by Stephen Downes
May 01, 2015
ASU’s edX MOOC deal: Lots of links and a few thoughts
As the title says, a bunch of links and some thoughts. I like the Onion's take on the ASU experiment (which is to offer free MOOCs to first year students, where you pay only if you pass): "I always said I would take college classes if I didn’t have to go anywhere, didn’t have to pass anything, and didn’t have to pay for it." heh. But this comment is also relevant: "$200 a credit isn’t really that cheap for these kinds of credits because community colleges are typically cheaper and provide better support for students." Remember, courses are typically 3- or 6-credits. So you could end up paying $600 or $1200 for a course. That's not 'open' the way I define 'open'.
LinkedIn shares plummet after 'extraordinary' revenue miss
Here's another example of a stock losing a quarter of its value after missing an earnings target (and proof that releasing the news via an unauthorized tweet really has nothing to do with the plunge in value). "LinkedIn Corp. shares plunged 25 per cent after the company forecast revenue that missed analysts’ estimates, citing the strong dollar and slower than expected growth." More evidence of the irrationality of the stock market, which in this case appears to be about as accurate at pegging value as a blindfolded man throwing darts at a jigsaw puzzle. (P.S. this story pegs the cause of the drop on missed revenue expectations, but I've seen stocks fall after exceeding expectations, on the dubious ground that the "didn't beat expectations as much as expected").
Some Assembly Required: STEM Skills and Canada’s Economic Productivity
The Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future,
Council of Canadian Academies,
The arguments around the make-up of Canada's education system continue (there's a surprising lack of consensus which is either a precursor to a national policy, or an argument against one). In this report, the "Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future" argues that they had "difficulty finding direct and robust evidence that STEM skills are unique ... as central to innovation and productivity growth." They contend that "the fundamental skills required for STEM literacy, such as problem solving, technological proficiency, and numeracy, represent essential components of working smarter."
They write, "STEM skills are necessary for many types of innovation, as well as productivity and growth, but they are not sufficient on their own. Other skills such as leadership, creativity, adaptability, and entrepreneurial ability may be required to maximize the impact of STEM skills. Further, the Panel did not find evidence of a current imbalance in advanced STEM skills nationally, suggesting that the source of Canada’s productivity problem is not a shortage of advanced STEM skills."
This is a really good report that will reward a much closer reading, because it offers not only a surface-level analysis of the stem skills needed for productivity, but a look at how these skills are developed and where they are needed. This is an excellent example of an evidence-based analysis of learning and development issues and trends. More coverage: Globe and Mail, news release. As Academica notes, the National Science Board reached similar conclusions in a report in February.
Scientists achieve critical steps to building first practical quantum computer
This is pretty interesting. To create a stable quantum computer, you have to simultaneously detect for two types of error, bit-flip and phase-flip errors. This article describes a quantum computer that can detect both simultaneously. As the article notes, "Quantum information is very fragile because all existing qubit technologies lose their information when interacting with matter and electromagnetic radiation," so error detection is especially important. Quantum computers, when developed, will represent an increase in speed in orders of magnitude, making currently intractable problems (like decryption, modelling and optimization). More: magic-state error detection, error-correcting quantum computer, using parity checks in error detection, original journal article.
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