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OLWeekly

by Stephen Downes
Jul 24, 2015

Presentation
MOOCS and Social Learning Networks
Stephen Downes, Jul 21, 2015, MOOCs Y Aprendiazaje en Redes Sociales, Santiago de Compostela, Spain


In this presentation I look at the intersection of MOOCs and social learning networks by looking at the various aspects of openness in MOOCs - open admissions, open content, open instruction, open assessment - and considering how they change when applied to networks and to social networks.

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Well I wouldn't start from here anyway!
Brian Mulligan, 2015/07/24


One of the arguments against the longterm success of MOOCs, and of of online learning generally, is that it does not provide the two major things college students are looking for when they enrol in college: first, a mechanism for finding a husband or wife of the same demographics and social standing as them; and second, a method of signalling to future employers that you can get into a 'good' college, which demonstrates not simply academic ability but also background and pedigree, wealth and social standing. My first reaction is that if this is the real value of post secondary education, then we should reconsider funding it at all. But second, I'm not so sure a MOOC can't serve those functions. Certainly if eharmony and match.com can become viable dating sites, then mooc.ca could do even better! I doubt that MOOCs can fix the second point, though - and I think you'd need a major overhaul of society to prevent the ultra-rich from self-identifying and forming mutual support networks. Not saying it shouldn't be done - just that MOOCs might not be sufficient to do it. See also Jason Potts of RMIT on "Why MOOCs will fail".

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LinkedIn quietly removes tool to export contacts
Bobby Owsinski, VentureBeat, 2015/07/24


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You may think you own your own identity, but LinkedIn has very quietly underlined the fact that no, you don't. "LinkedIn has removed the option to export your contacts. Instead, the company is asking users to request an archive of their data, but that process can take up to 72 hours to complete." This is again a warning to be sure not to depend on LinkedIn - or any of the social network platforms - for anything critical. This includes customers of lynda.com, which was recently acquired by LinkedIn.

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Georgia sues Carl Malamud, calls publishing state laws "terrorism"
Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, 2015/07/24


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Each paragraph gets more outrageous. "The State of Georgia claims that its statutes are a copyrighted work, and that rogue archivist Carl Malamud.. committed an act of piracy by making the laws of Georgia free for all to see and copy." Why? "The state makes a lot of money vending the 'Official Code of Georgia Annotated.'" But it gets worse: "Georgia claims that if Malamud is allowed to make copies of the law available, they will no longer have any incentive to make good laws, because they won't be able to profit from them." Please let this be a parody or an Onion article. See also TechDirt.

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Ed Tech's Funding Frenzy
Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, 2015/07/24


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It used to be the case that there was no investment money in Ed Tech. This has changed. If you build something worthwhile, the money is there to take it to the next level. "Between January and June, investors poured $2,512,803,700 into ed-tech companies, eclipsing the record high $2.42 billion invested in all of 2014 -- the first year investments broke the $2 billion barrier." This is based on a white paper from market research firm Ambient Insight.

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Join the Nano Open Online Courses (NOOCs) Adventure!
Zaid Ali Alsagoff, ZaidLearn, 2015/07/24


The idea of a nano-MOOC is that it is a very short MOOC. Zaid Ali Alsagoff writes, "Instead of having to do the whole course, I can now focus on the juice (I want), get assessed, and be certified (or Badged) on it. Yes, a NOOC is more granular, chunked, digestible, meaningful (evidence) and juicy!" My question is, can we build a meaningful network around a course that is an hour or two long? Or does it just become another way to present content?

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ds106: Open Pedagogy or Personality Cult?
Geoff Cain, Brainstorm in Progress, 2015/07/23


Is ds106 a personality cult? Maybe. But as Geoff Cain notes, "It is not the personality that creates the success; it is the engagement of the instructor.... instructors who make regular videos, podcasts, send weekly emails, and comment frequently on student blogs are experienced by the students as an instructor who is present in the course." Jim Groom, meanwhile, says "ds106 is not a cult. It's a club." But that might be only because the top-level domain .cult is not available.

