Inside Higher Ed



As California Goes?
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdIgnatia Webs, Inside Higher Ed, 2013/01/16

California has taken centre stage in the discussions around online learning and MOOCs in recent weeks, prompted by passage of tax increases (see more and more) to cover rising deficits in the state's higher education system. An organization called 20 Million Minds (20MM) organized a conference to discuss proposals. E-Literate provided very good coverage of the event, which was called Re:Boot California Higher education - a post listing statements made before the conference, some opening thoughts from Michael Feldstein, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's introduction, and bottleneck courses. At WCET, Phil Hill describes the state's increasing rolein the governance of the system.

What will the future hold in the rethought California system? Tanya Roscorla summarizes three major points:

  • One idea or technology will not solve higher education's affordability problem.
  • An adversarial relationship won't work within or outside of higher ed.
  • Education leaders must look forward and think creatively to make higher education relevant.

These are addressed especially at the introduction of MOOCs, but other voices are speaking of an expanded role for MOOCs in the system. The NY Times reports on a big push for the open courses.  The system will experiment with offering credit for MOOCs - see coverage by Audrey Watters. But there is pushback. Some argue it will only help companies selling software. And there are alaso calls for clickers and peer instruction (in a post that seems curiously out of touch).

Tony Bates observes, "California appears likely to be a key battle ground regarding the role of the private sector and online learning in post-secondary education." Maybe, but there are other issues at stake as well. As Feldstein writes, Part of the problem, I think, is that we have grafted modern ideals onto what is essentially still an aristocratic model for education." The problem, to my mind, is that the aristocrats - the professors - fundamentally don't care whether the sysem is accessable or affordable. Tha's what has to change. Feldstein proposes:

  • aggressive program of experimentation and evaluation
  • a data-driven and public conversation about the cost and sustainability models
  • personas and use cases that help the stakeholder groups have focused and productive conversations

I think the initiatives have to reach beyond mere planning (there's always the clarion call from  professors for "more research" and a "coordinated program" and an "emphasis on quality", but at a certain point it becomes more important to do than to plan, to try a bunch of things on a larger scale and take notes about what worked and what didn't).

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Unthinking Technophilia
Jennifer Cost, et. al.Jennifer Cost, et. al., Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2013/01/15

A collection of Six community college faculty members have taken it upon themselves to denounce MOOCs on the grounds that "MOOCs are designed to impose, not improved learning, but a new business model on higher education, which opens the door for wide-scale profiteering." I thought about writing a reply, but I thought instead about this article, also in Inside Higher Ed, which states (to quote the newsletter) "Union College in Kentucky typically loses half its freshman class before the second year begins, so its new president has made students a promise: If they stay, work hard, and get involved, they won't see a bill for their last semester before graduation." And I'm thinking, who exactly are the profiteers here? Half the class at this college gets nothing for their investment of tuition and a year of their lives, but it's the other guys that are profiteering? The enthusiasm for MOOCs has nothing to do with technophilia. It has everything to do with a system that is more and more frequently being seen as the problem, not the solution.

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Paying for Proof
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2013/01/09

Coursera has announced a system for verifying identities and paying for credentials for completing open online courses, according to reports from the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed. See also: TechCrunch, Steve Krause. The verification system will involve having the student send a webcam photo of his or her identity document; there was also some discussion of typing style recognition. In my view, automated authentication will not work unless it is in the student's interest to maintain the integrity of the system (the way it it, for example, with one's bank card or credit card).

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Growth for Online Learning
Doug LedermanDoug Lederman, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2013/01/08

Online learning has yet to show a plateau, according to the 2012 iteration of the Babson Survey Research Group's annual Survey of Online Learning. According to the study, more than 30 percent of all enrollments were in online classes (see diagram, above). The same survey reviews attitudes regading MOOCs, generally displaying divided opinions. "A small fraction (2.6 percent) of the roughly 2,500 responding colleges said they currently have massive open courses, and another 9.4 percent said they are planning one." (p.s. the term MOOC was not coined by Dave Barwick, no matter what the report says - as is widely known, it was coined by Bryan Alexander and Dave Cormier in 2008 to describe CCK08).

