New Learning, New Society

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Bringing the Social Back to MOOCs
Todd Bryant, EDUCAUSE Review, Jun 29, 2015

We have known this from the beginning: "For MOOCs to function as the bridge between open content and collaborative learning, they need to include opportunities for social interaction and collaboration, which have consistently proven to be beneficial to learners. Failure to do so would relegate MOOCs to little more than content repositories, which, while still valuable, would be used primarily by the highly educated, mature, and motivated independent learners they currently serve." Eventually this will be 'invented' at MIT or Stanford. Probably with the assistance of Gates funding.

Reshaping the Educational Environment for Tomorrow’s Workforce
Richard M. Rhodes, EDUCAUSE Review, Jun 29, 2015

I think that this plan will actually make students less prepared for the workforce: "This public-private partnership is a key aspect of what makes ACC Highland a new model for higher education. By bringing the college's industry partners onsite, ACC Highland can immerse students in their field of choice from the start, enabling real-world experiences to enhance what happens in the classroom." The more you insert particular companies into the management and control of learning, the less you prepare students for work with their competitors, and particularly with disruptive business models and technologies that might upset their current business model. To be prepared for the world of work, it is essential to be able to think more broadly than your current employer.

P.S. in an earlier paragraph there's an interesting reference to adaptive learning software, called ALEKS, to customize coursework for each student. ALEKS is owned by McGraw-Hill and according to the website is "Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn."

Advice to the Alberta government on Athabasca University’s sustainability report
Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Jun 29, 2015

Tony Bates offers advice to Athabasca University and the government of Alberta on the recent report issued by the university on its dire economic future. I agree with all of it. In particular: "What is really lacking from this report is a clear vision of what AU wants to be in the future, and how that vision would fit with the rest of the Albertan (and national and international) online and open education world."

Open EdX Now Available From Amazon Web Services Marketplace
Michael Hart, Campus Technology, Jun 29, 2015

The most interesting thing about the new MOOC learning management systems (like Coursera, Udacity and EdX) has always been their use of cloud technologies in the backend (which helps them scale). Now we can see this a bit more directly with the AWS (Amazon Web Services) version of EdX. Anyone using AWS can access the software for free and launch their own course (they'll have to pay Amazon cloud hosting fees, however).

About Clipper
John Casey, ClipperTibe, Jun 29, 2015

The bad news is that I wasn't ever actually able to play a clip (and sharing isn't supported yet), but the good news is that this is a useful concept and conforms to my idea of the reuse of educational resources - leave the resources where they are (in this case, sitting on YouTube) and link specifically to the bits you you need to use in your course or project. YouTube does support links to specific time intervals in its videos, so this project is basically a framework making it easy to create those and then (eventually) share them. Here's the home page, here's a video, and here's the current version of the editor.

Let’s Talk about Digital Learners in the Digital Era
Eliana Esther Gallardo-Echenique, Luis Marqués-Molías, Mark Bullen, , Jan-Willem Strijbos, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), Jun 29, 2015

I thought that the title of this paper was an invitation to the reader to engage with the content, but by the end I understand that the title is the recommendation being issued by the authors, specifically, that we should use the term "digital learner" instead of the term "digital native" (or the 47 other generationally-inspired terms used by authors over the years). The reasoning is straightforward: "the key claims of this discourse are not based on empirical research... there are no meaningful differences between net generation and non-net generation students." But there is a subset of students with an affinity for digital technologies. "The focus is on persons, so the first word refers to them. The perspective is anthropological-pedagogical, so the chosen word is 'learning'. (And) not only young people learn through ICTs in the Knowledge Society."

Learners’ Goal Profiles and their Learning Patterns over an Academic Year
Clarence Ng, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), Jun 29, 2015

I have long argued that the solution to the problem of motivation lies in providing students with subjects they want to study and become proficient in. To my mind, this article to some degree validates that argument. The authors conclude, "Distance learners learn with different goal profiles that are associated with different learning patterns... distance learners who endorsed both mastery and performance-approach goals engaged in deep learning using adaptive strategies consistently throughout an academic year. (They) remained interested in learning and had confidence in their learning abilities across three different survey points over the year."