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Pearson and the Financial Times
John Fallon, Pearson Blog, 2015/07/23


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The key impact of Pearson's sale of the Financial Times may be in education: "We plan to reinvest the proceeds from today’s sale to accelerate our push into digital learning, educational services and emerging markets. We will focus our investment on products and businesses with a bigger, bolder impact on learning outcomes, underpinned by a stronger brand and high-performing culture."

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Reddit and Weep
Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed, 2015/07/23


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Kudos to the headline writer for the best pun from the spate of articles surrounding the current controversy at Reddit. The website Reddit calls itself the 'front page of the internet'. Its stories are contributed by thousands of members, and readers can 'vote up' or 'vote down' the story. It's very popular, and recently attracted $50 million in VC funding, which is when things started to go south. The best short summary comes from Dave Winer, who suspects the first firing was due to the new board's desire to monetize the 'Ask Me Anything' feature (probably with paid placements). And former CEO Ellen Pao, once dubbed "Silicon Valley’s #1 Feminist Hero," seems to have left over the new crackdown on offensive content. Or maybe it was just that the trolls finally got the best of her. I would never defend Reddit's more offensive side. But sometimes Reddit was good. And corporate control tends to throw out the good with the bad - thus we see today Facebook throttling non-profits and activists. Bit by bit, the editorial freedom of the internet from commercial interests is being eroded. Image: New Scientist.

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Are crows the ultimate problem solvers?
Alex Taylor, BBC / Youtube, 2015/07/23


We were having a conversation yesterday about whether we need language in order to know things and to learn. We certainly need language of some sort in order to create models and representations. But to my mind, that's not how we learn. Consider this case from the BBC demonstrating a crow undertaking a complex eight-stage task. Crows caw, but they don't have a language. This is the sort of behaviour that any learning theory needs to explain. It's not enough to theorize how humans learn. We need to know how learning happens, no matter where it occurs.

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Listen to 188 Dramatized Science Fiction Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard & More
Dan Colman, Open Culture, 2015/07/22


Off-topic, but I don't care. I grew up on science fiction. I've read all these authors and more. All of their works, or at least, all I could find. And the recordings of X-minus-One and Dimension-X are repeats to me. So I'm ga ga over this.

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Big Data, Learning Analytics and Distance Education
Terry Anderson, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, 2015/07/22


Terry Anderson remains optimistic about learning analytics, but the two concerns he cites in this short post are more interesting (quoted):

  • The first challenge stems from the ownership of this data... This is especially egregious when the data collected and analyzed is not made available to those who created it. 
  • Secondly, as researchers at Microsoft Research danah boyd and Kate Crawford noted, learning analytics currently suffers from the delusion 'that large data sets offer a higher form of intelligence and knowledge...  with the aura of truth, objectivity, and accuracy.' (but the) belief in 'truth, objectivity and accuracy' is far from proven.

The thing with big data, to my mind, is that it is shallow data. It captures details about many users, but only their use of one or a few applications. Getting deeper knowledge would require more and more egregious breaches of privacy. But so long as the data remain shallow, it remains prone to confirmation bias, as researchers find in the data what they data were designed to show.

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Study of colleges shows ‘encouraging’ texts dramatically cut dropout rates
Paul Offord, FE Week, 2015/07/22


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I think I want to see a few more studies before jumping to conclusions here, but wouldn't it be funny if the retention problem could be solved (or substantially impacted) simply by sending encouraging text messages? The tests so far show a 7 percent increase in class attendance, and that those who were not sent the encouraging texts were 36 percent more likely to drop out. Of course, any good plan can be undermined, as for example by David Corke (pictured), director of education and skills policy for the Association of Colleges, who hastens to tell us "in some cases a GCSE is not appropriate and a more applied qualification would most benefit the student and their future career." I wonder what the impact of receiving a text message saying that would be. Nice guy.