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The Year Ahead in IT, 2013
Lev Gonick Lev Gonick, Inside Higher edInside Higher Ed, 2013/01/03

I'm always thinking about the future of learning technology, even if I don't write about it so much these days. This is partially because it has become a bit predictable. Learning will become more open and content cheaper and easier to produce - hence, the move to flips, MOOCs and son-of-flips-and-MOOCs will continue. Computer hardware will continue to outpace need, so we'll see an increase in cloud and virtualization. Always-connected and mobile will continue to grow and increase capacity with LTE and processing power, so we'll see always-on learning. And then of course there are the things that have happened in the past, which are the easiest to predict, things like 3D printing, gamification and analytics. All good. These are the easy predictions, and everyone is making them. So what are the hard things that nobody is predicting?

I think the impact of HTML5 will be widely felt - the New York Times article from the other day is just the thin edge of the wedge - we're going to see widespread integration of multimedia and text in ordinary things like books, posts and articles - leaving print-based media behind completely. This will be very good for publishers, because for now it's still pretty difficult for amateurs to do (I'd love to see ds106 focus on this rather than retread Twilight Zone episodes). What else? We will also see dynamic learning materials (and dynamic reading materials generally) - multimedia posts and articles connected to live data sources. We've seen these already in things like weather bugs, Yahoo stock charts and Google Maps mashups, but it will become widespread. Again, this will favour publishers, because they will have priority access to live data. So, expect a rebound year for commercial content. Expect the pay media sites begin to prosper and for publishers to begin rolling out high-quality dynamic learning resources non-professionals cannot easily emulate.

That's the hard prediction - a reversal of existing trends. It will happen this year. You might think I oppose it, but I don't. Commercial media quite properly should focus on the difficult and high-quality. Where it has gone wrong in the past was in trying to monopolize easy media against a growing tide of open content. Once it enters into a proper research-and-development cycle (something it hasn't needed in a century) it will begin to prosper again, without harming openness, and this is good for all of us.

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Are MOOCs becoming mechanisms for international competition in global higher ed?
Kris OldsKris Olds, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/12/17

The buzz surrounding MOOCs continues apace in this pair of articles from Inside Higher Ed. The first article looks at the use of MOOCs to brand online learning for national education systems. This is in light of the recent announcement of a British MOOC platform. The second looks at the transition from MOOCs to that they call MOCCs - Mid-Sized Online Closed Courses. Of course, this is what academic institutions have been doing for more than a decade, so it's hard to see the new here. "As various players, from companies to individual professors, try to monetize the MOOC phenomenon, in the end we may not actually be left with true MOOCs anymore." This is of course the end-game for commercial education providers. The sooner open learning can be converted into something people have to pay for, to these providers, the better.

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Freelance Professors
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/12/14

I will be honest: I would love to be a freelance professor, offering courses online and earning whatever I can earn. This requires two things: a teaching environment, and accreditation. I've already built the first; all that's lacking is the second. So when I read an article like this, about freelance instructors, I'm wondering who is allowed to do it and how they are accredited. If I apply for a job at a university there's a blunt refusal because I don't have a PhD, but at StraighterLine your expertise appears to be more important. And a number of colleges grant credit for the courses. So there's hope for me going forward.

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Digital Badging for Veterans
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/12/07

The challenge now for proponents of badges will be to address the flood that's about to follow. This is a case in point. This article describes, which will be "a résumé translation and job search service." It will contain more than 1,000 badges tied to (U,S.) ilitary credentials. "A veteran clicks on his or her job classifications and then receives an e-mail with a link to the badges. The link is designed for easy embedding in a résumé or for use on Facebook or LinkedIn." All very good. But the reason why images work well as badges is that people recognize what they stand for. With thousands of badges, people won't know what the images mean. So whats the point of having them?

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Establishment Opens Door for MOOCs
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/11/14

According to this article, "the American Council of Education (ACE), which announced Tuesday that it will work with Coursera to determine whether as many as 8-10 MOOCs should be worth credit." The effort is being funded by the Gates Foundation. This is a long and detailed article, and I will say in passing that Inside Higher Ed has really improved with some of its coverage recently, especially with reports like this on subjects like MOOCs. See also this article, also on the Gates grant (p.s. the Gates Foundation can support me with money any time; the email address is at the bottom of every page on my website ;) ). And also this article, on MOOCs versus performance funding.

