The Downes Prize 2013
Stephen Downes, Dec 30, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This year's Downes Prize is awarded to:


Discussing design models for hybrid/blended learning and the impact on the campus
Tony Bates, online learning & distance education resources


Tony Bates is probably known to every practitioner of distance and online learning. His terse two-line biography ("President and CEO of Tony Bates Associates Ltda private company specializing in consultancy and training in the planning, management and design of e-learning and distance educationHe was Director of Distance Education and Technology in the Continuing Studies Division of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada from 1995 to 2003) understates his wide impact on the field.


Why this post? Tony Bates blogs regularly at his home page, online learning & distance education resources, and his informal online work has become arguably as influential as his books (it's worth some time exploring the links in his biography). It could have been any of a number of items from this year, a year that included everything from a series on productivity in online learning to his series of aha moments in online learning. There has been no shortage of his posts in OLDaily this year. But the numbers, for whatever reason, point to this post (maybe it was the typos - preserved for posterity)(see my discussion of how the Downes Prize is determined at the end of this post).


Honourable mentions go to:


Buying Our Way into Bondage: The Risks of Adaptive Learning Services
David Wiley, iterating toward openness


Visualizing a cMOOC
Fred Bartels, YouTube

You didn’t make the Harlem Shake go viral—corporations did
Kevin Ashton, Quartz

Resisting the Marketisation of Learning
Rob Watson, Rob Watson Media

MOOCs: taxonomy of 8 types of MOOC
Donald Clark, Donald Clark Plan B

MOOCs: A systematic study of the published literature 2008-2012
Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena,Andrew Alexandar Adams, Shirley Ann Williams, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL)

The Empire acquires the rebel alliance: Mendeley users revolt against Elsevier takeover
Matthew Ingram, paidContent

Reclaim Open Learning
Jim Groom, bavatuesdays

MOOCs Are Reaching Only Privileged Learners, Survey Finds
Steve Kolowich, The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog

Previous Winners


In 2012, the Downes Prize was awarded to Clayton R. Wright, for his series of posts annotating educational technology conferences.


In 2011, the prize was awarded to the Consortium for School Networking for  Acceptable Use Policies in Web 2.0 & Mobile Era.


In 2010, the prize was awarded to JISC for Effective Assessment in a Digital Age.


How the Winners are Chosen


I've used the same method over each of the last four years, and I think that the method has stood the test of time, identifying as winners not merely work of outstanding quality, but also work that is not necessarily recognized by other writers in the field.


To be selected, the item must first appear in OLDaily over the course of the year. So this gives me a pool of roughly a thousand nominees over the year. I don't think I miss anything that would qualify, but if next year you think I've missed something important, then by all means send me the URL. Note, though, that to appear in OLDaily the work has to be relevant to the field, be future-oriented, and be open (in the sense that, if you click on the link, you are taken straight to the item - no paywalls, no forms to fill out). My selection criteria for OLDaily haven't really changed in 15 years.


Next, I look at the number of hits the item has received over the course of the year. An item receives a hit if someone views the 'post' page on this website (www.downes.ca/post/whatever), or if a person clicks on a link to view the item from the email newsletter or an RSS or Twitter feed (www.downes.ca/post/whatever/rd). People who opt out of the redirect by clicking on the 'Direct Link' are not counted. Note that I don't collect individual data - I just count hits.


Finally, the ordering is rebalanced. Items written by myself are removed (because awarding the prize to myself would be ridiculous). Items that aren't really about the field are dropped (last year I dropped an item about why Internet Explorer should be uninstalled; this year I dropped an Oxford Dictionary listing for MOOC). Finally, the list is balanced to take into account the fact that posts from earlier in the year receive more hits, just on account of being on the website longer. This gives me an ordered list. I play no favourites. The winner is the winner, and the next nine or ten are honourable mentions. Whatever the data says, goes.


One final note: I create this list to recognize the best in the field. It's not intended to drive traffic to this website (and it generally doesn't). I don't issue badges for people to post and link back. I don't encourage campaigning for the Prize and would remove entries I felt were being propped up. I don't even tell the winners they've won. And I would add that I noticed this year, as indeed I do every year, the large volume of excellent work that is produced in our field. Martin Weller said some nice things about OLWeekly in The Best EdTech Book You Never Read. But what's really important is that I don't write this book. You do.


See you in 2014.

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