I lead the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics. I am one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course, write about online and networked learning, have authored learning management and content syndication software, and am the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily.


  • Association of Medical Educators of Europe (AMEE) E-Learning Symposium, Glasgow, Scotland, September 6, 2015.

  • Ghent, Belgium, March 30, 2015.

  • Chang School Talks 2015, Ryerson University, February 23, 2015.

  • Hackademia, Online, to Brazil, March 16, 2015.

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Australia moves backwards from online apprenticeship training


Tony Bates points to a problem in Australia. He writes, "the Australian Federal government has recently shut down a two year e-learning apprenticeship program which had doubled the completion rate to 93%. Instead, the Australian government has introduced a new program that reverts to the previous model by removing the online component and now requiring apprentices to use a printed textbook." It's not this so much (though this certainly is a loss for Australia) but the pattern this represents. We used to hear about innovations in online learning from Ausralia all the time. Now, not so much. I wish I knew why.

Today: 206 Total: 206 Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, 2015/10/13 [Direct Link]

Of MOOCs and Men


Leaving aside the question of whether MOOCs work as educational delivery systems, the more interesting question is this: "Can MOOCs transform students as people?" Teachers can actually see this transformation in their physical classrooms, writes Akiba Covitz. What about online? The typical chat room is "a technology solution that comes from the basic human need to connect and from the basic human quality of empathy—all things that MOOC learners, and perhaps all students, want," writes Covitz. And "The students do not perceive these taped professors as fully human or at least as fully present." Maybe these are serious issues. In the end, though, the article comes sounding like a shill for "Shindig and its video chat sistren."

Today: 268 Total: 268 Akiba Covitz, Inside Higher Ed, 2015/10/13 [Direct Link]

Ontario Launches Online Education Portal


The fact that eCampusOntario exists is good, and probably well overdue. And yeah, you can search for (say) all the online courses offered by colleges and universities in Ontario. I tried it out, searching for philosophy courses, and got back my results instantly. But the problem is, they're college and university courses, and this is where the usefulness ends. Even when I search for 'fully online' courses, the best I can get when I click on 'Enrol' is some generic information, because there's this whole process you have to go through before you can take a course. And courses that started a month ago. And, of course, tuitions in the hundreds of dollars. But, you know, the listings show what we could have available to us, if we opened up the process, and focused on making these courses more affordable. See also Colleges Ontario.

Today: 290 Total: 290 Press Release, Government of Ontario, 2015/10/12 [Direct Link]

Cracks In The Foundation Of Disruptive Innovation


Phil Hill quite right explains the objection to using the term "disruptive" to apply to education innovation: "judging a non-commodity public good with the same theory as disk drives is a silly notion without some extensive analysis to back up that extrapolation." But now, he writes, there's even more evidence showing the concept of 'disruptive innovation' is not particularly useful. There are four key elements in the theory (see the image), and yet only 9 percent of the cases actually cited  fit all four elements. "It seems that the case studies were cherry picked to highlight one element at a time, but the cohesive theory of disruptive innovation might not be backed up even by its own data."

Today: 419 Total: 419 Phil Hill, e-Literate, 2015/10/12 [Direct Link]

The Science of Learning


I appreciate what these educators are trying to do, I really do, but you can't just cherry-pick studies you like and call it 'science'. The only way, really, to call something a 'science' is if it reflects a consensus of the researchers in the field. And 'consensus' means exactly that - it doesn't mean picking one theory over another, one frame of reference over another. Engineering is a science because nobody really questions the mathematics of forces and stresses. Chemistry is a science because there is only one list of elements, not several competing 'theories' of chemical reactions. And so on. And when you do this, you're engaged in some sort of political exercise, not science, for reasons unknown.

And so to this document. You can't simply cite 'facts' that a large percentage of the field (constructivists, say) argue are wrong. Like this, for example: "To learn, students must transfer information from working memory (where it is consciously processed) to long-term memory." Many theorists (including me) do not think learning is the same as a 'transfer of information' at all. Or this: "Information is often withdrawn from memory just as it went in." Aside from being expressed in something like baby-talk, the idea that we 'withdraw information' in no way expresses scientific consensus. And you can't say in one breath that there's no such thing as 'learning styles' and then that "novices and experts cannot think in the same ways." This document is full of pseudo-science, and should be rejected in its entirety. Here's the blog post. Via Annie Murphy Paul, who should know better.

Today: 435 Total: 435 Unattributed (naturally), Deans for Impact, 2015/10/12 [Direct Link]

Companies for the 21st Century


This may turn out to be nothing (and cue the criticisms of the 'meritocracy' that this site evokes) but on the other hand it may turn out to be something. Either way, it's interesting. "Colonies are kind of like companies, except instead of being managed by fallible individuals, Colony harnesses the wisdom of the crowd using AI to make sure that the right things get done by the right people, at the right time." The site is accepting only beta invites at the moment. Related: the human cloud, a new world of work.

Today: 343 Total: 343 Colony, 2015/10/12 [Direct Link]

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.