Thursday, June 23, 2011

University Online News: New Online Learning Platform Patented by Harvard University

In recent years, the effectiveness of the “University Online” concept, at least as it compares to traditional, in-class, classroom instruction, has been lauded by educational researchers, professors and university administrators alike. Yet despite the research studies that clearly illustrate, and in fact prove the overall effectiveness of online education, there are still pundits on the “anti-side” who are against the concept of online education, questioning, in many cases, whether or not the universities that offer such programs are qualified to deliver a superior education via the online model. These arguments, for the most part at least, are completely baseless, and rely, perhaps, on outdated information and data regarding the past history of distance learning and its shortfalls, rather than the ever-growing stockpile of recent data that clearly shows that, due to recent improvements in the “university online” model, the glaring problems and shortfalls with regard to the distance education programs of the past have long been corrected.

Online education is continually being modified and tweaked to offer students the best chance at academic success, and one such modification is the new online learning platform that was recently patented by Harvard University. The platform, which was developed by Harvard Medical School professor Dr. B. Price Kerfoot, is called SpaceEd, and is based on recent research findings that indicate a significant improvement in retention when information is presented at repeated intervals, with periodic assessments that test student knowledge.

At present there are approximately 25 free courses available on SpaceEd, in a variety of subject areas and fields ranging from Core Anatomy and Physiology for medical students to a basic theory of music course. The students enrolled in these SpaceEd classes receive a block of questions at predetermined intervals that are based on their own preference. For example, students can request to receive questions once a day, every other day, or once a week. Each block of questions is delivered to students in one of two ways: email or RSS feed, and once the questions are answered they are immediately sent back to the instructor via the same way they arrived. The instructor will then look the answers over, and the ones that were answered incorrectly will appear in future sets. However, when the question is answered correctly, while it will still appear in future sets, it will appear less frequently, and when a question is answered correctly a multiple of times, it will ultimately be retired.

The type and difficulty of the questions each student receives is not identical, but rather tailored to the student using an algorithm that is based on that student’s academic performance and proficiency over time. This allows students who are more successful to be consistently challenged.

The early clinical trials regarding SpaceEd are extremely positive, showing that the program is an excellent adjunct to traditional learning and education. In fact, one study involving Harvard Medical Students showed that Kerfoot’s SpaceEd model improved student retention by over 50% as measured on quizzes and exams.

The SpaceEd program is yet another example of the improvements and modifications that are consistently being developed to improve student learning and expand upon the rapidly evolving “university online” concept.

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