OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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by Stephen Downes
Jan 14, 2016

Feature Article
The Banality Of Death
Stephen Downes, Jan 14, 2016.

No matter how pointless or meaningful we are told that it is, each death is to someone the ultimate tragedy. All deaths are the same. Once we come to realize this, together, we can begin thinking about how we can live together, work together, and begin to cherish this most beautiful thing in the world: life.

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Survey of the Shared Design Elements & Emerging Practices of Competency-Based Education Programs
Public Agenda, 2016/01/14


This report (36 page PDF) gathers baseline data on competency-based education (CBE) initiatives and looks at the adoption and evaluation of various CBE practices. Competencies and assessments, not surprisingly, take the top spot. But 95 percent of respondents also felt CBE should be learner centred. Engaged faculty and external partners, as well as embedded processes for continuous improvement, also ranked high. The bulk of the institutions surveyed were still mostly in the planning phase, though private and for-profit institutions were further along. Accreditation was also mostly in the planning phase, with the notable exception of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which was into scale-up mode. One of the major challenges is posed by the need for data systems that "are automated and compatible with one another, eliminating unnecessary frustrations for faculty, staff, and learners." Pricing models and cost structures were also issues.

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2015 Open and Online Education Trend Report
Marjon Baas, Janina van Hees, Ria Jacobi, Martijn Ouwehand, Robert Schuwer, Fred de Vries, Nicolai van der Woert, SURFNet, 2016/01/14


How is open education impacting on-campus education? Are new target groups being attracted to open and online educations? These are the sorts of questions addressed by this report. It's composed of nine separate reports along with a series of 'intermezzos'. Each of these reports examines an aspect of these two questions (they're all in one big 78 page PDF so I can't link to them separately). Open education, we read, has progressed "beyond the pioneering phase" and into adoption, motivated today mostly by economic and delivery concerns, as opposed to the ideological concerns prevalent in the movement's early days. Yet there are still issues around business models, licensing, and quality. So we see, for example in one contribution from Robert Schuwer and Ulrike Wild, a proposal for an "action plan for the promotion of open education adoption." Such a plan might include an incentive scheme, as proposed by Janina van Hees. There's a lot more here in what is really a very comprehensive document, well recommended.

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Technology and the Imminent Disruption of Higher Education: Is Fear the Path to the Dark Side?
David Wheeler, Academica Forum, 2016/01/14

Good article from Cape Breton University president David Wheeler examining some of the major trends in university education today. Here's a quick summary (quoted from the article):

  • Gamification - enhancing emotional engagement with learning
  • Rewards - from points and badges to certificates and degrees
  • Adaptive learning - from artificial intelligence to tutoring
  • Simulations - from apprenticeships to virtual reality
  • Social learning - reproducing the classroom and peer support online

One of the strengths of Wheeler's article is that he clearly identifies the impact of the trend on learning and provides examples of companies or applications that are innovating in this space. He also links back to a Guardian article from a couple weeks ago citing studies which show clearly the idea that knowledge is a web of associations, and not like disk storage or memory tape. And his message has a hard edge: "If an institution cannot support flexible, high quality, and competitively-priced learning journeys for students of all ages and backgrounds, then another institution will, and it may be based anywhere from Arizona to New Zealand."

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Microsoft Neural Net Shows Deep Learning Can Get Way Deeper
Cade Metz, Wired, 2016/01/14

"neural nets use hardware and software to approximate the web of neurons in the human brain. This idea dates to the 1980s, but in 2012, Krizhevsky and Hinton advanced the technology... Deep neural networks are arranged in layers. Each layer is a different set of mathematical operations—aka algorithms. The output of one layer becomes the input of the next."

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.