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How 'Open' Are MOOCs?
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/11/08

The attendees at EDUCAUSE 2012 turn their attention to MOOCs and open educational resources (OERs), asking, finally, how open are MOOCs? As Clay Shirky noted in his leynote,  the most provocative aspect of MOOCs is not their massiveness, it is their openness. But what does that mean? Ian Bogost says, "'openness' is less often a virtue or even an activity than it is a declaration, a rhetorical framing, a kind of branding." My own view is that the 'openness' in open courses means rather more than 'without charge'.  And if you look at the commercial MOOC providers, Coursera and Udacity, 'open' doesn't mean very open at all. Now I don't go so far as to say everything must be licensed just-so in order to be 'open' - open doesn't mean the same thing as 'reusable by publishers to make money off free stuff' either. 'Open' is, well, open. Drop in, have a look around, make some friends, do some things, and please don't make a mess on the furniture. But nobody seems to get that because they're all deferring to the businessmen and the lawyers. See also: the Chronicle. Also Tim Klapdor, writing about the same thing.

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Formerly Known as Students
Alison ByerlyAlison Byerly, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/10/29

If you were to review my writing on MOOCs and similar phenomena you would see me most frequently refer to (what we would call) 'students' as 'participants'. The term 'participant' to me most accurately represents the relation between MOOC and an individual person - they are not 'students' because that implies studying and the master-student relationship, which are antithetical to MOOCs. Nor either are they referred to (much) as 'learners', as this suggests that learning is the dominant paradigm at work here. In fact, the logic of MOOCs is not the logic of learning, but rtaher, of participation, and that's why I use the word. (Not always, of course, because a needless 100% consistency here would confuse people). The Inside Higher Ed article looks at the same question, but with respect to Coursera, EDx, and the rest of the America MOOCs. In this regard, may I respectully suggest that the best and most appropriate word is 'customer'.

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The Internet Agenda
Mark EdmundsonMark Edmundson, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/10/24

"Suppose Internet courses do begin to bring in revenues," writes . The universities who are the senior partners with providers like Coursera could very quickly become dependent on their partner. What will these partners want? "They will want to make as much money as they can without breaking the law. And to do so, they will begin demanding the sort of courses that will sell best, not only in America but around the world." Additionally, "the courses will also have to be radically inoffensive." If mass market movies are any judge, we will not be long in transitioning from highbrow to lowest copmmon denominator.

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Gore Vidal and Harvard
Jon WienerJon Wiener, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/10/19

Why do people go to Harvard (or Yale, or any of the other elites)? Is it to get an education - which, really, they could get anywhere? Or is it to meet a publisher or agent? To get connected with the right people, who will help your career along?

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Texas MOOCs for Credit?
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/10/16

A MOOC for credit? This article breathlessly looks at the possibility that the University of Texas System might parlay its EdX membership into for-credit courses. The author is apparently unaware that MOOCs have been offered for-credit since the very beginning - the very first MOOC, CCK08 had a number of for-credit students, as have all CCK MOOCs since. The ds106 courses have also had students enrolled for credit.

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MOOCs and the Rest of 'Online'
Doug LedermanDoug Lederman, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/10/12

Coverage of a talk by Sebastian Thrun at a Sloan Consortium event. The article even linked to one of my posts! "In a nod to those who have complained that much of the recent news coverage has ignored an earlier iteration of massive online coursesstaged several years ago by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, Thrun himself referred to the "MOOC hype" and acknowledged that various people  had beaten him to the idea."

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A Disruption Grows Up?
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/10/01

I have long predicted that instruction and assessment will one day be separated, and that when this happens, the university's monopoly on instruction will be ended. This could be that day: "Southern New Hampshire University is poised to launch a $5,000 online, competency-based associate degree that would be the first to blow up the credit hour -- the connection between college credit and the time students spend learning. A regional accreditor has signed off on Southern New Hampshire’s 'direct assessment' method, and the university will soon apply for federal approval." No doubt someone will tell us this is impossible and that students need guidance and encouragement and support and all that. And they will be disproved as people start earning these degrees in the hundreds, and then the thousands.

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We Need to Talk About Kevin, er, Open Access
Barbara FisterBarbara Fister, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/09/27

When critics talk of the 'sustainability' of open access, what they often mean is something like 'how can publishers keep making the same money they are now'? It's like a comment that was made yesterday, 'how do universities maintain revenue offering open courses?' My response is, "maybe they can't." It's like this post says: "the open access movement is not about finding ways to sustain publishers, any more than all of our health care reform solutions depend on maintaining the revenues of insurance companies." We need to remember, "There are two distinct issues in play:

  • Too few people have access to research, and that diminishes our ability as human beings to use the fruits of scholarship to better ourselves.
  • The current system is more expensive than it needs to be.

