Benefits

Who could benefit from CyberCourse? Lots of people.

Foundations working on education reform

Suppose you’re the Gates Foundation, or Kresge. CyberCourse helps with your agenda.

  • CyberCourse uses learning science to make learning more effective. It emphasizes formative feedback, with an efficient grading work flow.
  • CyberCourse uses Web tech to make learning more efficient. People only do the things that only people can do. Computers do the rest. More skills, lower cost.
  • Anyone can make a Cycourse on their own topic, in their own language, for their own region. CyberCourse helps them learn the learning science principles they should follow.
  • A sustainable business model gives authors all of the revenue. Authors can charge a low price, and still make a living writing high quality skill learning content. No grants needed. They could serve niches that are too small for traditional publishing.

Scenarios:

  • A math Cycourse for Detroit high school students, with Detroit problems, Detroit locations, and Detroit personalities. When there's a Piston's game, the scores are in the Cycourse the next day, ready for analysis. Detroit Public Schools pay the author, say, $25 per student. The author can afford to spend his/her time on the Cycourse.
  • A writing Cycourse for high functioning autistic students. The author works on the Cycourse full-time, constantly improving it.
  • A biology Cycourse in Hindi for students in Pune, India. Example species are drawn from the city itself.
  • A statistics Cycourse in Portuguese for students in Europe and South America. It uses open APIs to draw data sets from around the world.

Many sustainable wins.

Businesses

CyberCourse (the way I use it) is about learning skills. That means hands-on practice. Shortcuts don't work. Narrated PowerPoints don't help employees learn skills. Multiple-choice quizzes won't tell you which employees can actually do things.

Cycourses are mostly on-line, though there can be face-to-face components. Employees can work at their desks, at home, wherever and whenever. They work with on-line content mostly, except:

  • Cycourses have many exercises. Employees complete them on line, and submit their solutions for evaluation. A human gives them a list of things they did right and wrong. For learning skills, there is no effective alternative to human feedback.
  • Employees get stuck when learning skills. They need personal help, in real-time. They might have an on-site mentor, someone who already knows the skill. In other cases, they talk to an expert in another location.

With the feedback system, employees’ work is constantly being evaluated. You get performance reports, so you can make good placement decisions once training is complete.

Training companies

Suppose your company supplies training services. CyberCourse can help you create new types of products. You can offer customers price points between cheap but ineffective narrated PowerPoints, and expensive face-to-face training.

With CyberCourse, employees learn at their desks. They work through on-line content themselves, including many exercises. The exercises are sample tasks, or task components.

Learners interact with human experts in two ways:

  • Detailed feedback on their exercise solutions, a list of things they did right and wrong.
  • Personal help when they get stuck. There might be a mentor on-site, or someone learners can reach over the Internet, using Skype or something similar.

You could offer your clients a complete, easy to buy service. It would include feedback and personal on-line help for employees. Your clients get detailed reports on individual learner performance. The reports prove that the client's employees are learning skills.

You would use your training resources efficiently. Use expensive people time just for the things that only people can do.

School and college administrators

CyberCourse could help your institution:

  • Improve skill learning outcomes. Exercise rubrics offer built-in course assessment, without gathering additional data.
  • Reduced textbook costs.
  • Reduced course costs, with the elimination of lecturing and lecture hall use, and the ability to outsource grading.
  • Improved course standardization. All course sections could use the same CyberCourse. Student would receive the same feedback experience, whether on the main campus, or a branch campus.
  • The ability to enter new markets. Cycourses are hosted at the main campus, and grading is distributed. You could start a new campus with a handful of tutors.
  • Branding. A Cycourse's look-and-feel can be customized easily.

CyberCourse gives public universities a way to match on-line private schools. The feedback and tutoring systems will help students appreciate the value of competent experts.

Teachers and professors

CyberCourse could:

  • Make teaching more rewarding.
  • Give you another source of income.

Teaching

Beth and Bill

In the faculty lunch room:

  • Beth: "I showed them how to do [X] four times! And they still can't do [X]!"
  • Bill: "They took my statistics course, and now in my next course, they don't know what a standard deviation is!"

Is this you? Do you want the same frustration for the rest of your career? Imagine another 30 years of this!

That's what will happen, unless you change what you do.

What Beth and Bill should know

If Beth had studied learning, she would know that showing someone how to do a task doesn't mean they'll know how to do it themselves. Given how human brains work, Beth's expectation is unreasonable. She is not giving students' brains what they need to learn how to do [X].

