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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SLOs for a Real Education

This post links to a new podcast from Michael Wesch (which I've already added to Ed Radio). Wesch is quoted: "we have to help them achieve all this within a bureaucratic structure that demands that we frame our goals in a few neat bullet points at the top of our syllabus in a section called: Student Learning Outcomes, often called SLOs." Here are the SLOs Wesch really wants to write:

  1. Ask questions that burn in their soul and take them farther than they ever thought possible.
  2. Open themselves up to others and new experiences, to challenge their taken-for-granted assumptions
  3. Cross rivers of doubt and conquer mountains of fear to set themselves free.

Stripped of the adjectives, this is actually a pretty good set of outcomes: ask questions, be open to new experiences, and conquer one's fears. Fisch comments, 'I wonder why it is that we shy away from discussions around outcomes such as these, and obsess over measuring how our students do on discrete, isolated skills that very few of them will ever need to actually use."

Today: 264 Total: 264 Karl Fisch, The Fischbowl, 2016/08/29 [Direct Link]

The MOOC revolution that wasn't


'Tis the season to dissect the "failure" of MOOCs - or, to be specific, the rarefied Silicon Valley version of MOOCs, which is all anyone ever talks about. That narrative was that "MOOC startups Udacity, Coursera, and edX all promised that their free online courses with massive enrollment figures would 'democratize education.'" Of course that didn't happen. More interesting is what these MOOCs identified as the core value proposition. "“At the end of the day, the true value proposition of education is employment,” Thrun told Fast Company... This new narrative, according to George Siemens, one of the originators of the MOOC concept, casts education as simply skills training." But of course that's not democratization at all. The objective of education is and ought to be personal empowerment, to help people become less dependent on, say, a job, and more able to build networks, innovate, create value, and achieve purpose in life. But it takes more than just free content to support that. It takes a community, a network.

Today: 363 Total: 363 Audrey Watters, The Daily Dot, 2016/08/29 [Direct Link]

Why America’s MOOC pioneers have abandoned ship


Jonathan Rees citing Alex Usher is a bit like Bernie Sanders citing Ronald Reagan. There's an incongruity there. Usher's point is that MOOCs never made money. I don't think Rees lost any sleep over that (quite the contrary; I think he would have been worried were MOOCs hauling in the cash). Rees defends the traditional approach. "Traditional education with its inefficiency derived from the close proximity between professors and their students has proved more resilient than its wannabe disruptors ever imagined." Why? "Online courses without a live crew manning them can be very lonely experiences." But the Silicon Valley MOOCs were always an outlier, despite the hype they got from the Silicon Valley press. Conviviality and sociability have been the hallmarks of online learning since the beginning, and Silicon Valley ignored that history at its own expense.

Today: 362 Total: 362 Jonathan Rees, More or Less Bunk, 2016/08/29 [Direct Link]

Podcast Club Development – Rob’s Social Ideas Exchange


This post offers me an opportunity to plug Ed Radio. I started Ed Radio in 2003, right at the beginning of the age of podcasts. Here's what it looked like back then. Today I harvest RSS feeds, extract the references to MP3 files, and redistribute the collection of links in the form of a daily podcast feed. If you are producing a podcast in the field of learning, new media, or education technology, drop me a line and I'll add it to my list.

This post is Rob Watson describing his upcoming podcast "based around the idea of what it means to be sociable in the Twenty-First Century." he's investing in audio quality, as he should: "I’ve invested in some recording equipment, with a Zoom H6 multichannel recorder with four mono microphones, and a line-in feed for music input. I’m also hoping that we can use a friends coffee shop as our base for recording the sessions, as its a great environment to relax and chill." I'm looking forward to it.

Today: 175 Total: 695 Rob Watson, Rob Watson Media, 2016/08/27 [Direct Link]

Charter Schools: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver


John Oliver examines the performance of charter schools in the United States and finds enough wrong with them to fill an 18 minute comedy video. As we can see from this report, while government may be less efficient, businesses are much less likely to behave responsibly or obey the law, which means the private sector cannot be trusted with high-stakes enterprises like education. Actually, as we see in this report, government is not less efficient either, with charter schools accounting for some of the worst outcomes in the school system. There are ways to promote choice, but privatizing the school system isn't among them.

Today: 200 Total: 720 John Oliver, YouTube, HBO, 2016/08/29 [Direct Link]

Why No One Remembers Those Who Struggle for Peace


I was at the football game last night, and as usual, there was the tribute to the troops. We should reconsider who we set up role models in society. If the only people we honour for service to the public are those who go to war, there will be a ceaseless demand for more war. I can think of many more who make sacrifices for the pubic good: doctors, postal workers, embassy officials, environmental activists, child welfare advocates, and many many more. Children learn by adopting role models, and we want to make sure they have as many anti-war advocates to choose from as they do warriors.

Today: 130 Total: 1216 Adam Hochschild, Utne Reader, 2016/08/26 [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.
Sponsored this month by: Rory McGreal