by Stephen Downes
Nov 04, 2015
China Turns to Online Courses, and Mao, in Pursuit of Soft Power
Javier C. Hernandez,
New York Times,
I got a call from Inside Higher Ed today on this item, and I'm not sure what their article will look like, but I can provide some context. The article in the Times cites criticisms of the course because it is a "whitewash" of Mao's time in office. "Several students said they found the course to be closed-minded, adding that it glossed over more controversial aspects of Mao’s tenure, like the famine caused by the Great Leap Forward and the chaos of the Cultural Revolution." But why should this course be any different from the thousands of other courses, online and offline, that similarly 'gloss' over one aspect or another of a subject. I am reminded, for example, of the protest by economics students a couple of years ago over the free market syllabus that dominates their curriculum. I mentioned the many courses sponsored by advertisers and corporations, lauded in the Wall Street Journal. Any why should every reference to Mao (or anything else) carry some obligatory disclaimer? Why should every course carry the standard 'western' perspective on things? There's no such thing as objective courseware. And students should have the means, and the capacity, to create a world view from exposure to a wide variety of perspectives. If you think the Mao course is a whitewash, offer your own.
A Refresher on Regression Analysis
Harvard Business Review,
Under what conditions can one event alloww us to predict a second event? When it rains, will umbrella sales go up? By how much? This is the topic of 'regression analysis', and is the basis for predictive analytics generally. This article is a good summary of the concept, not too deep (not deep at all, actually), which not only describes what regression analysis is, but also helpfully warns readers about how they can go wrong and how far to take the concept. "Analyses are very sensitive to bad data, so be careful about the data you collect and how you collect it, and know whether you can trust it."
Udacity, Online School From Google X Founder, Crosses Milestone After Switching Direction
1,000 may not seem like very much, but for Udacity its a good start and worthy of an announcement (when they hit a million they'll rent Caesar's palace). Even more to the point, "150 of the graduates have found new jobs with the credential so far." This could be an anomaly, could be overstated, or could be the wedge that disprroves the argument that "employers are looking only for university degrees." According to the article, "There’s money to be made here, maybe more than in its previous incarnation as a MOOC. Udacity, which has raised $55 million, said it was profitable last year and continues to invest in itself."
Allison Dulin Salisbury,
Discussions regarding the quality of online learning will play a central role in the shift in the learning market. Traditionally, 'quality' was defined as 'whatever universities do', while the universities as a whole were accredited by governments or accreditation boards. But if 'quality' is defined on a more granular basis, such that non-university entities can offer 'quality' courses, then this opens the door to the recognition of courses outside the college and university system. This article describes the U.S. Department of Education's Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) pilot (more). The government "is nudging organizations to identify and measure outcomes that matter to students, institutions and employers."
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