Lesli A. Maxwell / Published Online: March 5, 2012
Salman Khan, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Business School, was working as a hedge fund manager when he began posting videos on YouTube six years ago to tutor young family members in math. That led to the 2008 creation of the Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that has built a free, online collection of thousands of digital lessons (nearly 3,000 of them created by Mr. Khan himself) and exercises in subjects ranging from algebra to microeconomics. Education Week Staff
Writer Lesli A. Maxwell recently interviewed Mr. Kahn about the evolution of the academy and its potential for changing K-12 education.
How do you think classroom instruction is going to look five years from now?
I'm not sure of the timeline, but the classic teacher in front of the room at a chalkboard lecturing while you have 20 to 35 students at their desks taking notes—I think that model will soon go away. I think that's going to be kind of blown away in favor of a model where every student is working at their own pace and the teacher now has a much higher-value role as someone who is diagnosing students' weaknesses, who is mentoring students both on the academic material, but also mentoring students on becoming good teachers of their peers.
Explain what the confluence of technological and educational factors has been at this point in time to allow the Khan Academy to flourish and expand. Why is it working?
I think the breadth of the content on the Khan Academy also gave it an experiential edge, and people learned to trust it. It wasn't just about one concept you learn about here and then you go to another website. [snip].
How does your business model work when all of your content is free? How do you sustain that?
It's a question we constantly ask ourselves. In the medium term, we've had the benefit of some small, medium, and large philanthropists, donors, and foundations to support us. We are a not-for-profit, so we are not a business in the traditional sense. I think there will always be this case that yes, it will require capital to scale this out. We are at 4 million unique users. What will happen when we are at 40 million and want to cover so many different topics and have simulations? That will require capital.
Where did the idea of the "flipped classroom" come from?
Very little of this did I think of myself. I also want to emphasize that the flipped classroom is not what we view as the ideal or the endpoint. We view it almost as a transition state. [snip].
We would say, instead of holding fixed the time and date when you learn something and the variable is how well you learn it, we're saying let's hold fixed how well you learn it, and you learn it at a deep level, and what's variable is how long you have to learn it, and when you learn it, and when you revisit the material.
What are the downsides of this approach?
This isn't an attempt to put it on students' plates on their own time. Even if you just talk about that flipped approach, I actually think the problem-solving is the much more important part of the experience than the lecture. [snip].
What are the opportunities that this approach creates for schools to offer more-customized learning for students?
The base assumption of the model is that it's completely customized to the student and it's optimally differentiated, and students are working exactly at their pace. But what it does for schools, … it allows them to rethink a lot of the assumptions that we've been making about what a school should even be like for the last hundreds of years, which is one teacher, one classroom. [snip]s
Anything to add?
This has absolutely nothing to do with replacing teachers. When we talk about getting lectures out of the room, that's because we think we can move teachers up the value chain. That they are better off forming the bonds and connections. [snip]
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute today launched Education Reform for the Digital Era, a new digital learning compilation of papers in its Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series.
Education Reform for the Digital Era takes a close look at the policies and practices needed to ensure the quality and success of the digital learning movement in order to avoid the mistakes of the charter school movement. The volume seeks to find effective ways to take online and blended schools to scale by addressing policy issues around quality control, staffing, funding, and governance for the digital sector.
The volume was written by Bryan C. Hassel, Emily Ayscue Hassel, Federick M. Hess, Tamara Butler Battaglino, Matt Haldeman, Eleanor Laurans, Paul T. Hill, and John E. Chubb with a foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr. and Daniela Fairchild.
A copy is available as a downloadable PDF or ebook on Kindle, Nook, iPad or other ereader.
Several weeks ago, Chris Lehmann tweeted from the Ed Innovation Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, "Educators - if you don't see that there is a billion dollar industry wanting to take over schools using tech as the Trojan Horse, wake up."
If I were to have one quibble with the metaphor, it would be this: the free marketeers are not hiding inside the horse, ready to jump out only after they are let in the gates of schools. They are riding right on top of the horse, shouting "Hey, this is a great horse! Let me tell you how we plan to use this horse to advance our free-market ideology in the education sector." The guy riding on the horse then starts reading Education Reform for the Digital Era, the most recent release of the Fordham Institute.
