Letter From the Editor

Trends I'm Following this Month

Alternative Credentials

There has been a lot of news recently about professional credentials (e.g., badges, certification, micro-credentials) as not only a supplement to a college degree, but also as a potential alternative. What are employers looking for in your industry? Many are focused on skills and training over academic accomplishments, and so credential programs have the potential to grow in popularity among hiring managers and job seekers. A new nonprofit organization, the Credential Transparency Initiative, hopes to make it easier for students, employers, and educators to find and compare the available options.

We discussed this topic in a recent #IOLchat session, revealing the importance of continuing education, professional development, and skill building across industries, even in higher education. Alternative credentials provide multiple avenues to achieve this, including online teaching certification through organizations like the Online Learning Consortium and the University of Wisconsin.

The Next Generation of MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses aren’t new, but they’ve failed to take off as predicted due in part to low completion rates and questions about learning assessment strategies. The newest offerings offer a format we’re familiar with, but options for students who enroll with the intent of earning an academic certificate or even a master’s degree. MicroMasters programs at 15 different institutions organize students into cohort groups based on their goals (and fees paid). Those interested in academic credit toward a degree can have access to instructor feedback and graded assignments, instead of the peer-grading model used in many MOOCs.

Inside Higher Ed also notes that “each [MicroMasters] program also comes with a corporate endorsement,” with Walmart as one example. This kind of partnerships could boost access to education as employers connect employees with their sponsored programs, and use these programs to discover and recruit new talent.

Online Education in the News

For-profit Closures Continue

The for-profit sector of higher education continues to see programs losing enrollment, as well as closing entire programs and schools.

Who: ITT Technical Institute

What: ITT is the latest institution to announce closure. Students in these programs are often left in limbo with unfinished classes interrupted midstream, and unfinished degrees. With this closure there seems to be more of a concerted effort to assist students. ITT has made arrangements with Southern New Hampshire University to “teach out” students enrolled in its Daniel Webster College programs. Students who don’t want to transfer their credits to another school may be eligible to have their existing loans cancelled.

Where: Nationwide, with locations in 38 states

When: ITT announced that it will not offer classes as of its September quarter.

Why: The U.S. Department of Education recently ended federal financial aid funding to ITT students, due to alleged issues related to a range of school activities from financial practices to false marketing of job opportunities for graduates.

For more information: Large, For-Profit ITT Tech is Shutting Down All of Its Campuses – NPR.org; SNHU to Lead “Teach Out” of all Daniel Webster College Programs – SNHU.edu

LinkedIn Learning

If you are a LinkedIn Premium user, your experience is getting ready to expand. LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda.com has evolved into a new online learning system.

Who: LinkedIn

What: LinkedIn Learning is a new offering from this professional community, designed to offer thousands of video training courses in job related topics “covering business, tech, and creative skills.” The system will recommend specific courses for you based on the information in your profile. Soon, employers will be able to offer targeted job training and professional development opportunities to their employees through the platform.

Where: Online

When: Available now for users with Premium accounts and free account users who choose to oat for a monthly or annual subscription to the course platform.

Why: LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com over a year ago, and the integration has been anticipated for a while now. Offering a catalog of online courses allows LinkedIn to further its reputation and services as the “world’s largest professional network.”

For more information: LinkedIn Doubles Down on Education with LinkedIn Learning – TechCrunch.com

Conference Updates

September was a slow month for education conferences, which may not be surprising to those of you also getting settled in your Fall classes. There are many events happening throughout the rest of the year, however. Here are two conferences I am following in October:

WCET Annual Meeting

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Date: October 12-14, 2016

Hashtag: #WCET16

This annual meeting of the WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies) focuses on “practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education.” The program features a keynote presentation from Jaime Casap, Google’s Education Evangelist, as well as a host of sessions on topics ranging from open educational resources and adaptive learning to state authorization and social media.

EDUCAUSE Annual Conference

Location: Anaheim, CA

Date: October 25-28, 2016

Hashtag: #EDU16

This conference has been appropriately described as “massive” with more than 7,000 attendees and 275 exhibitors. The audience includes information technology professionals, faculty members, and instructional designers who are interested in innovative technology, learning analytics, improving the student experience, and more. EDUCAUSE is a nonprofit association for IT professionals working at colleges and universities.

