I suspect people trying to build online learning in universities are feeling pretty buffeted at the moment.
The carefully considered projects in which many higher education institutions were investing were suddenly overwhelmed by the Covid pandemic in 2020 and an immediate need to shift to emergency remote teaching across the board. Coming out of that period it became clear that good quality online provision was something many students wanted more of, but there was now less money to spend. With the turbulence in the online education market it all adds up to a pretty challenging time for many universities.
But institutions have risen to the task, and a huge amount of work is underway across the HE sector to build more and better quality online learning to meet the needs and expectations of a new generation of students. As they do this work, universities are facing similar sets of challenges, and I think four of the key ones are:
- Scaling up: Building a course which looks good and functions well is a time- and resource-consuming task. Now you need to build thousands of them, structured into perhaps hundreds of programmes across the institution, and make them high quality with a consistent student experience.
- Making things modular: The rise of microcredentials and a more nomadic student base means rather than delivering complete degree courses you may need to enable the completion of degree study via multiple pathways, with certificates and diplomas along the way.
- Harnessing AI: Artificial intelligence and machine learning offer huge opportunities, and no institution wants to get left behind, but how do you maximise the benefits for your students and university?
- Surviving the changing landscape: You want to take advantage of new developments, but how do you reduce the pain and cost involved in upgrading your learning environment or switching to a new one?
Courseworker by CAPDM is an enterprise-level, cloud-based course production and management environment. It greatly simplifies the production of high-quality professional online courses using “write once, publish many” digital publishing methods. So how can it help with each of these challenges?
Building online and distance learning at scale is essentially the purpose of Courseworker. It was born out of the work CAPDM did on the world’s largest distance learning MBA at Edinburgh Business School, involving the production and ongoing management of hundreds of courses in multiple languages comprising tens of millions of words across thousands of individual course components, all delivered both in print and online from the same set of master sources.
Using templates and carefully designed content management methods, Courseworker makes course production both scalable and repeatable, but without loss of quality or reduction in features. It captures an institution’s pedagogical approaches and uniqueness, and helps to ensure every course delivers the desired student experience while being built in a fraction of the time.
Making things modular
With Courseworker modularity is built in. Our content architecture, based on non-proprietary standards like XML, allows for courses to be assembled from building blocks which can then be reused as often as required to create different pathways through the learning material. All the while the institutional uniqueness and student experience is maintained.
This means that an investment in, for example, a three-year undergraduate degree course can be repurposed with very little additional effort into single-year certificate courses, two-year diplomas, or even single-term microcredentials. Alternatively you can start from the microcredential level and build whole courses by combining them. Again, Courseworker ensures high quality and consistency throughout.
The key to effective applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning is having a sufficient quantity of good quality data to work with. Courseworker means you not only have clean, exploitable data on the input side – semantically marked up XML content ideally suited for mining – but that you can also inject whatever layers of highly structured metadata you might need on the output side tied to student progress, course and grade information.
That means AI-driven features like personalised learning paths, adaptive or just-in-time learning, intelligent tutoring systems and predictive analytics can benefit from having exactly the data you need where you need it. And your AI developments don’t have to be tied to a particular set of courses or a specific delivery environment – they too become reusable across your domain.
Surviving the changing landscape
Online learning has now reached a level of maturity which means that most universities will have experienced the pain of a migration to a new learning environment. When a large number of courses have been built over time by a disparate set of people with varied structures, moving to a new delivery platform can mean a huge amount of work. Indeed services that seek to make this process easier are now regular advertisers in HE publications.
With Courseworker you build and manage your content and your course structures outside of your delivery environment, and build release packages to be loaded into your VLE whenever they are required. This means moving to a new platform could be as easy as simply choosing to generate a different type of package in the Courseworker dashboard. All your vital investment in your learning content is safely maintained independently of your delivery platform. This also means you can quickly and easily rebrand, or create white label versions of courses for commercial partners too.
Courseworker represents CAPDM’s 27 years of experience in distance and online learning, and is a tried and tested solution for building online learning at scale.