OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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October 29, 2013

on a world with only 10 universities
D'Arcy Norman, D’Arcy Norman dot net, October 27, 2013

Nice. D'Arcy Norman takes the sharp edge of the blade to Sebastian Thrun's bold prediction: "Compare the predictions of two experts in their fields, extrapolating their personal visions forward a few decades," he says.

  • “I think there is a world market for maybe 5 computers.” — Thomas Watson, 1943
  • “In 50 years, there will be only 10 institutions in the world delivering higher education.” — Sebastian Thrun, 2012

Could Thrun be as wrong as Watson was? Sure. Why would we settle for only 10 huge universities when we could have 10 million, or 100 million? Why would we buy into the idea that knowledge and learning are scarce and commodified when it could be open and free (like the recipe for a hamburger). "Thrun’s model positions The Giant MOOCs as toxic, and diametrically opposed to the real and essential goals of education," writes Norman. 

But Thrun's error does not mean (contra Norman) that the existing system is safe. It is threatened, not by giant mega-universities, but by the millions of universities that could spring up once educational resources become free, online support is generated by community, and the monopoly on testing and credentials is ended. I think there is a bold prediction in there, but it's not Thrun's prediction. It's the prediction that is the opposite of Thrun's (my prediction? Surely someone else has thought of this first).

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Examining the potential and reality of open educational resources: the 2013 COHERE conference
Tony Bates, online learning, distance education resources, October 27, 2013


Tony Bates summarizes a discussion he held at the COHERE (Collaboration for Online Higher Education and Research) conference on  the idea of open textbooks. To me it's a no-brainer - why couldn't governments just contract textbook production directly and make them available for free? Yes, there are issues - we need to ensure production of niche materials, we need to ensure support over-and-above authorship is available, and we need to examine the model if textbooks in itself (Elizabeth Murphy sees them as a relic of 20th century industrialism). Meanwhile, says Bates, most hoigher education professors still don't use open educational resources (OERs) at all - and in my opinion it's this blithe indifference to the costs paid by stgudents that underlines why the educational system so needs a good shaking up. Finally, he links to Jenni Hayman's new MOOC service called World Wide Ed. " Now if we just had a Federal Department of Education to put some money behind it," says Bates. But why can't the provinces do that? How does this somehow become easier if it's a federal agency putting money behind it? I think it would be harder for someone like Hayman, not easier.  (p.s. on open licensing being one of the great inventions of the last century - I agree, but be sure to remember that it was not invented by Richard Stallman or Lawrence Lessig; open licenses existed in the noncommercial world long before they were 'discovered' by professors in the elite schools (same old story, goes round and round)).

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Pedagogy of MOOCs
Paul Stacey, Slideshare, October 27, 2013


Good slide presentation from Paul Stacey describing pedagogical models employed by a range of MOOCs, including the early cMOOCs, ds106, Coursera, Udacity and EdX. Here's the official description: "Webinar given for University of Cape Town 17-Oct-2013 exploring the pedagogical differences between cMOOCs and xMOOCs. Pedagogical recommendations given along with recommendations around adoption approaches for universities."

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Kevin Werbach on Teaching Gamification at Coursera
Ivan Kuo, Gamification Corp, October 27, 2013


From the website: "Join Professor Werbach, teacher of the massively successful #Gamification12 MOOC as he discusses the hard-won lessons of teaching Gamification — and how this understanding can make any training, education or development process more successful for your organization." I haven't had a chance to listen to this but it certainly seems worth passing along.

[Link] [Comment]

MOOC Skeptic’s Toolkit: Sample Letter #3, to a Parent
Martin Kich, Academe Blog, October 26, 2013

I'm not really sure how the "MOOC Sceptic's Toolkit" published in the American Association of University Professors's Academe Blog is helping anyone. This edition features a 'sample letter' to be sent to parents and newspapers, but while it starts off well it eventually becomes a characteristically academic tome. Worse, it shows zero comprehension of how a MOOC operates. Consider this bit: "If there are 30,000 students enrolled in a 15-week MOOC and each of those students were to send just one e-mail to the instructor over that semester, the instructor would need to answer 2,000 e-mails per week." That's why MOOCs do not employ bilateral communications. D'uh. The professors' concern comes out several paragraphs later in the letter: "although university administrations have continued to find new ways to squeeze savings from the instructional end of their institutions’ budgets, we are clearly approaching a point at which a 'quality education' will be little more than an empty promise at many institutions."

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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