Don't Miss!

National Get Smart About Credit Day – October 20, 2016

Do you know your credit score? Are you taking on student loans for college? The American Bankers Association established this event to raise awareness and share resources related to developing good financial habits. Get started with our guide to Online College Costs, and make an appointment to speak to your school’s financial assistance advisors.

National Make a Difference Day – October 22, 2016

Join the Points of Light Foundation and TEGNA, Inc. as they coordinate community volunteer projects across the country. Sign up to start your own project or find other projects that need volunteers in your area. The website provides a list of formal rules as well as information about grants and awards. Use #MDDay to share your ideas and involvement.

Academic Calendar Deadlines

MidTerm Exams and Grades: If you are enrolled in online courses on a traditional semester schedule (i.e., 15-16 weeks), your Fall term is in full swing. Many programs post mid-term course grades, which are particularly popular in undergraduate courses. This is a good time to take stock in how far you’ve come and review any feedback you’ve received so far. It’s also important to look ahead through the remainder of your course to make sure you understand the expectations and timelines related to completion. If your courses are on a more accelerated schedule (e.g., 8- or 10-weeks) it’s even more important to make time for a progress review and plan for the future.

More from Melissa Venable

ELearn Magazine

  • Can Snapchat Bridge the Communication Chasm in Online Courses? With Jon Ernstberger, LaGrange College
  • Managing the Flow of Information in Social Networks: How Do You Do it? With Amy Hilbelink, Laureate Online Education
  • Editorial Advisory Board, Higher Education Column

The Career Network Newsletter

Bimonthly columnist - Social Media and Your Career

Career Convergence Web Magazine

Tech Tips column, Coordinator and Contributor

Educational Technology and Change Journal

Contributing Author

Where can you find Melissa

Presentations (conferences)

  • National Career Development Association, Annual Conference, 2016
  • Online Learning Consortium, 2016

Online courses she’s teaching

  • Saint Leo University - School of Education and Social Services
    • EDU 577 Project Management for Instructional Design
    • EDU 544 Graphics and Design Concepts in eLearning
  • University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee - College of Education
    • EDF 6284 Problems in Instructional Design for Computers

Links to past presentations

  • National Career Development Association - Annual Conference
    • Taking the Next Step with Twitter: Tips for Live Chat Participation and Moderation
    • Map Your Social Media Strategy: Beyond the Big 3, with Debra Osborn, Florida State University
  • The Online Learning Consortium - Annual Conference/Accelerate
    • Snapchat: Bridging the Communication Chasm in Online Courses, with Jon Ernstberger, LaGrange College
    • Other Duties as Assigned: Defining the Role of Instructional Designer in Higher Education, with Amy Hilbelink, Laureate Online Education
  • TCC - Technology, Colleges, and Communities - Online Conference
    • Help Wanted: Instructional Design Jobs in Higher Ed
    • Conference Engagement Through Social Media and Digital Badges: Why is Social So Special?
  • Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Virtual Conference
    • Help Wanted: Instructional Design Jobs in Higher Ed
    • Can Existing Quality Guidelines Inform Faculty Participation in Online Course Design? With Amy Hilbelink, Laureate Online Education

About Melissa Venable

Melissa Venable

I entered the field of instructional technology in 2004 as a doctoral student with a background in academic advising and career counseling. My professional goals included finding better ways to provide online students with the support required for success in their courses and after graduation. Since that time I’ve worked as an instructional designer and project manager developing new online courses and assisting faculty members with the creation of online versions of their on-campus courses. As an adjunct instructor in the field I am continuously engaged in the latest topics and learn a great deal from my students in the process.

Through the Center for Online Education I am privileged to serve in the role of education editor. This venue allows me to curate the best possible resources for current and prospective online students in the areas I am most committed to improving - online education and career development. Our focus is not only on highlighting the advantages of online learning, but also providing you with the data you’ll need to make the most of the opportunities available and plot a successful course toward your goals.

If you are new to online education and college decisions, our Inside Online Learning resources are designed to help you understand how it all works from admissions and funding to technology and participation. Use this section of the site to assess your readiness for online education and set realistic expectations about what it will take to graduate.