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A Master List of 1,150 Free Courses From Top Universities: 35,000 Hours of Audio/Video Lectures
Dan Colman, Open Culture, 2015/07/22


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At a certain point, pundits will stop saying there's a shortage of open learning resources out there, and will begin thinking about how to use what already exists in courses (hint: cMOOCs). "Generally, the courses can be accessed via YouTube, iTunes or university web sites, and you can listen to the lectures anytime, anywhere, on your computer or smart phone."

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Is For-Profit The Future Of Education In Brazil?
Julie Ruvolo, TechCrunch, 2015/07/21


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MOOCs meet money in Brazil. Why? It's simple, really: “There’s this dynamic where the A (upper) class pays a ton of money for test prep, and ends up occupying all of the public university spots,” Fisbhen explains. In Brazil, the best universities are public and charge zero tuition. “Seeing as how they’re the best and they’re free, it generates a big willingness to pay. So the prep school industry is a really expensive way for the A class to take the free spots. It’s totally perverse.”

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The Reeducation of Blackboard, Everyone’s Classroom Pariah
Issie Lapowsky, Wired, 2015/07/21


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With a title like that, how could I pass this by? Alas, by 're-education' they mean 'observing students use Blackboard in their dorm rooms,' their "natural habitat." And what does this bring? "For starters, when students log into Blackboard Learn, instead of seeing a list of courses, they’ll see important assignments automatically surfaced based on their due dates." Well, it's something, I guess.

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Let’s remove editorial subjectivity from peer review
David Kent, University Affairs, 2015/07/21


I tend to shun the journal submission process because I'm prone to having arguments with reviewers and editors about what constitutes 'research'. It does seem to me to be arbitrary. For example, here's one wherein "eight instructors participated in telephone interviews about their experiences and perceptions of using social media for teaching and learning." This counts as research! Just so, David Kent writes in University Affairs that "is important to highlight why peer review is so important to get right. It determines the disbursement of billions of dollars internationally, it determines which scientists’ careers progress and which come to an abrupt halt, and it is the theoretical linchpin to maintaining high-quality unbiased research." I think Kent should have gone much further in his thinking.

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The SSD Endurance Experiment: They're all dead
Geoff Gasior, The Tech Report, 2015/07/21


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In hard drive memory, as in life, nothing lasts forever - not even solid state drives. This article is interesting not only because it described how the solid state drives fail ("... the back-and-forth traffic erodes the physical structure of the cell, leading to breaches that can render it useless. Electrons also get stuck in the cell wall, ...") it also tells us how much use you'll get from them before they die. The answer? A lot! "Errors didn't strike the Samsung 840 Series until after 300TB of writes, and it took over 700TB to induce the first failures. The fact that the 840 Pro exceeded 2.4PB is nothing short of amazing, even if that achievement is also kind of academic."

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical U MOOC To Investigate Aviation Accidents
Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, 2015/07/20


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This looks like fun: "a massive open online course (MOOC) on aircraft accident investigation at the end of the summer. Students will have the chance to try out their data collection skills in a virtual crash laboratory." I love the logo on the tail of the crashed airliner: Peak).

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Adblock Plus Study
Press Release, Simon Fraser University, 2015/07/20


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I use ad blocking software all the time. I refuse to turn it off - even when 'free' wifi in Madrid airport was conditional on turning off ad blockers, I decided to go without internet rather than turn it on. It's a good choice. At Simon Fraser University researchers found "that the school saved between 25% and 40% of its network bandwidth by implementing the Adblock Plus software." Madrid airport is probably losing money on its policy, because it's spending twice as much for bandwidth. And so long as I'm paying hundreds of dollars for computers and equipment, including wireless and fibre bandwidth, I won't be paying advertisers who freeload off this expense. Full report (7 page PDF). Via Academica.

 

 

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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