A simple answer to a complex problem is to find lower-cost ways of making research more widely available. This is doable. It’s not easy, but it’s doable." And, it being doable, it should be done, and the publishers and universities can take care of themselves, as they have always done.

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Marketing to the MOOC Masses
Steve Kolowich Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/09/26

Elsevier is jumping onto thje MOOC bandwagon. "The academic publishing giant announcedon Tuesday that it will offer a free version of one of its textbooks this fall to students who register for Circuits & Electronics, a massive open online course (MOOC) being offered by edX." It's all about the marketing. "The version that is online on edX is a static version -- a PNG file, which is not downloadable, not manipulable and doesn’t have all the flexibility that a true full e-book does," said Dan O’Connell, a publicist for Elsevier. "So we found that actually it isn’t cutting into, and in fact it seems to be elevating, sales."

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Rifts Over Global Test of Learning
Doug LedermanDoug Lederman, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/09/20

For years, OECD has run the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, and people have been more or less OK with it. Well, there have been some objections, but these have been swept under the rug as journalists and educators played with the nice shiny numbers. But now that OECD is looking at applying the same sort of methodology to higher education, academics are less sanguine. "We hold strongly the view that it is possible to measure outcomes and enhance quality without promoting standardization of educational programs and homogenization of institutional missions." Well, yeah. Critics said the same about the education of 15-year olds. The critics were swept aside by economic imperative.

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MOOC Host Expands
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/09/19

Coursera has doubled its list of university paertners. The expansion raises questions about how many colleges will eventually sign on - perhaps double the newly doubled number. "The company’s rapid expansion also raises questions about how broad a range of disciplines might be effectively adapted to the MOOC format." See also coverage in the Chronicle.

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Gates, MOOCs and Remediation
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/09/14

The Gates foundation is soliciting proposals to develop MOOCs in support of remedial learning. Specifically, ti is looking for “high-enrollment, low-success introductory level course that is a barrier to success for many students, particularly low-income, first-generation students.”

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The MOOC Survivors
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/09/12

Interesting first look at a survey of 7,000 people who finished and passed an edX course that had 155,000 signups and 23,000 people starting. "The most interesting piece of data is that 80 percent of respondents said they had taken a “comparable” course at a traditional university." Also, the age distribution "favored what higher ed would call 'nontraditional' students: Half of them were 26 years old or older." The survey is of course limited (though at 6,000 responses dwarfs the sample typically found in journal articles).  But there is overlap with the much more extensive research conduced on MOOCs by Rita Kop (which of course Inside Higher Ed never mentions, because it's not MIT).

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MOOCing On Site
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/09/07

Another MOOC platform vendor has signed a deal to support in-person testing. "There’s been a lot of talk about how the whole online methodology is not able to verify identification,” said Anant Agarwal, the president of edX, in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. "This will take online learning to a next level," he said. According to the article, "students who pass exams at a Pearson testing center will be given a certificate that notes that their final exam was proctored." The focus is on university courses, but the MOOC+test approach will be a major play in corporate and compliance learning. Hence, for example, we see companies like Thompson expand compliance training for banking, brokerage and securities firms, and Wolseley focus on its line of customer service training courses developed with suppliers including Ideal Standard, Worcester Bosch, Honeywell and Polypipe. Even companies like Papa Johns are adopting the new approach to enable staff to complete the Food Safety Level 2 certification. Meanwhile, the Chronicle reports that Colorado State University will grant credit to students who complete a Udacity course and pass the test.

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MOOCs' Little Brother
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/09/06

I'm not sure how you can reconcile the concept of 'open' and 'capped at five people' but that's what the University of Maine at Presque Isle is doing with it's LOOC - 'Little Open Online Course'. "Students are not paying, but they are getting the full experience," says university provost Michael Sonntag. "If they want to write every paper and take every test, our faculty members have agreed to give them feedback.”

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Newt and a MOOC
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/08/31

Almost as strange as debating an empty chair, Kaplan Education (owner of the Washington Post) made its allegiances clear this week as it engaged Newt Gingrich to launch its new KAPxplatform by "teaching a course" from the Republican National Convention. "The company’s plan is to market KAPx schools, businesses and other organizations, so they can get up and running with what Kaplan describes as a nimble, sophisticated MOOC platform, without having to do the heavy lifting themselves."

