OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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OLWeekly

by Stephen Downes
April 18, 2014

Presentation
The MOOCs Challenge
Stephen Downes, April 11, 2014, Education for Development, Philadelphia, PA


In my presentation I outline the (real) history of MOOCs, outline design parameters, and sketch future technologies. This is presented in the context of the 'democratization' of knowledge and learning to support international development and educuation.

[Slides] [Audio]

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I am the New Flickr. I am an Ass.
Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, April 18, 2014


Alan Levine is not too pleased with the new Flickr interface. Neither, for that matter, am I. It's getting increasingly difficult to do the things with photos that give them meaning, like adding notes and comments. The 'sets' have been renamed 'albums' and are basically invisible now. I'm not sure how people can view my photos, if at all, other than through the photostream.

[Link] [Comment]


British Pathé releases 85,000 films on YouTube
Press Release, British Pathé, April 18, 2014


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Another huge resource for open learning. "Newsreel archive British Pathé has uploaded its entire collection of 85,000 historic films, in high resolution, to its YouTube channel. This unprecedented release of vintage news reports and cinemagazines is part of a drive to make the archive more accessible to viewers all over the world." Among the favourtes are Wright Brothers First Flight (1903), Hindenburg Disaster Real Footage (1937) [HD] and Arnold Schwarzenegger Wins Mr Universe (1969)

[Link] [Comment]


When Evidence Backfires
Neurobonkers, Big Think, April 18, 2014


People like me sometimes are inclined to think that if people had more and better education, they would not believe anti-scientific myths. For example, they they were told that the Sun is in a cooling cycle, they would not be inclined to blame Sun cycles for global warming. Actual evidence, however, suggests that people continue to believe myths despite the scientific evidence. Myths provide explanations, and merely debunking a myth leaves a gap in that explanation. In some cases, the provision of evidence contrary to the myth can actually strengthen their belief in the myth. Why do I raise this? Education is not a magic remedy for misinformation. See also the Debunking Handbook (PDF) by John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky.

[Link] [Comment]


Ethics and soft boundaries between Facebook groups and other web services
Frances Bell, Francesbell's Blog, April 17, 2014


Fances Bell explores some of the murky issues surrounding access to 'closed' sites and services such as Facebook groups. These are not accessible to people without a Facebook login, and as such may be inaccessible to people who for one reason or another don't want Facebook. But also as such, these may carry a presumption of privacy on the part of members, some of whom may think posting to the course group isn't 'public' in the way posting a blog port or web page is. Meanwhile, can you post what was said on one Facebook group (or mailing list, or whatever) on another Facebook group? What if it's a 'closed' (members only) group? Tough questions.

[Link] [Comment]


Educating Modern Learners Is Live!
Audrey Watters, Hack Education, April 17, 2014


Audrey Watters announces the arrival of her online publishing venture with Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon, Educating Modern Learners, "a site dedicated to news and analysis about the future of teaching and learning through a progressive education (and progressive ed-tech) lens." It will, sadly, cost you $35 a month to read. Not open content, obviously.

[Link] [Comment]


Literature is not Data: Against Digital Humanities
Stephen Marche, Los Angeles Review of Books, April 17, 2014


I don't think there's anything wrong with the digital humanities per se but I accept the criticism that it would represent a misapplication of big data. As Stephen Marche writes, "Literature cannot meaningfully be treated as data. The problem is essential rather than superficial: literature is not data. Literature is the opposite of data." In particular, "algorithms, exactly like fascism, work perfectly, with a sense of seemingly unstoppable inevitability, right up until the point they don’t.`Well fine. But why is this the case? I would say that it's because data (as we know it) is about mass, while meaning is based on context and connection.

[Link] [Comment]


5 Key Barriers to Educational Technology Adoption in the Developing World
Clayton R. Wright, Educational Technology Debate, April 17, 2014


I think this is the real challenge to talking about educational technology in the developing world: before you can get to educational technology you have to consider, if not overcome, these barriers. What are they?

  • electrical power
  • internet connectivity
  • training and professional development
  • value of teachers
  • sustainability

Most of these could be solved with money - and in a nation like Canada, they would be - but some, like electricity or internet connectivity, would require a great deal of money, because of the need to build social infrastructure before you can build a learning infrastructure. And most of the discussion around them talks about short-cuts or work-arounds: solar power, for example, or mobile internet. But you can't short-cut the last three, and that's why these problems are ongoing.

