist USM institutions in developing goals and approaches to online education and tapping new market segments. Additionally, in 2016, USM entered into a groundbreaking partnership with edX, the nonprofit online learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT to increase global access to high-quality education. The agreement is designed to further increase access, affordability, and quality of higher education in Maryland and around the world. The partnership has launched USMx, free online courses offered by the University System of Maryland through the edX platform, and MicroMasters® Programs, free, non-credit master’s level courses, which can accelerate the pathway to an advanced degree and save students thousands of dollars in tuition and fees.

    In addition to UMUC, which offers over 90 fully online programs, the USM now has 44 degree programs offered entirely online.

    Our Work in Online Learning

    Page 3

    July 24, 2014

    In 2013, the USM entered into an agreement with Ithaka S+R (with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) to explore the viability of repurposing MOOCs to be used as part of regular undergraduate programs at degree granting institutions. Given the momentum already established by the USM’s Maryland Course Redesign Initiative, faculty interest in MOOCs was robust. We ended up with 22 trials –many more than the 5-7 originally projected. So, as the highly controversial MOOC model continues to generate much national press –both positive and, more recently, negative– our side-by-side experimental MOOC-augmented courses are currently being tested (2013-14).

    July 10, 2014

    Ithaka S+R collaborated with the University System of Maryland to test the use of interactive online learning platforms in seventeen courses across seven universities. Fourteen of these tests used Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on the Coursera platform, almost all embedded in hybrid course formats, and three used courses from the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University (OLI). We conducted seven side-by-side comparisons to evaluate outcomes of students in hybrid sections with those of students in traditionally taught courses, controlling for student background characteristics. In addition, we conducted ten case studies using MOOCs in smaller courses using a range of approaches. For all tests we collected detailed data on the time it took for local instructors to plan and deliver their courses.