Editor’s Picks

This Year in eLearning: Coding Bootcamps, Virtual High Schools, and Everything Else

By Henry Kronk
December 21, 2017

There’s no way to successfully encapsulate the world of eLearning in 2017. But we can try. The trends among coding bootcamps and virtual high schools all point in the same direction: education technology and the use of online learning is becoming more and more entrenched in our learning process, despite strong pushback from various entities. Meanwhile, we have ignored some important developments in the fields of learning management systems, MOOCs, and online programs. We conclude with some of the stranger, creative, and above all, effective uses of eLearning throughout these twelve months.

Coding Bootcamp: 2017 Top Five Stories

Several Early Coding Bootcamps Close as the Industry Continues to Grow

The big story in the coding bootcamp sector this year was no doubt the surprising closure of several established schools. One high-profile casualty was Dev Bootcamp, which started in San Francisco back in 2012 and grew to six schools before being acquired by Kaplan. Another surprising closure was Iron Yard. Despite the closures, however, the industry continued to expand with more schools opening and many existing schools moving into new markets. As Course Report emphasized in its 2017 market survey released in July, mid year, there were still strong indications that the bootcamp market was growing (the report expected the industry to grow 1.5  x in 2017) and to graduate an estimated 22,949 graduates in 74 U.S. cities and 40 states.

Coding Bootcamps Move to Self-Regulate

In 2017, after years of unprecedented growth and a lot of bragging about job placement rates, the coding bootcamp industry started to take its first steps toward regulation. As reported in TechCrunch earlier this year, “A group of coding boot camps and white-collar training programs from around the country are banding together to create a single standard for reporting graduation and job placement data. The move comes as these ‘accelerated learning programs’ across the country push for greater validation among educational institutions — and a share of the massive state and federal dollars that come with accreditation. Called the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting…the organization will create truth in advertising standards, and common definitions, documentation and validation requirements for all participating organizations.” To date, it is still unclear how this new organization will operate and not all coding bootcamps have agreed to sign on to the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting mandate, but there is little doubt that the industry will continue to debate the regulation question in 2018.

Flatiron Gets Slapped With Large Fine and is Acquired by WeWork

Despite promoting themselves as a highly accountable school (notably, they were among the first coding bootcamps to release report on job placement rates back in 2014), in 2017, the Flatiron School got slapped with a significant fine by New York State. Shortly after paying a $375,000 to the state for “improperly” marketing and advertising their job success rate and operating without a license, Flatiron was in the news again, but for a very different reason. In October, the Flatiron School was bought by WeWork. WeWork, which has been rapidly expanding in recent years as a go-to shared workspace option, reportedly purchased the Flatiron School in order to provide its members with an opportunity to expand their knowledge and skill sets. While this may be true, it seems just as likely that the purchase may be a sign that WeWork has already reached a saturation point is beginning to look for creative ways to keep expanding. [Read more …]


Virtual High Schools: 2017 Top Five Stories

DeVos Offers Strong Support for Virtual Charter Schools

Over the course of the past year, Betsy DeVos has continued to make it widely known that she support online education, including virtual high schools. On the one hand, DeVos’s support for virtual schools has been welcome. On the other hand, DeVos’s endorsement has prompted some Americans, especially those opposed to the current administration’s educational mandate, to raise new questions about virtual schools and their regulation. Either way, there appears to be reason to believe that virtual high schools and programs will expand over the coming three years.

Virtual High Schools Welcome Displaced Puerto Rican Students

Among the top feel-good virtual high schools’ 2017 top stories was Florida Virtual High’s response to students displaced by this fall’s devastating hurricane season. As recently  reported on eLearningInside News, following this fall’s hurricanes, thousands of people from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands moved to the mainland United States, with most arriving in Florida. To respond to the sudden influx of an estimated 20,000 students, Florida Virtual School is opening its virtual doors in response. Florida Virtual Schools (FLVS) is a public, online school providing K-12 education at no charge to families. At the moment, they have welcomed thousands of new students are filling a gap that Florida’s brick-and-mortar schools could simply not respond to on such a large scale.

