OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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December 23, 2013

Productivity and online learning redux
Tony Bates, online learning, distance education resources, December 23, 2013

Tony Bates concludes what has been a lengthy series on the topic of online learning and productivity (you can see the full list at the end of his post). He says we "need to set improved productivity as a key goal for investment in learning technologies." But "This means setting benchmarks and implementing means of measuring success." That's not nearly easy as it sounds, because it's not easy to measure success when everyone involves is seeking different, and individual, outcomes. That's part of the reason why, I think, that he advocates institutions focus on 'sustaining innovations', that is, innovations that are incremental and continue to support the institution's existing mission and goals. And I think he's right in the sense that the disruptive innovation will come from outside the system. Whether measuring producivity is a good response to it is, I think, open to question.

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Western Initiative for Strengthening Education in Math WISE Math
Rob Craigen, WISE, December 23, 2013


Rob Craigen has replied to my Google+ comment on his op-ed in the Winnipeg Free Press arguing that the Pisa results demonstrate that we have to turn away from what he calls "fuzzy math" and return to the old methods. This page links to the front group he has set up, and here is the group's Facebook page (where you'll find links to kindred spirits like Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail, the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, and similar groups in the U.S. You'll also find the four members of WISE (Robert Craigen, Anna Stokke, Fernando Szechtman, and R. Grant Woods) are adept at getting news coverage for their views. It's all part of the wider attack on so-called discovery learning. But frankly, I am not convinced by Craigen's disjointed rebuttal of my comment (nor will I be dragged down the numerous rabbit holes he offers in the form of leading questions).

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This North Carolina Campus Was Meant to Show Off the Future of Online Education It hasn't gone according to plan
Nora Caplan-Bricker, New Republic, December 23, 2013


This item was tweeted by Tressie Mc and while a defender at Black Mountain SOLE says "this article was a blatant bash" it is useful in displaying how MOOCs are portrayed in different communities. SOLE, in case you're wondering (the New Republic article never tells us) stands for Self-Organized Learning Envrionments, and it frankly has more roots in 1970s progressive development education and the more recent Bar Camp movement (an influence again never mentioned in the article, as it derives from the tech community). Black Mountain SOLE (according to the article) "was founded on the premise that college’s last remaining selling point, in this digital age, is community—so it set out to replicate the effect." But "The last four months have gone a long way toward proving the theory wrong." It's not clear to me what (if anything) is proven wrong. The same model has been used in things like The Conscious Gourmet, Outward Bound, Kaos Pilots, and may others. Community works. But not every community works. In any case, I know few businesses that are successful after four months.

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Thinking about MOOCs
John Faig, Educational Musings, December 23, 2013

I like this way to create a blog post. John Faig reads a New York Times article about MOOCs, but instead of reacting to the articles, reads through and reacts to the comments that follow the article. The result is a wide ranging set of thoughts about the subject matter. There's a lot more nuance in the comments. "I'm not sure why the media wants to view everything in terms of winners and losers.," he writes. "It is a narrow analytical paradigm and the better way to view innovations is how does it fit? and how will it evolve?   MOOCs are still in their infancy.  The new medium will improve as instructors and students use it. "

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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