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by Stephen Downes
February 15, 2014

The survival of Higher Education
Steve Wheeler, Learning with 'e's, February 14, 2014

Here are the links to Steve Wheeler's series on the survival of higher education:

(1): Changing Roles
(2): Changing Times
(3): The Social Web
(4): 5 Key Objectives
(5): Recommendations

The conclusion to this series is, sad to say, weepy. "It is up to the institution, through clear leadership, strong support of innovation and the adoption of a culture of blame-free experimentation, to ensure that new ways of using technology are discovered and that technology becomes embedded into the fabric of education programmes." Oh! Please help us see the way, oh magnificant leaders! Bleatch.

[Link] [Comment]

Five myths about Moocs
Diana Laurillard, Times Higher Education, February 14, 2014

This came out about a month ago but according to my logs I haven't mentioned here yet, so here goes. First, let me quote Laurillard's five myths:

  • the idea that 'content is free' in education
  • that students can support each other
  • that Moocs solve the problem of expensive undergraduate education
  • that MOOCs address educational scarcity in emerging economies
  • that Education is a mass customer industry

The essence of her criticism is that "a course format that copes with large numbers by relying on peer support and assessment is not an undergraduate education... it requires personalised guidance, which is simply not scalable in the same way."

I think we both agree that MOOCs - even cMOOCs - are not an undergraduate education. The question, though, is broader. Is an undergraduate education what we need in order to meet the social and economic challenges of the day? If we started our students off differently, could they succeed in a technology-rich environment wihtout the need for so much personal attention and hand-holding? A lot rides on the answer to this question. And the MOOC - even the xMOOC - is an attempt to look at some possible answers.

[Link] [Comment]

No More Snow Days?! Part 1
Amy Murin, Keeping Pace, February 14, 2014

The internet has been full of "snow days become e-learning days" over the last few days, not surprisingly. It's common for writers to try to seize on current events to draw readers to their posts. What's interesting is that after enough of this 'snow days' talk, people will realize that you don't have to have snow in order to have e-learning days. What then? p.s. here's Part 2.

[Link] [Comment]

MOOC community?
Matthias Melcher, x28's new Blog, February 14, 2014


"Which is the 'community' of a MOOC?" asks Matthias Melcher. It's a good question. I'm pretty hesitant to use the term 'community' too loosely - it represents a lot of good things, like diversity and interaction and all that, but community also can represent bad things, like conformity, in-groups and cliques, exclusion and a narrow vision. As Melcher says, "the word has many connotations of a close or narrow grouping, with many senses like religious fold or congregation, or confraternities and comradeships." So I prefer 'network'. And I prefer the idea of course as 'network' rather than 'community'. And more: there is so much more to this work than community. Rainforests, for example. Related: thoughts about community as curriculum, by Jenny Mackness. And community my curriculum? by Jaapsoft.

[Link] [Comment]

Google Glass: Recording at Schools
Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, Langwitches Blog, February 14, 2014


Eventually we'll be referring to these in generic terminology, 'wired glasses', say, but for now the technology is still called 'Google Glass' and shows no sign of a new name. And as a new technology it is still in the 'try and see' stage in schools (which is where it should be). Eventually there will come the best pracxtices and the experimental studies and heaps of academic papers and new experts and all the rest. But today, it's still fun. See also: Google Glass in class, by Kathy Schrock.

[Link] [Comment]

U.S. Government's 'bone-headed' decision can be fixed with paperwork, official says
Donald Gilliland, Penn Live, February 14, 2014

I'm wrestling internally with myself about how much I should care about Coursera being blocked in countries like Iran, Syria and Cuba. On the one hand, it's just internal US politics, and it doesn't matter to me whether some US company is blocked by its own government from sending free videos to the rest of the world. On the other hand, it's a law that I'm told wouldn't even apply if Coursera removed the login reqauirement from its service. This is what makes it a 'commercial service' under US law (accurately, too, as they're no doubt monetizing login information; why collect it otherwise?). And it's interesting to see (and encourage) efforts like this Diigo group to free Coursera content so it can be viewed openly (how long before Coursera clamps down on this, becoming officially a locked-content provider?). And I do think people in Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba - and any other place with a government we're not supposed to like - should be able to access open online learning. But I'm back to: it's just Coursera being Coursera, why should I care? The rest of the world is filled with cool stuff.

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QuickWire: Pearson Offers a Badge Platform
Lawrence Biemiller, The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog, February 14, 2014

Pearson is offering a commercial version of a badge platform that support's Mozilla's backpack standard. Dows anyone care to lay odds on how long it will be before Pearson adds proprietary commercial-only elements to its badge platform, in an effort to squeeze open source badges out of the picture? Ah, but maybe I'm being too cynical. According to the story, the badges will complement “a paper-based representation of a credential by providing proof of an earner’s achievement in a web-enabled format that can be validated quickly and easily.”

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The Learn Tracker
Edward Tanguay, The Learn Tracker, February 14, 2014


This is one of those projects I like a lot. Edward Tanguay has been watching MOOC videos at a terrific clip and has been posting summaries pn his website. People learning English will especially appreciate the work as there is a vocabulary section attached to each video, and fill-in-the-blank word lessons. Tanguay is also learning Italian and includes links to Yabla videos (these are less useful as Yably is a subscription site).

[Link] [Comment]

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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