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Grading Clout?
Alexandra TilsleyAlexandra Tilsley, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/08/30

I have talked off and on recently about grading students according to their network weight. It's not a big leap to say something like "grade them by their Klout score?" But this is manifestly not what I meant - I would want to assess people according to the good they contribute to the network, not the attention they can earn from it - and certainly not in a clumsy manner such as Klout. But it was inevitable someone would make a Klout score part of an overall grade. Before reacting in panic, take note that this is a marketing class. Todd Bacile, an FSU "marketing instructor has been the subject of a lot of discussion – and outrage – since he shared his practiceof grading students based on their Klout score," accoridng to Inside Higher Ed. The Chronicle also jumped on this story. According to the story, "Though some critics contend that Klout is a useless metricbecause it can be manipulated, Fountain said those in his class who tried to beat the system were ultimately disappointed." If that were true, nobody would have passed the course. Kloutcan be manipulated, obviously, otherwise the class has no point - but not by simple "happy birthday" messages.

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Riding the MOOC Wave
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/08/17

"It is certainly naïve," wrote Ellen Wagner in an email, "And opportunistic." She was responding to a query about World Education University, which "will forever alter the landscape of post-secondary education," according to its founder, "by offering free courses online, Hines is now in charge of the personal information of about 50,000 prospective students and more than $1 million in seed funding." We meanwhile are working with 49 cents of funding, a wing, and a prayer. I won't ask for millions in funding (I already did that, and nobody volunteered) but I will wonder out loud how they manage it. Is there some secret society?

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The Online Pecking Order
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/08/02

2012-08-02Article overviewing institutional responses to MOOCs, including the possibility of institutions offering credit for work done in MOOCs elsewhere. "At this point, converting MOOCs to credit might seem more trouble than it is worth, says Garrett, the Eduventures analyst. 'If you have to jump through an extra four hoops … the cost-benefit analysis starts to become difficult,' he says. 'It just seems rather longwinded and therefore not as appealing.'"

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Assembly Line
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/07/18

While a lot of attention has been paid to MOOCs, it is definitely worth paying close attention to another type of program, the 'stackable certificate' program developed by the manufacturing industry. The main idea of the program is that students can complete it while employed, allowing them to try out working in the sector - usually thought of as undesirable employment - without having to invest in a full education ahead of time. In addition to the usual degrees, the program offers intermediary 'certificates' that can be assembled over time in support of a degree.

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Without Credit
Steve Kolowich Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/07/18

We're seeing more of this: "The University of Washington plans to offer 'enhanced' versions of the massive open online courses (MOOCs) it will develop through a partnership with Coursera... The "enhanced" versions will add a number of features designed to make them more closely resemble conventional online courses -- including more assessments, direct interaction with instructors, and the opportunity to earn a certificate that hypothetically could be redeemed for course credit. But the “enhanced” MOOCs will also come with price tags and enrollment caps." To be clear: hese are no longer MOOCs, even by today's expanded definition of the term. They are simply online courses with the usual restrictions on access imposed by universities.

Meanwhile, Coursera's courses may be in some fashion 'open', but its materials certainly aren't. As Wayne Mackintosh comments on a mailing list: "Coursera is not an OER initiative. The materials are made available under a custom copyright license which do not meet the requirements for OER. Quoting from Coursera's terms of service: 'Coursera grants you a personal, non-exclusive, non-transferable license to access and use the Sites. You may download material from the Sites only for your own personal, non-commercial use. You may not otherwise copy, reproduce, retransmit, distribute, publish, commercially exploit or otherwise transfer any material, nor may you modify or create derivatives works of the material.'"

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Into the Fray
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/07/17

So this has been all over the news today - "A dozen more universities have signed partnerships with Coursera, a company that provides hosting services for massively open online courses (MOOCs)." These include the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Georgia Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, Edinburgh, Illinois, Toronto and Washington.

I gave my own reaction in this audio interview for Converge magazine. I note that, in addition to content, universities provide two key elements: first, practice and activities in the domain in question; and second, immersion into a community of practitioners associated with that domain. It is the former that characterizes the x-MOOCs (like Coursera) and the latter that characterizes c-MOOCs (like CCK08). But eventually the models will merge, at which point we see significant pressure on the traditional university model (but a great deal more access for individual learners).