[Link] [Comment]


Phasing out certificates of free courseware completion
Sebastian Thrun, Udacity Blog, April 16, 2014


The commercialization of MOOCs continues: "effective May 16, we will stop offering free non-identity-verified certificates." The funny part is that they say students are demanding this.

[Link] [Comment]


Small Private Colleges Are in Deep Trouble (as They Should Be)
Jordan Weissmann, Slate, April 16, 2014


While this is termed as "a small brush fire, clearing out some of the unhealthier institutions in higher ed" the credit default warnings being issued against small colleges may be the harbinger of something more widespread. The article suggests, "because they don’t have much in the way of endowments, they tend to charge high tuition, and leave undergraduates saddled with debts that simply might not be worthwhile." These problems aren't unique to small private colleges, though.

[Link] [Comment]


Choose your silo (or, Why are we partying like it’s 1999?)
Doug Belshaw, April 16, 2014


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Even in 1999 things were more open than they are in mobile computing today. Right now, it feels more like the days of AOL and Compuserv - completely separate (and expensive) information silos. "It’s nothing new," writes Doug Belshaw. "The Agricultural Revolution in England 250 years ago provides another example. Here, common land was literally ‘enclosed’ for private profit. The people on the land protested, but rapacious capitalists forced legislation through by way of ties with the government." We need to resist, writes Belshaw. "As users, let's not be seduced by 'free' as in 'free beer' but actively fight for 'free' as in 'liberty'." And let's support 'open', not as in 'for business' but as in 'doors'.

[Link] [Comment]


Time to retire from online learning?
Tony Bates, online learning, distance edcuation resources, April 16, 2014


Tony Bates is calling it a career. "After 45 years continuously working in online and distance education," he writes, "I’ve certainly earned the right to stop." Among other reasons, he is upset about MOOCs - not the concept, but the hubris and nonsense - "Having ignored online learning for nearly 20 years, Stanford, MIT and Harvard had to re-invent online learning in their own image to maintain their perceived superiority in all things higher educational." Bates will continue to write and continue the blog, but most activities will end. I think it's fitting to say here that his contribution has been significant and that if I'm granted another 20 years in the business (I'm 55 to his 75) the impact of his work will certainly be felt in my own.

See also: D'Arcy Norman.

[Link] [Comment]


Stand Up and Be Counted
Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, April 16, 2014


So, how is this going to work? Maryland has issued a letter telling distance education providers to students in the state to stand up and be counted. "Higher education institutions offering fully online education to Maryland residents must submit an application to register with the Maryland Higher Education Commission,” the letter reads. If you reply, then Maryland demands you "pay an annual registration fee of $1,000 and a bond valued at five times the average cost of tuition." But what if they don't - what if the provider is from Finland, or India, or Canada? I would resist such a demand to the full limit of the law - because compliance would mean a flood of demands for registration from thousands of jurisdictions around the world. Google or Microsoft can handle that and simply pass on the cost. The rest of us can't. So, what then? Would Maryland start blocking illegal online learning, the way the U.S. blocks casinos and Turkey blocks YouTube? There's no good end-game in that scenario.

[Link] [Comment]


Building a Google custom search engine for LRMI-tagged pages
Phil Barker, CETIS Blog, April 15, 2014


This is an interesting exercise in coding: "trying to create a search engine for finding learning resources by searching LRMI-tagged web pages." The search engine they created works pretty well. But it only returns results from BBC and Open University, so far as I can tell. Which proves (yet again) that designing the standard and creating the search engine are the easy part - getting the rest of the world to tag their materials using it is the hard part.

[Link] [Comment]


One World
Rodd Lucier, The Clever Sheep, April 15, 2014


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In his first blog post in almost a year, Rodd Lucier reflects on his experiences at the Microsoft Global Summit (no link but probably this) focused on the the Millennium Development Goals. He describes a project pitched at the conference, "an inquiry project called 'One World'... an open and social hub was created for this project at www.about.me/oneworldnetwork." It's interesting to see him react to the evaluation experience: "My project team invested many hours in a project that took but minutes to be judged according to a rubric. We invested our time, talent, emotions and intellect, yet to date, we have received no feedback on our work." I guess a lot of students feel the same way.