My summary of the free market argument for reforming educational systems to allow more online learning ... looks something like this:
The market is the most efficient system in the world for generating and distributing high quality goods and services. Education is no different than any other sector of society--it provides a service for which people pay money. In the U.S., however, 14,000 school districts have a local, state-run monopoly over education, and the leaders of these systems have little incentive to innovate and improve and great incentives to restrict any efforts to disrupt their monopoly. [snip].
Charter schools, ... , were a first step in this agenda because they, in theory, allowed students to choose among a variety of options, and the competition among choices would force better outcomes from any schools that survived within the system. Even more important to free market advocates are "vouchers." Basically, rather than funding schools, municipalities should be funding kids. [snip].. Overtime, the most high value learning opportunities will compete successfully and the weakest will disappear.
In a brick and mortar schooling world, this competition was always imagined to be between schools. Online learning provides free-market advocates the chance to take their model to a new level: This competition can shift from the school level to the course level. Why force students to purchase all their classes from one school? Why not let them buy Algebra II from Khan Academy, Spanish I from Rosetta Stone, and P.E. from their local charter school?
To make this vision of learning possible, the key policy action is to stop funding schools and start funding kids. [snip]. Quality control will happen by students voting with their feet.
The other key policy actions all have to do with removing barriers to entry into this newly emerging market. Remove all requirements for teacher certification, since we don't know what makes a good online teacher. Remove class size restrictions, since big classes taught by the mega-stars might be better than small classes taught by average teachers. Restrict the power of teachers unions and school boards to protect their local monopolies. Let anyone--public, private, parochial, non-profit, for-profit, whoever--compete for student's dollars in an online marketplace.
This is a radical re-imagining of what it means to participate in schooling. Networked technologies have transformed numerous sectors of our economy over the last decade: business, journalism, politics, and even our own identities. Should education be next? If so, is the direction to go?
Buried in the public responses to the news about MOOC (Massively Open Online Courses) and OER initiatives from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Penn, Princeton and others is a deceptively important assumption. The assumption goes something like this: the open digital educational materials made available through these initiatives are of value because they are the product of these prestigious, highly selective institutions.
On the surface, this seems perfectly logical. It’s an interpretation of value based on the deeply engrained logic and criteria that people have long used to rank different institutions: the “best” institutions, ... . [snip].
The traditional criteria for evaluating value in higher education may be misleading in this case, however. Prestigious institutions may, in fact, be the least well prepared and least well-suited of all types of institutions to lead the MOOC expansion. The particular orientation, interests, and market focus of these institutions, may limit their capacity to meet the needs that MOOCs typically seek to fulfill.
Prestigious University = High Quality Digital Instructional Materials?
First, let’s consider the specific “output” of these initiatives. Harvard and others are producing digital education content, wrapped with some form of assessment. [snip].
But these elite institutions earn their high ranking by placing their emphasis on research, not on teaching. This is true on an institutional as well as faculty level. [snip].
“A remarkable feature of American colleges is the lack of attention that most faculties pay to the growing body of research about how much students are learning and how they could be taught to learn more. . . . One would think faculties would receive these findings eagerly. Yet one investigator has found that fewer than 10 percent of college professors pay any attention to such work when they prepare for their classes. [snip].
We have, then, a general misalignment of institutional strengths and incentives with the project deliverables. Yet, it is the research productivity that is at the foundation of the excitement behind these initiatives. The ability and motivation to produce high quality educational media, particularly the type that requires considerable independent learning, is not the same as deep subject matter expertise that comes from a research focus.
This is not to suggest that there aren’t a number of great educators within these institutions. There are, of course. But the ability of an organization to deliver the best possible value ... is always dependent on the focus of the organization; what kinds of work it incentivizes, the criteria used in hiring, how it defines excellence, etc. [snip].
