June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Many universities are striving to reach a broader audience of students by expanding into the international market, especially for graduate degree programs. The two dominant types of educational offerings to international students are (1) online degree programs or (2) establishment of an international branch campus. Both approaches present significant challenges, specifically, low persistence and completion rates in online courses and difficulty staffing international branch campuses with high-quality faculty members. To address these problems, we have developed a novel mode of distance education that offers a high-quality learning environment for students and quality instruction from instructors who remain on the home campus.
The "field degree" program developed jointly by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Shorelight Education is a synchronous, cohort-based classroom experience for international students who want to pursue a graduate degree while remaining in their home country. Instructors teach from a studio on the UMass Amherst campus to students who are located together with their peers in classrooms abroad. The instruction is synchronous and allows for seamless two-way communication and active student engagement and thus provides an environment that is very similar to what students experience in a conventional residential program. By locating the studio on the main campus of the university, regular faculty members can be instructors and thus ensure that the quality of the program is identical to what is normally taught on campus. The cohort-based approach ensures that students can form a community, collaborate in the classroom, and persist in the program.
The technology used in this setup is based on high-quality audio and video, interactive whiteboards, and a proprietary teaching and learning system that is augmented to support interactions during live lecture. For audio and video, the studio uses a large teleprompter design to let the instructor "look" into the classroom and see all the students. The instructor can see when students raise their hands (either physically or through the software). Interactive whiteboards enable the instructor to present and annotate slides. On the classroom side, students can see a persistent video feed of the instructor to ensure a continuous "presence" as well as all slides and whiteboard content at all times. Students can interact with the whiteboard from their side, present, and collaborate.
To-date, this mode of instruction has been used to teach three cohorts of students in the M.S. program in Electrical and Computer Engineering and one cohort in a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Assessment results of the program show very high persistence, high levels of interactions in the classroom, and achievement of learning outcomes. The first graduates are expected in the current semester, Fall 2018.
Wolf, T., & Hollot, C. V., & Tessier, R., & Polivka, B., & Hoehn-Saric, C., & Kang, J. D., & Newman, K. (2019, June), Synchronous Cohort-Based International Education Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33333
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