[Link] [Comment]


Why successful consortia for online learning are so difficult
Tony Bates, online learning, distance edcuation resources, April 15, 2014


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Numerous online learning consortia have come and gone over the years, and none has really emerged as a market leader. Why not? Tony Bates examines how this mode of organization is fraught with difficulties. These comments are made in the context of Rachel Fishman's recent report, State U Online. "What the report does not adequately address are the economics of online learning," writes Bates. When courses are shared, who provides online support? Additionally, "Another major barrier is academic distrust of other institutions: 'Our courses are always good; yours are garbage.'" P.S. Russ Poulin comments, " WCET is maintaining a list of consortia in the U.S. and Canada."

[Link] [Comment]


Two-Year Anniversary of Blackboard Acquisition of Moodlerooms and NetSpot
Phil Hill, e-Literate, April 15, 2014


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Phil Hill reports on the extent and impact of the changes Blackboard made two years ago while acquiting open course vendors Moodlerooms and NetSports and reorienting their corporate strategy. But: "While Blackboard has kept their word and made a major change in strategy, the question arises of whether that matters. According to the Campus Computing Survey for 2011 and 2013, Blackboard’s market share (combining Learn, WebCT, and ANGEL product lines) has continue to fall in the US over the past two years, from 51% of institutions to 41%."

[Link] [Comment]


Where is Higher Education’s Digital Dividend?
Terry Anderson, Virtual Canuck, April 15, 2014


Terry Anderson poses the question in the title by means of an example from David Wiley: "the cost of renting 75,000 movies  ($9.00 a month  from NetFlicks) or renting  any of 20 million songs from Spotify  ($9.99/month) with the cost of renting a college text book . A single biology text book rents for $12.99 a month from BookRenter." Thus, he writes, "the time is right for a 'market correction' that exploits the affordances of the Net to create drastically lower cost of quality higher education experience." It's long past due.

[Link] [Comment]


Offering cMOOCs Collaboratively: The COER13 Experience from the Convenors’ Perspective
Patricia Arnold, Swapna Kumar, Anne Thillosen, Martin Ebner, eLearning Papers, April 15, 2014


This short paper reflects on the offering of a cMOOC on the topic of Open Educational Resources in 2013. I'm curious to know what platform is used, but this is not described. The experiences, though, are similar to my own. For example, "All the convenors reflected on the challenge of managing multiple virtual spaces and following the conversations that participants had in those virtual spaces." As well, "It remains an open challenge to balance collaborative planning with “playing-by-ear” facilitating in newly emergent situations."

[Link] [Comment]


Cultural Translation in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
Bernard Nkuyubwatsi, eLearning Papers, April 15, 2014


This is generally a good paper though I disagree with some aspects. Basically, the idea is that 'cultural translation`- which is roughly "flexibility to allow students from diverse cultures to adjust the courses to their specific settings" - can be enabled in MOOCs through student-selected projects or student-formed groups. Where I disagree with the paper is in how this activity is framed - the author writes of "The inclusion of tasks, activities and assessments that are relevant to various cultural and professional settings" as though it's the professor that is doing this (or minimally, allowing this). But in fact these are activities created by supporting student autonomy and diversity in the course - the more the professor lets go of control, the more inclusive and relevant the course can be. And for that reason too I think that 'translation' is a particularly poor word to use in this context. (10 page PDF).

(p.s. papers in eLearning Papers are still branded 'Open Education Europa', with no mention of 'eLearning Papers' on the web page, but don't cite them as 'Open Education Europa' or they will complain and suggest that you are at fault for getting this wrong).

[Link] [Comment]


2014: The Year the Media Stopped Caring About MOOCs?
Steve Kolowich, The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog, April 14, 2014


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Based on information about an unpopular UPenn seminar for media on MOOCs Steve Kolowich wrote this article about the possibility that media are losing interest in the story. I suppose a decline in interest in inevitable and I'm not surprised that the Chronicle's editors would want to pounce on that. But it may be premature; Kolowich wrote me asking if I had data, and thanks to the script I wrote for mooc.ca to extract news coverage of MOOCs I did have data, so I wrote up a quick script that extracted it. Here is the result. My own conclusion is that media coverage hasn't declined significantly.

[Link] [Comment]


Drupal to WordPress Migration
Jennifer Maddrell, Designed to Inspire, April 14, 2014


Jennifer Maddrell has moved her blog from Drupal to Wordpress, and as a result, changed her RSS feed address. As Feedly reports that I'm the first subscriber to the new feed, it seems relevant to post the news here. (p.s. I totally understand the move from Drupal, and like her, find it so much harder to work with than necessary).

