Focus Session 3: Broadening Access through Digital Education

Summary of Participant Input from AP4DE Focus Session 3: Broadening Access through Digital Education

November 19, 2015

Question 1: What audiences should Purdue target in our efforts to provide broader access through digital education?

Participants supported the broadest possible audience base for Purdue digital education. We should think of an audience of a global scale, with Purdue taking a leadership role in the digital market. That said, Purdue should study every market before jumping in. Global audience. Purdue a leader.

For adult professionals we should offer certificates, modules and credit programs (including bachelors and master’s degrees) that can be completed while they are working. Licensure is another area we should explore. We should expand online graduate programs for career changers and those seeking to refresh or advance their skills.  We should also offer noncredit corporate training, especially for companies with specialized training needs aligned with areas of Purdue expertise.

We should also direct efforts to high school students and possibly younger students. These offerings would include dual-credit high school courses (with very strong support from participants), pre-freshman summer courses, advanced college credit courses. Courses may help students identify majors they want to pursue and provide academically gifted students an avenue to do advanced work.

Our current students are another audience we should pursue. Digital education can provide them with greater flexibility in their schedules and allow them to progress during summer or while in internships. Digital courses can also provide needed remediation while maintaining a timeline for a degree. Digital education courses can also assist international students with acculturation. We can also partner with other institutions to offer courses that we may not be able to offer on our own.

Other audiences for Purdue digital education noted by participants included (in no particular order) county extension personnel, Purdue staff, local employers, military families, under-represented groups (such as ESL students), students transitioning from community colleges like Ivy Tech, Purdue alumni, senior citizens, individuals with college credit who have not completed degrees, individuals with disabilities or accessibility issues, rural residents with limited access to higher education. We should also support international learners but with on-site support in their countries and in their native languages.

Question 2: What strategies should Purdue pursue in the area of MOOCs, unbundled courses and alternative credentials?

Purdue needs to offer MOOCs to maintain its image as a progressive institution. We can leverage the power of the Purdue brand to enhance our success rate. However, we need to identify a good financial model for MOOCs. Even if we don’t monetize them, we don’t want MOOCs to deplete university resources. Purdue MOOCs should not be limited to the technical domains, but should cover a broad range of knowledge and try to fill niches appropriate to Purdue expertise. Our model for MOOCs and other course unbundlings should honor faculty intellectual property. We should consider giving senior faculty time releases to develop MOOCs in their areas of expertise.

MOOCs can be used for recruitment. A prospective student’s experience with a renowned Purdue professor in a MOOC can bring that student to our campus. MOOCs can be viewed as previews of college courses. They can also serve as tools to enhance the student’s baseline skills before arriving on campus. They can also promote accessibility through pricing breaks. To further enhance student affordability, we should explore offering credit for MOOCs or badge-bearing programs from Purdue and elsewhere.

On campus MOOCs can be used for just-in-time remediation. We should also explore digital courses for the winter break period and other appropriately shortened intensive online courses. We should also consider digitally-delivered, competency-based courses for which students with prior experience or knowledge of the subject could be granted credit from the results of an appropriate assessment.

With respect to supporting working professionals, Purdue should coordinate with employers to create micro-credentials that have real value in the marketplace. Such credentials should be comprised of unbundled course content offered asynchronously, modularized, competency-based and represent a suite of stackable skills. We should look to corporations to help fund the development of such credentials. Our alumni network can be helpful keeping us apprised about evolving areas in which education is needed. Badges should be used strategically in a manner that allows them to be converted to credit later, if desired.

Question 3: What digital education strategies should Purdue pursue to support lifelong learning, especially for alumni and future students?

Participants indicated that we should offer discounts for alumni, especially in-state alumni. We should have a set of regular offerings for alumni that are offered on a periodic basis. We could also offer a flat rate arrangement that would allow alumni to participate in an unspecified number credit courses over a certain period of time. Such pricing might encourage participation in advanced degrees. We should create programs in weekend or online formats that would encourage alumni participation. For alumni we could also create bundled packages of ongoing access to such campus digital resources as or library database resources, MOOCs, etc.

We should use our alumni as a source of intelligence for creating programs and to create digital networks for current students. We would like to create a sense of commitment to “give back” to Purdue as a subject matter expert for courses.

For future students it was suggested that we pursue more rigorous marketing with surveys and email campaigns. Several participant groups supported the offering of online dual credit courses to high school students and student college success programs. We should develop ways of connecting future students to current students.

It was also suggested that Purdue staff should be able to access digital education programs at reduced costs.


Bart Collins
Clinical Associate Professor of Communication, Coordinator, Online Master’s in Strategic Communication

Mark Lundstrom
Don and Carol Scifres Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Supriyo Datta
Duncan Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Steve Dunlop
Managing Director, Purdue NExT


Establishment Goes Alternative

Author: Paul Fain
Source: Inside Higher Ed
Published: August 14, 2015

Traditional institutions have not been very active in the provision of microcredentials such as badges, but that may be about to change. Seven major research universities plan to create the University Learning Store, a joint web portal for microcredentials, featuring online content, assessments and tutoring. The initiative’s purpose is create an “alternative credentialing process that would provide students with credentials that are much shorter and cheaper than conventional degrees.”

UW System’s Flexible Option Proves Popular

Author: Ann-Elise Henzl
Source: WUWM: Milwaukee Public Radio
Published: September 21, 2015

In 2013 the University of Wisconsin system launched its Flexible Option program featuring online competency-based degree programs aimed primarily at the 800,000 Wisconsin residents with some college credit but who have not earned a degree. The program is beginning to take hold in Wisconsin as competency-based programs begin to proliferate across the country.

Coursera is Apple TV's first online learning partner

Author: Tara Garcia Mathewson
Source: Education Dive
Published: November 3, 2015

If you thought “educational television” was a relic of the past, think again! In its 21st   century digital reincarnation the giant MOOC platform Coursera is making its entire catalog of noncredit online courses from dozens of colleges and universities available on Apple TV.

The Online Footprint of the Big Ten

How active are the Big Ten universities in reaching out to new audiences of learners through digital education? Where does Purdue stand in the mix?  To provide us with this point of reference, Purdue’s online partner Wiley/Deltak conducted informal research using IPEDS data and put it into this Excel spreadsheet.


Focus Session 3 - Photos

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