Seb Schmoller writes: "Don't be put off by the slightly stodgy tone in parts of this just-released promotional video from the University of Edinburgh about Instead, listen carefully to what Stanford's Daphne Koller has to say about scale and formative assessment in Coursera's new "breed" of free on-line courses, as well as to the comments from Vice-Principal Jeff Haywood about Edinburgh University's approach to quality assurance. [See also coverage by BBC, Guardian, The Times Higher.]" Meanwhile, Mark Guzdial passes along the email sent to all staff at Georgia Tech last night.

Related: this interview with Sebastian Thrun and David Evans called Udacity: Teaching Online, an online university that came about almost by chance. Lynn Zimmermann summarizes: "William Bennet, in an interview with Thrun for CNN, “asked Thrun whether his enterprise and others like it will be the end of higher education as we know it — exclusive enclaves for a limited number of students at high tuitions? I think it’s the beginning of higher education, Thrun replied. It’s the beginning of higher education for everybody." Exactly - that's the point of the whole exercise (for me, at least).

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Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Unpacking the MOOC as Buzzword
Bonnie StewartBonnie Stewart, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/07/12

"MOOCs are not any one thing, unless we permit them to be," writes Bonnie Stewart in Inside Higher Ed. "MOOCs will not inherently gut faculty positions in higher ed. MOOCs do not have automation and robot grading built into their conceptual structure."

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A Simple Solution on Student Loans
Aaron BroadusAaron Broadus, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/07/06

I commented on this (ridiculous) article thus: "This is nothing more than an affirmation of the status quo, where the wealthy can afford to attend exclusive colleges for the future rulers of society, while the rest of us must be content with our lot in the boiler room. The _fact_ that people borrow so much demonstrates the inherent unacceptability of such a situation. Telling people to borrow less will not make the injustice go away." More and more, Inside Higher ed seems to me to be a front for a certain (toxic) line of thought and logic that undermines the idea of public and popular education.

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Making It Count
Paul Fain Paul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/06/15

Inside Higher Ed seems to have really taken to MOOCs. Here's another article from them, describing a scenario where people could use MOOCs to earn university credit. It's exactly the same model as the 'logic model' for OER university, and it has as its defining feature a university performing some sort of assessment of the work and granting credit for it.

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How Will MOOCs Make Money?
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/06/11

Interesting examination of how MOOC providers might make money. Suggestions range from using MOOCs to generate leads for education services, for matchmaking students with potential employers, premium content, robust assessment, and the like. I think that in the beginning especially strong revenues will be found from companies and institutions wanting to educate people in a certain way. The existing system of higher education is a major subsidy for business and industry, and as governments pull back, they will have to replace it.

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The Real Tsunami
William G. DurdenWilliam G. Durden, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/06/11

The big tsunami, according to William G. Durden: "imagine that a highly respected, unassailable institution or set of institutions offers a set of completion exams at the bachelor’s level to anyone everywhere, anywhere, anytime... Imagine the moment when these completion exams permit a person to assemble learning from a variety of academic institutions and life experiences to complete a degree." Imagine, in other words, the end of the existing monopoly based on credentialing. It's going to happen.

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MOOCs and the Professoriate
Kaustuv BasuKaustuv Basu, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/05/23

Coverage of some resistance being expressed by academics over MOOCs (and in particular, the Thomas Friedman version of MOOCs). Jonathan Rees, for example, writes, "don’t think that your exalted status as a college professor will cause anyone planning to make money off the corpse of your career to lose a wink of sleep." Mark Brown argues, "it’s disgusting to present MOOCs as a solution to the crisis in public funding for higher education." There's a lot more reaction covered in this article, and while I understand the concerns I don't think the academics interviewed have come to grips with the problems inherent in the existing system and how MOOCs (the real kind, not the Friedman kind) were designed to solve them.

Today: Total:88 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Foundations of Strategy, Part 3: Technology
Margaret AndrewsMargaret Andrews, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/05/17

If you're watching closely, what you're seeing is a concerted attack on the traditional university model, from thinly disguised advocacy journalism calling on the government to end student support to overt proposals for the dismantling of higher education.

Today: Total:58 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Massive Courses, Massive Data
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/05/03

One wonders what sort of data Harvard and MIT will collect from their online courses. From the description in the article - "granular data on the activity of students in the edX environment" - it sounds like it will be your typical hit-count data. I think that distributed courses, rather than ones centered on a platform, will produce different types of data. In the meantime, let's not forget that Harvard and MIT are not first in their analysis of MOOC data (indeed, their data does not even exist yet) - there exists a considerable body of work that has simply been ignored by the people who write at Inside Higher Ed.