[Link] [Comment]


Are Instructional Designers Making Themselves Irrelevant?
Dawn Poulos, Xyleme, April 14, 2014


Interesting question to which the answer may be 'yes'. Dawn Poulos suggests, "Being static means being stale, and for instructional designers, stale content is the fastest road to irrelevancy." In fact, the discipline is changing, as exemplified by this list of 'aha moments':

  • "Aha!" Moment No. 1: Reusing Content is a Game Changer"
  • "Aha!" Moment No. 2: I Can Share My Content Outside the L&D Organization"
  • "Aha! Moment No. 3: Collaboration Lets Us Deliver Better Content Faster"
  • "Aha! Moment No. 4: Yes, I Really Can Personalize Learning Content"
  • "Aha! Moment No. 5: Structure Provides Flexibility"

What do you get if you actually implement these five principles? I would argue that you get a cMOOC. But your mileage may vary. Here's the full report (you will have to pay for it with your social network information).

[Link] [Comment]


LMS Metaphors
Tom Woodward, Bionic Teaching, April 14, 2014


This is an interesting look at the metaphors used to describe the Learning Management System (LMS), including a reference to a fun paper from 2007 describing the ways people described Blackboard ("The metaphors of ‘tree branches,’ ‘7/11 store,’ ‘river of information,’ ‘fun game,’ and ‘light bulb revolution’ reveal the communication, information, educational, political, and philosophical aspects of Blackboard cyberinfrastructure implementation... the educational usage of Blackboard did not emerge as the most prominent rationality for Blackboard"). Tom Woodward suggests here that " the LMS is a fast-food franchise kitchen. It does exactly what it is meant to do. It is built for people with minimal skills to make cheap food quickly at scale. It isn’t meant to be a training ground so people can move up to gourmet cooking. These skills don’t transfer. You aren’t even meant to graduate to being a line cook at Friday’s." Heh.

[Link] [Comment]


A Breakup Letter to Facebook from Eat24
Lydia Leavitt, Eat24, April 14, 2014


Part of the problem with social media is that being profitable and making money do not mix well together. Witness Eat24's breakup letter to Facebook: "Not to be rude, but you aren’t the smart, funny social network we fell in love with several years back. You’ve changed. A lot. When we first met, you made us feel special. We’d tell you a super funny joke about Sriracha and you’d tell all our friends and then everyone would laugh together. But now? Now you want us to give you money if we want to talk to our friends." Via TNW.

[Link] [Comment]


All the passwords you should change because of Heartbleed, in one handy graphic
Harrison Weber, VB, April 14, 2014


*Sigh* "Heartbleed arose inside a version of open-source OpenSSL cryptographic software. Information sitting inside the memory of a server should be encrypted, but a little bit of data could be pulled out under an attack. Most recently, a report emerged alleging that the U.S. National Security Agency had known about Heartbleed for more than two years, and even exploited it. The NSA later denied the allegations." OLDaily and MOOC.ca users are not affected by the OpenSSL bug.

[Link] [Comment]


Paying for publication
Danny Kingsley, Australian Open Access Support Group, April 14, 2014


The Australian Open Access Support Group has posted a good series of articles on issues related to paying for open access publication. On this model, commonly called the 'Gold Model', authors or institutions pay publishers fees up front to process and make available the article as open access (by contrast, the 'Green Model' proposes that institutions manage their own article repositories). Many funding agencies, including the NHMRC and ARC in Australia, require that outcomes be published as open access.

Topics covered in the series include "the cost of hybridaddressing double dipping, a discussion about whether open access funds support open access, and a look at what hybrid actually pays for. There is also an analysis of the membership model for open access publishing with a discussion of the attendant issues relating to managing article processing charges."

[Link] [Comment]


Rebuilding a Reader
Clarence Fisher, Remote Access, April 11, 2014


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I complained at length to a Google representative today about this, so Clarence Fisher's comment is timely: "When Google declared war on RSS and the open web by killing off their reader it was a heavy blow for deep thinking and for blogging. At first, I didn’t miss it. I still had twitter after all. But over time, I began to realize that relying on twitter only for what I was going to read and learn was like relying on the remote control of my TV. It put me too much at the whim of other people and things I just happened to see."

[Link] [Comment]


MOOCs for Development - Day 1
Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, April 11, 2014


Notes from the MOOCs for Development Conference April 10-11 at UPenn's International House in Philadelphia.

[Link] [Comment]


MOOCs for Development - Day 2
Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, April 11, 2014


My notes from Day 2 of the MOOCs4D conference.

[Link] [Comment]


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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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