Sunday, November 28, 2010

Your Next LMS: Facebook

At a conference last fall, a university IT director detailed how the university was successfully using Facebook to connect with and interact with students. I was impressed with this innovative approach to student life, and asked if they had considered using Facebook for actual course delivery. At the time, the IT director stated that students saw Facebook as their domain and the educators and institutions had to be carefully wading into Facebook - balancing the "return on engagement" and the perceived "creepiness" factor. He didn't think that Facebook was the appropriate vehicle for course delivery and that the university had no plans to do so.

In retrospect, maybe he was right that teaching a course in Facebook would "creep out" students, but I think this might only be true for existing students. I think that, for universities and colleges, Facebook could be an entirely new delivery mechanism that could attract an entirely new global cohort of students. From the UK, here's the first such example I've seen: Poking, Tagging and Now Landing an M.B.A.
thanks to a pair of young British entrepreneurs, students who do want both a business education and the credential to prove it can now pursue their studies at the same time as they “poke” their friends, tag photos, update their relationship status or harvest their virtual crops on FarmVille.

The London School of Business and Finance Global M.B.A. bills itself as “the world’s first internationally recognized M.B.A. to be delivered through a Facebook application.”

Only a month old,
the application already has more than 30,000 active users accessing courses in corporate finance, accounting, ethics, marketing and strategic planning, according to the business school.
Aaron Etingen, founder and chief executive of the London School of Business and Finance, said he expected 500,000 prospective students to take the free “M.B.A. test drive” within a year.

What does that Facebook application include?
Students who like what they see will be able to watch video lectures, participate in online peer-to-peer study sessions and track their progress through interactive tests — all without charge.

So how does the university make money?
“There is only a fee if they want to take exams,” said Valery Kisilevsky, the school’s managing director.

Each module is paid for separately, making the total cost of the M.B.A. £14,500, or about $23,000 — the same as for London School of Business and Finance’s campus-based and conventional distance-learning M.B.A. degrees. Like those programs, the Facebook Global M.B.A. degree is certified by the University of Wales. “What we’ve done is eliminate the risk,” Mr. Kisilevsky said.

Much like the Open Courseware movement, it seems that offering course materials for free is less risky than it seems. Instead of cannibalizing existing enrollment, these approaches seem to provide a preview of the quality of the curriculum and open up opportunities for global enrollment growth.

Imagine if their numbers are right and they can get 500,000 prospective students to 'test drive' in the first year and conservatively another 10% or 50,000 to convert to paid customers (i.e. take the test). That's a huge new revenue stream! The most valuable asset of colleges and universities is not the content, it is the degrees, certificates and credentials that we award.

Another important factor in the potential success of this approach is student engagement.
“The dirty secret of online education is the appallingly low completion rate,” Mr. Etingen said. “Fewer than one in four students who begin an online M.B.A. ever graduate, and it didn’t seem ethical to me to take someone’s money up front, knowing that most of them won’t finish.”

According to some studies, students check their Facebook profile at least 18 times per day. I can't imagine that students check their college e-mail or their traditional online courses at that rate. That level of engagement leads to greater student success, increased positive word-of-mouth, and increased enrollment. Success builds success!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

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