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March 11, 2013

MOOCs in Context: the re.mooc in Africa
Stephen Downes, March 11, 2013, EPFL Media Design Lab, Lausanne, Switzerland, via Skype

Organized with Alex Barchiesi, postdoc in EPFL Media Design Lab  (after a PhD in Particle physics), based on his concept of the re.mooc: how to re-use the material coming from the xMOOC and reorganize it in a localized version that could facilitate the "After school" education in African coutries. 

[Link] [Slides] [Audio]

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Emerging Student Patterns in MOOCs: A Graphical View
Phil Hill, e-Literate, March 11, 2013

Because the whole emphasis on the new crop of MOOCs is their massiveness, it becomes very important how you count participants. Hence Phil Hills division of MOOC participants into four categories was broadly welcomed last week. The categories are (using Phil Hill's terminology and descriptions):

  • Lurkers – where people enroll but just observe or sample a few items at the most.
  • Drop-Ins – Partially or fully active participants for a select topic but do not attempt to complete the course.
  • Passive Participants – These are students who view a course as content to consume and expect to be taught.
  • Active Participants – These are the students who fully intend to participate in the MOOC.

Like most categorization exercises (and therefore 90 percent of research in education) the division reveals more about the perspective of the researcher than it does about the demographics (notice, for example, how I say 'participants' and not 'students' - perspective shift). Not that this is bad - it's just useful to be clear about what we're studying.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Research, Ontologies]

Hacking the Classroom: Beyond Design Thinking
Jackie Gerstein, User Generated Education, March 11, 2013

Sometimes people ask me what research methodology I employ, and after referring them to Paul Feyerabend and appropriate scepticism about research methodologys, I usually wave my arms in the direction of somethng like design methodology, which people can accept. Design methodology is how I set up my website, and design methodology is the process that created the first MOOCs. But what is that? This post sort of approaches it with this diagram - but in my world these are not stages, they are parallel processes (or, more accurately, occasional processes). At any given time, I may be solving a problem, pursuing an idea, learning how to do something - whatever. Design is the process that follows that, and is (in my world) wholly informed by the tools at hand and the objective I am trying to satisfy. It there is any method to this madness, it is only observable retroactively, and is usually a rationalization.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Research]

Doug Peterson, doug - off the record, March 11, 2013

Dough Peterson asks, "Just how do computers store time anyway?  Does it think in days, hours, and minutes?" I actually have something like an answer to that question. Computers think in seconds (or, if they're stuffy, milliseconds). For a computer, any given time is a certain number of seconds after an arbitrary start date, known as the epoch. For unix computers (and therefore Linux and, these days, Apple) the epoch started at 12 a.m. January 1, 1970 (GMT). Right now it's about 1.36 billion (I remember when it turned a billion - that was a crazy day). Windows has several epochs, including NT system time (January 1, 1601) and NTP (January 1, 1900). Meanwhile, .Net shares January 1, 1 as its epoch with Dershowitz and Reingold source code (where it is known as Rata Die). For accuracy, systems like Windows can have a service that references an atomic clock server, such as the one run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States. Everything else to do with time is just interface - structures of dates and hours and time zones generated by algorithms from epoch time. So you see - for me (and for computers) time is very straightforward, but humans deal with it very poorly. Dealing with scheduling and calendars is a huge task, one far greater than most simple data management like calculus and quantuum physics. (Photo: John Kellden)

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Microsoft, Thomson Corporation, United States, Google, Wikipedia]

Can MOOCs Save Academic Freedom?
K. Edward Renner, Edudemic, March 11, 2013

Interesting angle on MOOCs and not one that would spring to mind immediately. But... could MOOCs save academic freedom? Well, that depends a lot on what is threatening it.  In this article, the concerns are globalization and commercialization. "MOOCs have become the last stand for the defense of academic freedom because ownership of knowledge and information is the key to controlling the political power and social beliefs and values determining the distribution of wealth in the 21st Century." How can the typically 'weak warriors' of academia take advantage of this opportunity? "We must own and use MOOCs to elevate general public knowledge to be an effective civic moderator of wealth, power and belief." Personally, I believe there is no freedom of any kind without independence of means, and this is what we should strive toward for society as a whole. And that, not the protection of professor rights, is the purpose of the MOOC.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Academia]

At South by Southwest Education Event, Tensions Divide Entrepreneurs and Educators
Jeffrey R. Young, The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog, March 11, 2013

I'm sure it was a lot of fun, but from my more northern cynical perspective, the Big Fight seems skewed from the start, pitting the debate as it does as one between 'entrepreneurs' and 'educators'. Neither one, I notice, is the learner. And if there is a debate between them, it's how to capitalize off the needs of the learner. This is not disguised by the use of soft temrs like 'educator' and 'entreprenueur', as most students understand these to be synonyms of 'school-master' and 'boss' (or even worse, 'banker'). But that's how these debates - and all debates - work. By the time the debate begins, the real issues have been settled.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Schools]

Teens have always gone where identity isn't
Jonathan Libov , Whoops, March 11, 2013

Statements that describe an entire demographic - 'teens', say - are always dubious and subject to counterexamples, but beyond the hyperbole is a point worth taking home in this text: "Teens eschew Facebook and Twitter for Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat and other apps not because they're a new, different generation, but because they don't yet have much of an identity to boast of." Such spaces allow them to try on new identities, and to be someone they aren't. I remember saying much the same thing about MUD participation in the 1990s and can recall people saying it of online bulletin boards in later years.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Twitter, Books]

ADL to Conduct Mobile Learning Research Needs Analysis
Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) , March 11, 2013

This came to me via a LinkedIn posting from Jason Haag: "ADL is launching a new research effort with the goal of supporting education and training professionals transitioning from eLearning to mLearning by providing a mobile learning framework and catalog of microstrategy examples for thinking more deeply about their systematic design processes and mobile-specific affordances." In particular are the unique affordances made possible by mobile learning, such as global positioning and direct device-to-device communication. "These are not being accounted for in traditional ID models, as stated in the literature review from the 2012 whitepaper."

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Research, Online Learning]

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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