Today: Total:77 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Humanities Ph.D. in 4 Years
Mitch Smith Mitch Smith, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/05/02

At a certain point, a PhD program becomes a money factory. This may be that point. But the logic is inescapable - "Few believe the current model – in which humanities students often study for 8 or 10 years only to enter an uncertain academic job market – is smart or sustainable." It makes me think that the traditional Bachelor-Master-PhD cycle ought to be eliminated, that a single degree would mark the completion of academic studies, and that a degree based on your work after graduation - your work outside academia - may replace the traditional PhD. This could be the degree you need to get an academic job, and you don't get it unless you leave academia for a number of years and gain the respect of your peers.

Today: Total:48 [Comment] [Direct Link]
4 Reasons Why the Bonk MOOC is So Interesting
Curt BonkCurt Bonk, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/04/26

Curt Bonk is offering a MOOC starting in just a few days and has managed to attract the attention of Inside Higher Ed just before it launches. You can find it here (be prepared for a surprise). Here are the 'four reasons':

  • it was designed and is taught by a specialist in course design and how people learn
  • the subject matter matches the delivery method
  • the people who sign up for the course are also those who work in the area
  • the course shows off Blackboard at its best

Sheesh, until the fourth point, I would have thought the author was describing CCK02 from four years ago. I guess Curt Bonk has better connections with Inside Higher Ed than George Siemens or myself.

Today: Total:140 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Online and Underpaid?
Paul FainPaul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/04/16

It may be depicted as a phenomenon unique to online learning, but it is worth keeping in mind that pay rates for adjuncts have been poor and getting poorer for many years now. University professors need to think about what a world looks like where their work has become a commodity. Perhaps now is the time to express more sympathy with piece-workers and agricultural laborers. "Effective February 7, 2012, Argosy University Online will transition to one adjunct rate for undergraduate courses of $1,600 and one rate for graduate courses of $1,800." Today: Total:75 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Blackboard's Open-Source Pivot
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/03/27

Well this is interesting. "Blackboard on Monday announced that it has acquired two companies that provide support to Moodle, the leading open-source alternative to Blackboard’s proprietary online learning platform." The companies purchased are MoodleRooms and NetSpot. "Blackboard also announced an “Open Services Support Group” aimed at selling support services to colleges that use free, open-source learning management systems (LMS)." Here's Ray Henderson's announcement.

Rob Reynolds notes "Blackboard makes a services play and people watching the learning content market should pay attention." George Siemens writes, "This is what I imagine the experience would be like if one dropped hallucinogenics and browsed the web – a feeling of incredulity and weird confusion that can only come from time and reality being featured in a will it blend video." Audrey Watters writes, "You can acquire open source companies but you can't buy open source community." Jeffrey R. Young writes, "Blackboard has purchased so many commercial competitors over the years that college officials have long joked that it would next buy open source, too." More first reactions from Joshua Kim. Today: Total:145 [Comment] [Direct Link]

MOOC Synthesizer
University DiariesUniversity Diaries, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/03/26

(Part One, Part Two, Part Thres, Part Four) Here we have more MOOC stuff at the Faculty Project - you can sign up for Modern China, The Economics of Energy and the Environment, Poetry and more, all hosted by Udemy. 'University Diaries', authored by an unnamed literatire professor (though not that unnamed, as the course is identified as being authored by Margaret Soltan) describes one such course: "I'm having a blast. I like spending the week collecting material, and my thoughts, for the next lecture. I like the way a MOOC allows me to distill my responses to poetry in a new way, with a new freedom. As the lectures take shape, I see my understandings of poetry form a comprehensive argument about the genre that I'd never before pulled together." But - she concludes - it's only outreach. Well, maybe - but it won't be long before her hobby becomes her life. I've seen it happen before. Today: Total:80 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Open Access and Interventionism
Steve Kolowich Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/02/09

The 377 responses posted in response to the White House's request for commentary on open access are a treasure trove of commentary and perspectives on the issue. This article focuses on one statement, from William E. Davis, III, on behalf of the American Anthropological Association, which asserts that "no research that demonstrates a problem with the existing system." This created a revolt in the ranks of the AAA, as members had already pledged themselves to support open access. Jeremy Trombley, for example, writes, "I'm willing to put my career on the line and promise to only publish in open access journals. Today: Total:395 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Why Pay for Intro Textbooks?
Mitch SmithMitch Smith, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/02/07