More States Require Online Learning Credits

This year, a growing number of states introduced required online learning credits. In 2006, Michigan became the first state to pass an online learning credit requirement for secondary-level graduation. The Michigan Merit Curriculum requires at least one online course or online learning experience for each student. This is not surprising, however, since Michigan was also an early adopter of online learning. Over the past decade, the trend toward required online credits have grown with Florida, Arkansas, Virginia and Alabama adopting similar polices. Given the priorities of the current administration and Betsy DeVos’s specific online education mandate, there is reason to believe that this trend will continue over the coming three years and that we may soon find that online learning credits are are a requirement for high school graduation nationwide.

Virtual High Schools Change Teacher Compensation

As more high schools move online, students will not be the only people impacted. In fact, there are moves to use the shift to also change how teachers are compensated. South Carolina’s Horry County Schools’ virtual program, for example, is already offering merit pay to its online teachers based on how many of their students actually complete a course. The system may sound shocking but in fact, it is consistent with a model of education that has been in place in many U.S. states since the 1990s that ties school funding to student performance levels. In this case, of course, the direct impact is not on school budgets but rather an individual teachers’ take-home pay. [Read more …]

Creative Uses of eLearning in 2017

KFC’s VR Training Module

There was once a time when new fry cooks-in-training at Kentucky Fried Chicken would receive instruction from a manager or one of their superiors. But this summer, the fast food chain proved that the old model of employee training was downright 2000-and-late.

The new method they introduced included a VR simulation. But it was just some low-stress way to learn the dance steps: it was a gamified escape room-style module replete with the ghost of Colonel Sanders himself heckling you at every turn. Learners are not allowed to leave the room until they correctly prepare a basket of fried chicken.

Needless to say, employees enjoyed the new method far better than the previous training. What’s more, while it took an average of 25 minutes to bring new employees up to speed with in-person training, it took employees an average of 10 minutes to successfully complete the VR simulation.

Amazon’s Alexa Echo Dots at ASU

The launch of Amazon’s Alexa, its family of devices, and their potential in education is downright awe inspiring. But as with any new technology, it’s going to take time to catch on and find its most effective uses. In partnership with Arizona State University, Amazon sought to speed that process along by equipping an entire dormitory with the devices, incorporating their use into three different classes, and using them to aid in community outreach.

Alexa is, after all, still a young deep-learning algorithm, and has much to learn about the world. In the process of their own education, ASU students have done some teaching themselves. After using them for one semester, students typically use their echo dots to play music, set their alarms, and find out campus-related info–like how to take the fastest route to the library, or when the next dorm block party will go down.

Robots in Michigan State University Classrooms

Many online degrees allow students to stream in to lectures at the brick-and-mortar version of their university, chat with their peers, or skype with their professors. But in some graduate education programs at Michigan State University, remote students are literally taking a seat at the table.

They do this through the use of cameras (equipped for two-way live audio and video streaming) mounted on self-balancing robots. Students can control the robots, move them around the room, pivot them to look at their peer’s or instructor’s face, and adjust several other features. By and large, it allows students to participate in a class discussion as if they were really in the room.

“I teach graduate courses where the primary pedagogy is discussion-based,” Professor Christine Greenhow said. “When you’re in a discussion with some people in the room and others streaming in, you have these faces on the screen and you’re trying to talk to someone, look at their face, look at the camera, and look at other people in the room. You can’t have the same interpersonal experience.” The robots have begun to solve this problem.

Republique En Marche’s MOOC

Some take massive online open courses (MOOCs) to further their career. Some take MOOCs to scratch their curiosity itch. But in the fall of 2017, the French political party, Republique En Marche, which swept to power in the country’s most recent election, put out a different kind of online class. “Le MOOC qui va revolutionner la France” (The MOOC that will revolutionize France) seeks to educate French citizens on how to get involved in local politics.

The MOOC is ongoing and will include five sessions spread out over five weeks. Lessons begin with an overview of France’s local political makeup and progress through how to identify a community issue, form a plan of action, and execute it. [Read more …]