Archive for November, 2009

Using Flash drives as the backbone of Distance Ed

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

“Trenton, N.J. (November 10, 2009) —Thomas Edison State College has recently received a two-year, $250,000 federal grant that will be used to accelerate the deployment of a new course delivery system that utilizes cloud computing technologies and is designed to increase access and minimize technical issues for adults earning a college degree.

The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), will enable the college to develop 40 courses over the next two years that will be delivered entirely via flash drives that contain similar structure and functionality of the college’s typical 12-week, asynchronous online courses but without the need for a constant online connection.  For these new courses, students will need an Internet connection only to submit assignments and participate in online discussions. The remainder of course work can be completed offline. “

Ok, my first thought is this is a no brainer.  This is something we are dabbling with in AccFin, one of our lecturers has wangled a bunch of cast off (i.e. free) USB drives and our tech guru is looking at an automated backup sytem to keep the USB files up to date (that’s the tricky bit).  We were looking at whether we could make it work automatically with Blackboard but we have put this in the too hard basket.

My second thought is, 40 courses over 2 years for US $250K .  There is obviously no way that any Teaching and learning / Pedagogical redesign is part of this project. 

250K sounds like a lot but it’s not really. 

When I was with the eLearning Branch of the Education Department (7 years ago) , AU 250K would get us 5-7 flexible delivery units with a 10 month deadline (and the developers complained all the way about the timeline and funding).   A single, fully “tricked up” unit done by a commercial company could easily suck up 100K + on it’s own. 

It looks like this is just a change in delivery, as such, it’s admirable and worthwhile and at US$6250 per unit probably funded about right.  But I wouldn’t expect the quality of the teaching resources to change much.