If Bill had studied learning, he'd know that learning is context dependent. Brains don't automatically transfer knowledge from the context they learned it, to a new context.

Beth and Bill could take a couple of years, and study learning. They could redesign their courses, based on how human brains actually work. They won't take that time, because they're too busy researching/grading/administering. This is not just an excuse; they really are very busy.

Someone has done the work already

Now, suppose a colleague had studied learning science for Beth and Bill. That person had written new versions of the courses that Beth and Bill teach. If Beth and Bill used those courses, they'd get all that chewy learning science goodness, without having to study it themselves.

Beth and Bill would have to change how they teach. Some changes are easy. They'd give up lecturing. Instead, they'd use their time helping students solve problems. That's a better use of their expertise anyway, and more fun than droning through the same PowerPoints.

Some changes would be hard. The hardest of all?

Teach less content.

Remember, we're talking about skills, like writing, programming, and algebra. For each topic in a skills course, students have to:

  • Learn facts about the topic.
  • Learn how to use those facts to solve problems.

Students have to do the first, before they can do the second. However, the second is where the real payoff is. Unfortunately, some courses have so many topics that average students only have time to learn facts, and not problem solving.

Feedback

If you teach skills right, there is a lot of grading. There's no way around this. You give students tasks and feedback, or they won't learn skills.

You can give feedback yourself. CyberCourse makes it easy, with a smooth work flow. However, you can have teaching assistants do it, or even people you hire on Mechanical Turk. Each exercise has a rubric, to help standardize grading. Graders don't have to be experts. They just have to know enough to follow the rubrics.

Summary

The CyberCourse Way is about creating Cycourses, textbook-like-things that replace textbooks and lectures. CyberCourse is a package of software and guidelines. It helps authors write Cycourses that use learning science principles, to help students learn skills.

Suppose someone in your field writes a Cycourse for a course you teach. If it follows the guidelines of the CyberCourse Way, it will help your students learn skills you want them to have.

You spend your time helping students learn skills. At the end of each course, you'll be able to say, "Yes, I helped students learn things worth knowing."

Authoring

You can write a Cycourse. You're already an expert in your field. Learn about learning. CyberCourse gives you a concentrated dose of learning about learning. Then you can use the CyberCourse software to make a Cycourse of your own.

Once you have a Cycourse, what then? You can give it away. Or you can charge for it.

You get all of the revenue. Not 5%, or 10%. All of it.

CyberCourse is open source. You can install it on a $10/month hosting account. You can get someone to help you, if you need it.

You can connect your Cycourse to a payment gateway, like PayPal, or Authorize.Net. When someone buys access to your Cycourse, the money goes straight to your account.

You could offer your Cycourse at a low price, say $20 per student, and still have a good income.

Your markets don't have to be large. You could write:

  • A biology Cycourse, just for your region of the country.
  • A business math Cycourse, with Dallas examples, Dallas personalities, and Dallas sports teams.
  • A beginning Cycourse for English-speaking students in Dade county. It would use Miami locations, and idioms student are likely to hear in daily life.
  • A Microsoft Excel Cycourse for real estate agents in Michigan.

What would the money give you? Freedom. No summer teaching to make ends meet. No extra administrative jobs. Want to go to a conference? Just go.

Parents, students, and creatives everywhere

CyberCourse isn't technology wrapped around old content. It's something new. However, it's based on something that we've had for a while, but isn't used much: learning research.

In skill learning, there are no shortcuts. You can't learn computer programming by reading a textbook, and taking a multiple-choice exam. It just doesn't work.

You have to write programs to learn how to program. Then, to get the most out of your work, you have to get feedback. Not a grade, like a B-. A list of things you did right and wrong.

Ideally, you get a chance to improve your work, and submit it again. Then you'll understand the difference between not-so-good work and good work, because you've done both of them.

Think back to skills courses you've taken. Did you actually learn how to do useful things? Or did you spend your time memorizing facts for a multiple-choice exam? How much do you remember now?

That's what I'm trying to fix. The heart of the CyberCourse Way is:

Get a good return from every hour you spend studying.

But wait, there's more! A business model. It's a new way for passionate educators to help others, including you and your family, without sacrificing their family's financial well-being.

Parents: CyberCourse can help your kids, and other people's kids, get more from their investment in education.

Students: you've taken some b-a-a-a-d courses. CyberCourse makes things better.

Creatives: CyberCourse is tech the way it should be. Don't just take old practice and add a Web site. Re-invent. Have tech serve people in a blended system. Use the strengths of each, to serve a human need.