Roles of Course Facilitators, Learners, and Technology in the Flow of Information of a CMOOC
Oleksandra Skrypnyk, Srećko Joksimović, Vitomir Kovanović, Dragan Gaševic, , Shane Dawson, The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), Jun 29, 2015

This, to me, signifies the success of a cMOOC: "Our study also shows that top ten nodes with the highest in-degree were primarily hashtags. This suggests that people were connecting around thematic markers of common interest, referring to them and making them popular. In fact, thematic analysis of the same dataset confirms that the learners were more focused on the topics of interest, rather than those suggested by course facilitators, and that those topics emerged quickly in the course, and were maintained by the groups of people that adopted them." Fascinating paper; if you're interested in cMOOCs don't miss it.

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Key Articles

Scholarly Articles

Cites:294 Educational Blogging (Local copy)
264 Learning objects: Resources for distance education worldwide (Local copy)
134 E-learning 2.0 (Local copy)
126 Models for sustainable open educational resources (Local copy)
88 The future of online learning (Local copy
75 Learning networks and connective knowledge (Local copy)
70 Design and reusability of learning objects in an academic context: A new economy of education (Local copy)
59 Resource profiles (Local copy)
40 Learning networks in practice (Local copy)
33 Semantic networks and social networks (Local copy)
35 An introduction to connective knowledge (Local copy)
27 Design, standards and reusability (Local copy)
23 EduSource: Canada's learning object repository network (Local copy)
22 An introduction to RSS for educational designers (Local copy)

(Cites from Google Scholar for an H-Index = 14)

Recent Popular Articles

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Connectivism and Transculturality, May 16, 2010.
An Operating System for the Mind, September 19, 2009.
The Cloud and Collaboration, June 15, 2009.
Critical Thinking in the Classroom, June 5, 2009.
The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On, November 16, 2008.
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About Stephen Downes

Stephen Downes is a senior researcher for Canada's National Research Council and a leading proponent of the use of online media and services in education. As the author of the widely-read OLDaily online newsletter, Downes has earned international recognition for his leading-edge work in the field of online learning. He developed some of Canada's first online courses at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba. He also built a learning management system from scratch and authored the now-classic "The Future of Online Learning".

At the University of Alberta he built a learning and research portal for the municipal sector in that province, Munimall, and another for the Engineering and Geology sector, PEGGAsus. He also pioneered the development of learning objects and was one of the first adopters and developers of RSS content syndication in education. Downes introduced the concept of e-learning 2.0 and with George Siemens developed and defined the concept of Connectivism, using the social network approach to deliver open online courses to three thousand participants over two years.

Downes has been offering courses in learning, logic, philosophy both online and off since 1987, has 135 articles published in books, magazines and academic journals, and has presented his unique perspective on learning and technology more than 250 times to audiences in 17 countries on five continents. He is a habitual photographer, plays darts for money, and can be found at home with his wife Andrea and four cats in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.


Stephen Downes travaille pour le Conseil national de recherches du Canada, où il a servi en tant que chercheur principal, basé à Moncton, au Nouveau-Brunswick, depuis 2001. Affilié au Groupe des technologies de l'apprentissage et de la collaboration, Institut de technologie de l’information, Downes est spécialisé dans les domaines de l'apprentissage en ligne, les nouveaux médias, la pédagogie et la philosophie.

Downes est peut-être mieux connu pour son bulletin quotidien, OLDaily, qui est distribué par Internet, courriel et RSS à des milliers d'abonnés à travers le monde. Il a publié de nombreux articles à la fois en ligne et sur papier incluant The Future of Online Learning (1998), Learning Objects (2000), Resource Profiles (2003), et E-Learning 2.0 (2005). Il est un conférencier populaire, apparaissant à des centaines de manifestations à travers le monde au cours des quinze dernières années.

Vision Statement

I want and visualize and aspire toward a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through their avocations or lifestyle.

Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations - or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be.

This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence. This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward.

Canadians who gave their lives in service in Afghanistan

Hundreds of my IAAF Track & Field Photos from Moncton 2010

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