Long known for its Connexions service for building open educational reosurces (OERs), Rice University is now moving into the open online etxtbook business. "A free online physics book, peer-reviewed and designed to compete with major publishers’ offerings, will debut next month through the non-profit publisher OpenStax College." Today: Total:41 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Big Data's Arrival
Paul Fain Paul Fain, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/02/01

According to this report, "Researchers have created a database that measures 33 variables for the online coursework of 640,000 students – a whopping 3 million course-level records." Actually, 3 million records isn't a lot - wait until we start dealing with 3 billion records, or 3 trillion records. These are already the case in other fields (such as medicine) and are just around the corner in e-learning. But more - this case describes records created by students in a single system, which is really inadequate for the purpose of research or analytics. What you want is to be able to collect records from everywhere, and amalgamate them. Ah - but who will be the first to start sharing big data? Today: Total:56 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Relaunching the iPad
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/01/20

Apple yesterday launched "a revamped version of its iTunes U platform that could challenge traditional learning management systems. It also unveiled new tools for creating and distributing low-cost digital textbooks that could speed the pace of e-text adoption." It also announced the idea was to enable "anyone anywhere at any time to take courses for free." See also: MacRumors, Phil Hill, Breant Schlenker, Seb Schmoller, PC Mag, , Digital Education, That's Life, Dan Wineman, Financial Post, The Wheel, Ars Technica ("It used to be about location, location, location. Now it's all about connection, connection, connection," Rankin told Ars. "It will take people a long time to realize the implications of that." ),

Not all is sweetness and light. "There's no denying that this new textbook experience will revolutionize learning and education," Saka told Ars. "But will Apple be willing to let users interact with the textbooks on multiple digital platforms and not just the iPad?" So far, according to the EULA for iBooks Author, that answer seems to be 'no.'" As Dan Wineman says, Apple "in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software's output. It's akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty." John Gruber: "This is Apple at its worst."

Related: D'Arcy Norman creates an iPad textbook. "Drop-dead simple. I don’t really care about what this means for textbook publishers, but having these tools in the hands of students, and seeing what they create – now that’s some interesting stuff. Evan loves messing around with building sites with Hype – I can’t wait to see what he does with this stuff..." Here's a hands-on look aqt authoring. And as Jeff Dunn notes, When major companies fight over education products, we all win. Last night, just hours before Apple’s announcement, Chegg announced a new way to let you buy and rent digital textbooks. It may not be as elegant as the iPad (yet), but it’s got Apple and Kno on notice." Today: Total:83 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Pulling for Better E-Textbook Prices
Steve KolowichSteve Kolowich, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/01/18

As universities adopt e-Books over traditional texts, they need to band together to reduce prices and force them toward a platform-agnostic format. This follows from a challenge issued at the Educause conference in October by Indiana CIO Bradley Wheeler. "If somebody [does not] speak up for students in the move from print to digital, the students [are] going to get killed," he said. This article reports on a pilot project to pool resources and sales. "The texts will be available via Courseload, a device-agnostic platform that will integrate with the universities’ learning-management platforms (LMS)." The company describes itself thus: "Offering a common set of tools for use with proprietary, open source, and self-published content, Courseload operates on any web-enabled device." Today: Total:64 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Year Ahead in IT, 2012
Lev GonickLev Gonick, Inside Higher EdInside Higher Ed, 2012/01/06

Quite an interesting column from Lev Gonick summarizing major trends in networking and education. "We can spend the next 25 years in 'business as usual mode' attempting to build the infrastructure for big science on each of our university campuses and reinforce the patterns of securing funding, building platforms, and supporting analytical services. We will also miss the train. There is simply no way we can afford to create redundant infrastructure to support the next generation of science, discovery, and innovation. Three-letter federal funding agencies, state economic development and education organizations, research and education networks, research scientists, and of course our higher education leaders, including our CIO community, should join and challenge Net+ to quickly set its sights on the development of an unprecedented collaborative set of platform technologies." If they will let me, that's what I'd like to spend the next few years doing here at NRC. Via Bill St. Arnaud. Today: Total:55 [Comment] [Direct Link]


(Still working on this)