One could counter this viewpoint by pointing out that these elite institutions have the resources to invest more heavily in teaching materials. Which is true, but it also irrelevant. [snip]. But what we are seeking is “value”, and value is always a balance between costs and quality, and superior value is less likely to come from institutions whose focus lies in research.
Learners and Content, A Misalignment
Again, the excitement generated about these materials and courses is based largely on the fact that they come to us from well-known, elite institutions. It then follows that the more similar these courses are to those traditionally offered from the elite institutions ... , the better. However, the “authenticity” of MOOC’s may actually conflict with the broader social and educational objectives that MOOCs serve.
The majority of people that don’t have access to higher education and who would most benefit from MOOCs are generally speaking not the same people for whom MIT-level material is appropriate.[snip].
Do Intentions Matter?
MIT, Harvard and others are not launching these initiatives in order to grow their markets, expand revenue, or reduce costs. [snip].
Rather, the motivation for Harvard and others is primarily social and reputational. While the initiatives may generate some benefits for their own students ), they are “giving away” their wares because they can afford to, and because philanthropic acts such as these support their brands.
The motivations of these institutions matters because it influences, first, the likelihood of success and second, sustainability. If our broader interest is in finding new strategies that will improve the quality and cost of higher education, institutions whose success is based on exclusivity and who have the most to lose if the current model of higher education is disrupted may not be the best horse to bet on.
I applaud the efforts of these prestigious institutions. Their participation has generated considerable publicity for new models of higher education. And their initiative creates more movement, more flux in the higher education space which likely will be the impetus for more new ideas, which is exactly what’s needed. Nevertheless, our excitement about their participation in MOOC and OER; excitement based on the traditional logic for evaluating excellence in higher education, has little bearing and relevance in this case. If our objective is to find and support new models of higher education that are likely to address the most needy students, increase quality and reduce costs, I’m not sure that this philanthropic model, coming from institutions with little need to truly innovate, and that have a deeply vested interest in the status quo, will produce the best outcomes.
When Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced this month that they were forming a partnership to offer online courses free to the masses, they pledged $60-million to the effort, dubbed edX. [snip] All for courses that, for now, won’t bring in a penny in tuition revenue.
Harvard and MIT are not alone. Their announcement followed closely behind a similar one just a few weeks earlier by another group of elite institutions: the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford and Princeton Universities. That effort, through a new company called Coursera, ... .
With some real dollars at stake, do these elite universities know something about the future of higher education that the rest of us don’t? Or with their billions in endowments, do they have the luxury of throwing money at ideas, to see which ones stick? Or are they simply altruistic, and want to provide free education to the world?
From where I sit, it doesn’t seem like any of these universities have a business plan for these massive open online courses or MOOC’s, ... . In recent weeks, at various gatherings, I’ve heard plenty of ideas for a business model, although I’m not sure all of them are viable. They could eventually follow the iTunes model and sell access to a course for $1.99. [snip]. Depending on the course subject, they could sell access to corporate recruiters. [snip].
Perhaps the best idea I’ve heard so far is that the universities could use these courses as an alternative admissions system. This makes sense given these institutions recruit far and wide to expand their pool of applicants in the hope of finding that perfect student. [snip].
The MOOC’s enable the elite universities to discover talented students participating in classes just like the ones offered on their campuses, and completing assignments made by their professors. [snip].
The question that remains, of course, is scale. In this case, how much is too much? Thrun’s Stanford course attracted 160,000 students from 190 countries. There were 1,000 students who had perfect or near-perfect scores on homework and tests. [ssip]..
One thoughtful futurist at an elite institution, who is thinking about this model, told me that perhaps the alternative admissions method could feed a new school created at the university. [snip] Or maybe the new school within the university would take them through graduation. There are plenty of options, many of which would allow these elite institutions to answer their critics ... by expanding classes at the same time they maintain their quality and air of exclusivity.
The P2PU School of Ed brings the model of open, community-based peer learning to professional learning for K-12 teachers.
It's about hands-on learning driven by each educator's particular needs and classroom situations. It's about connecting, collaborating, and creating, not just reading or studying. All courses in this school are free, open-licensed (CC BY), and online. You can use the content in them for any purpose you like as long as you cite the source.
