OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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January 21, 2014

Service Interruptions

Sorry for recent interruptions in the newsletters; some were caused by updates to the gRSShopper system, others were caused by a change in the Twitter API that caused page publishing to fail (and hence, newsletters to not be sent). Twitter now fails more gracefully, and gRSShopper now is simply more graceful, so most of these errors should no longer happen in the future.

The coming Calculus MOOC Revolution and the end of math research
Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe, January 21, 2014

I've always been sympathetic to the idea that teaching and research are closely linked. Certainly I feel it in my own work, where my research would be nothing like what it is without the occasional MOOC and regular bouts of conference talks, newsletter updates and screeds written on my blog. But do MOOCs really mean the end of research? "Calculus MOOCs and other web tools are going to start replacing calculus teaching very soon and at a large scale," writes , and "we see is that math research, which we’ve basically been getting for free all this time, as a byproduct of calculus, will be severely curtailed." So how do we fix that? We could ask the recipients of math research to pay for it directly... but the people who benefit usually live a generation or two later, too late to do project approval and program planning.

[Link] [Comment]

The startup Surgery Academy
Press Releases, Surgery Academy, January 21, 2014

OK, this is just an Indiegogo crowdfunding call, and as such should not be taken to mean anything. But the concept is nonetheless interesting enough to post here, if only as a thought exercise. Here's their plan: "Students, surgeons, interns and healthcare professionals will finally be able to enter into a real operating room. The operating room will be 'open'. Students will be able to consult the anonymised medical records of patients under surgery, ask and reply to questions." The idea, of course, is that you would 'enter' the operating room online. Personally, I think there's a huge opportunity here for someone. I can think of all kinds of work environments I'd like to virtually enter - not operating rooms (yeech) but airline cockpits, courtrooms, urban planning meetings. Any job that's our there can and should be virtualized. That's how students will learn (at least in part) in the future - by 'riding along' with people already doing the sorts of jobs that are interesting to them.

[Link] [Comment]

Digital Upgrade for Transcripts
Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed, January 21, 2014

Another part of the infrastructure we need to build in education: "A small group of private firms are seeing increasing demand for their repositories for e-transcripts, as colleges move away from paper versions for both incoming and outgoing students." I've talked about the need for this service in project meetings and people look sceptical. But now they will be looking at how to interface with the vendors who have set up transcript services. There's probably a process: first the records are stored and managed digitally, then the records are available at service desks (such as the offices that print and mail them), finally the records are available as APIs or services to (authorized) third party clients.

[Link] [Comment]

MITx Working Papers
Kimberly Allen, MIT, January 21, 2014

I've received an email from Kim Allen at MIT concerning the results of the MITx and Harvardx MOOC projects, which I'll quote at some length: "MIT and Harvard University today announced the release of a series of working papers based on 17 online courses offered on the edX platform... The working paper series features detailed reports about individual courses; these reports reveal differences and commonalities among massive open online courses (MOOCs)." Key takeaways include:

  • Course completion rates, often seen as a bellwether for MOOCs, can be misleading and may at times be counterproductive.
  • Most MOOC attrition happened after students first registered for a course. On average, 50 percent of people left within a week or two of enrolling.
  • Given the massive scale of some MOOCs, small percentages are often still large numbers of students — and signify a potentially large impact.

Key links: MITx Working Papers, HarvardX Working Papers, Working Paper #1: HarvardX and MITx: The First Year of Open Online Courses, Fall 2012-Summer 2013, Pilot Data Visualizations, Courses on edX (Note that some of these links have been quite slow to respond (but that might just be my network here in Ottawa)).

[Link] [Comment]

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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