OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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by Stephen Downes
Jul 17, 2014

Will SOOCs eat MOOCs for breakfast?
Unattributed, Pearson, Jul 16, 2014

You can almost hear the disbelief in Audrey Watters's voice as she says "wow" on reading this article from Pearson advocating a form of online learning that removes "unwanted diversity" from open online courses. Yes, you read that correctly, and it's not out of context. "This 'unwanted diversity' and one-size-fits-all approach makes peer-to-peer collaboration largely ineffective, leading to poor outcomes, and high dropouts." The replacement "selectively open online course" (or SOOC) is suggested - though I would replace the term with "Closed Online Course," which is what it is. This perspective is related to this article in the journal Higher Learning Research Communications in which Watson Scott Swail suggests "we might need to decide, on a policy basis, who we want to go to college, who we want to succeed, and who will pay for it." The list in the article PDF makes it clear who Swail thinks create the need for closed online courses: part time, low GPA, older, non-white (except for Asian), first generation, low income, etc. Those are the people that real university students pay huge tuitions to make sure their alma maters exclude. And this whole open online course thing is messing it up. No wonder there's such opposition.

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The Asilomar Convention for Learning Research in Higher Education
Mitchell L. Stevens, Susan S. Silbey, Asilomar 2014, Jul 16, 2014

Worth noting: "On 1-4 June, 2014, a group of educators, scientists, and legal/ethical scholars assembled at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. Their task was to develop a framework to inform decisions about appropriate use of data and technology in learning research for higher education. A modified Chatham House Rule guided their deliberations, which produced the convention presented here." Via Inside Higher Ed. Note that the attendees are almost all exclusively from the US university system, and that therefore no attempt at diversity of representation or perspective was attempted here.

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How E-Reading Threatens Learning in the Humanities
Naomi S. Baron, The Chronicle: Commentary, Jul 16, 2014

Having made my living somehow as a student of the humanities, and having read extensively both in the paper-based and digital forms of long and short text, I think I'm in a good position to discuss this commentary in the Chronicle (where else?) from Naomi S. Baron explaining why digital reading is so impoverished. In a nutshell: it isn't. The article looks at reading strictly from the perspective of a paper-based reader, and the surveys (unreferenced and unlinked) seem to be of people from that perspective as well. The core of the criticism is essentially that people can't read deeply online.

"Are students even reading Milton or Thucydides or Wittgenstein these days," she asks. The invocation of Wittgenstein creates an odd example, making me wonder whether she has read Wittgenstein. Reading Wittgenstein is like reading OLDaily (not an accident). Wittgenstein's work was created on small sheets of paper or index cards, which had no fixed order (his books, other than the Tractatus, were actually assembled by his students, who relied on their own notes from lectures as well as Wittgenstein's actual writing). You would never simply 'read' Wittgenstein. And that's the problem with Baron's argument: a failure to understand that there are multiple ways to approach text.

And this makes me think of the obvious counterexample to her argument: software programming. Virtually all of it is done on a computer screen. It is deep, exacting work, involving a precise grammatically perfect body of text running many times longer than War and Peace. It can be read beginning to end, but is better read with intent (to identify a variable, to debug a function, to optimize a sort or search). It proves that people have the focus to create and master deep and complex works digitally. And, I contend, they can do this with Wittgenstein, with Milton or (if they must) Thucydides (far better to read Herodotus or Hume). Indeed, one of the reasons people read shorter items online is that, in many ways, they read much more deeply, extracting and even debating picayune details in book-length discussion threads.

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Bringing It to the Masses
Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Jul 16, 2014


I like this more than I should, probably. But it's a great initiative and does for the sciences what I would like to do for education technology research, if only I had the time: to cut through the jargon and state what it is the research actually shows. "Publiscize has an intuitive interface that allows users to create accounts either as scientists, organizations, or “enthusiasts” with access to daily email alerts about new content." It's also, to me, what the news should be more like. Our news spends a lot of time on violence and conflict (and the rest of the time following celebrities). I think the news would be a lot more interesting if if focused more on discoveries and innovation.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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