Another new round of courses will be starting in June. Let us know if you'd like to participate and stay tuned for more details!
Wendy K. Drexler, a postdoctoral associate at the U. of Florida who says huge open classes have provided her with valuable learning experiences, is planning to help teach one on technology and learning.
Marc Parry / August 29, 2010
In his work as a professor, Stephen Downes used to feel that he was helping those who least needed it. His students at places like the University of Alberta already had a leg up in life and could afford the tuition.
So when a colleague suggested they co-teach an online class in learning theory at the University of Manitoba, in 2008, Mr. Downes welcomed the chance to expand that privileged club. The idea: Why not invite the rest of world ... .
Over 2,300 people showed up.
They didn't get credit, but they didn't get a bill, either. In an experiment that could point to a more open future for e-learning, Mr. Downes and George Siemens attracted about 1,200 noncredit participants last year. They expect another big turnout the next class, in January.
The Downes-Siemens course has become a landmark in the small but growing push toward "open teaching." Universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have offered free educational materials online for years, but the new breed of open teachers—at the University of Florida, Brigham Young University, and the University of Regina, among other places—is now giving away the learning experience, too.
Openness proponents contend that distance education often isolates students behind password-protected gates. By unlatching those barriers, professors ... are inventing a way of learning online that feels less like a digital copy of face-to-face classes and more like the open, social, connected Web of blogs, wikis, and Twitter. It can expose students to a far broader network than they would encounter discussing their lessons with a small group of graduate students.
Still, the concept is spreading. The classes have even spawned a new name: Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC. In February, Wendy K. Drexler, a postdoctoral associate at the University of Florida who studied with Mr. Siemens and Mr. Downes, will help lead a new would-be MOOC about technology and learning. [snip].
Openness vs. Control
But the difficult questions remain.
Start with privacy. How do professors protect students who feel uncomfortable—or unsafe—communicating in a classroom on the open Web? How do they deal with learning content that isn't licensed for open use? What about informal students who want course credit?
In the class taught by Mr. Downes, a research officer at National Research Council Canada, and Mr. Siemens, a researcher and strategist with the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University, one woman joined simply to attack the concept of the course, Mr. Downes recalls. [snip]
The Students' View
But she learned to love it. It's a feeling shared by some other open-course alumni, both students and professors, whose glowing descriptions can make these happenings sound like digital Woodstocks for the educational-technology set.
Not that everything was revolutionary. As a for-credit student, Ms. Drexler jumped through some of the usual hoops: papers, final project, weekly readings (though those were posted openly on a wiki). What was different was the radically decentralized, ... .
Instead of restricting posts to a closed discussion forum in a system like Blackboard, the class left students free to debate anywhere. Some used Moodle, an open-source course-management system. Others preferred blogs, Twitter, or Ning. In the virtual world Second Life, students built two Spanish-language sites. Some even got together face-to-face to discuss the material.
"This is a very different way to learn," Ms. Drexler says. "I as a learner had to take responsibility. I had to take control of that learning process way more than I've had to do in any traditional type of course, whether it's face-to-face or online."
Instructors, for their part, curated rather than dictated the discussion. Each day they e-mailed a newsletter highlighting key points. While 2,300 people got the newsletter, a far smaller group, perhaps 150, actively participated in the course. Only those taking the course for credit had their work evaluated, ... .
Much like the founders of Napster shredded the notion of an album, allowing users to remix songs however they pleased, Mr. Siemens is hacking the format of a class.
Future of Open Teaching
The question is whether open teaching has a future beyond early adapters. Distance educators who haven't taken the plunge yet are interested, but also cautious.
On privacy, some open teachers are already adjusting their courses to address student needs. Mr. Couros, at Regina, has begun more explicitly emphasizing a "safe space" for enrolled students, who are typically hesitant at first and crave a private forum for certain questions. He sets up protected areas for them with tools like Google Groups and Moodle. [snip].
Mr. Downes, who writes a well-known education technology blog called OLDaily, permits students to create private groups if they like. But that isn't the default position. [snip].
Beyond privacy, distance educators also question how well the open-teaching model, which has been limited mostly to educational-technology courses, would apply to more-traditional subjects that may require more guidance for students.
But the biggest obstacle might be technology. At the end of the day, the popularity of open classes will depend on whether learning-management software companies like Blackboard make it easy to publish open versions of online courses, ... .
Even Manitoba, the university hosting the Downes-Siemens class, has so far limited its model to a pilot project in an emerging-technologies certificate program. Open teaching is up against academe's history of private classrooms and intellectual-property ownership, says Lori Wallace, dean of extended education. For it to spread more broadly in distance education, she says, would involve "some very significant changes to the culture."
I decided to go back to school because I was underemployed and mind-achingly bored. I decided to study computer science because I was tired of not knowing how the Internet worked. And I decided to go to Udacity because I was broke.
Udacity is a free university ... that offers “massive open online courses”—or, MOOCs—to anyone with a decent Internet connection and a little self-discipline. Founded by Stanford roboticist Sebastian Thrun ... Udacity’s first class offerings appeared this February. [snip].
To get a glimpse of wonderland, I enrolled in Udacity’s CS101: Building a Search Engine, with tens of thousands of other students from across the globe. [snip]. On the screen appeared Dave Evans, a computer scientist at the University of Virginia. Over the next seven weeks, his goal was teach newbies like me enough Python—a basic programming language—to build a mini Google. No coding experience was required, ... . [snip].
In video lecture, we covered the history of computing, from 18th century mathematicians to PageRank—the magic algorithm that powers Google—and I began writing code the first week. [snip]. Through Unit 1’s 40-odd exercises, quizzes, and lectures, I learned how to talk to the computer in a language and syntax it would understand. [snip].
I could, of course, spend years learning Python, and CS101 probably doesn’t teach me the breadth of skill I’d want before adding “Programmer” to my CV, but the work required was no joke. [snip].
Attrition rates aside, MOOCs are hot in Silicon Valley right now. No fewer than five sites now offer academic courses, including Coursera ... and, most recently, edX, a joint venture between MIT and Harvard. Unlike Udacity, Coursera is sourcing lectures from a consortium of Ivy League schools, among them Princeton and Penn. (September’s catalog includes an introduction to American poetry, as well as Greek and Roman mythology.) EdX, ... , will make its platform open-source, so that colleges anywhere can borrow, adapt, and use it.
MOOC students don’t receive official college credit, but, as Udacity and Coursera have already shown, edification is its own reward. And the universities get something equally valuable: reams and reams of data about online learners. [snip].
Udacity isn’t concerned with students who fall short. Its creators are busy trying to help those who ace every triple-gold-star problem and never miss a quiz ... . These are the people that Udacity hopes to help recruit to talent-hungry dot-coms like Google and Amazon—and take a cut in finder’s fees. Voilà! Udacity pays its server costs, and students who’ve never seen an ivy leaf find programming work in the States.
I caught a break when Evans announced, mid-term, a change in Udacity policy: our final grade would either be averaged from the weekly assignments or based entirely on the final exam ... . [anip].
The exam consisted of eight regular questions, such as writing a program to decide whether values a, b, and c, were identical, and three “gold star” problems, such as tweaking our homemade search engine to handle multiword queries. [snip].
A week later, an email appeared in my inbox. Hal was pleased to inform me that I’d been awarded a “certificate of accomplishment with high distinction.” Udacity wouldn’t be passing my CV on to Google’s recruiters anytime soon, but neither was I the dumbest kid in the class. My PDF diploma lacked ornate Latin script or a university seal, but looked very official nonetheless. It even had a cute little robot on it. I printed it out at the library and tacked it to the wall above my desk, for the days when I feel like the digital world is passing me by.
Open to individual educators from across the UK HE, FE, and community and skills sectors, the MOOC will aim: to increase the uptake of OERs through embedding the use of curriculum design tools, practices and approaches in individual practice and design team culture; to empower practitioners to become change agents in their local contexts; and to produce a collection of CC-licensed OER resources for wider use after the MOOC ends. Weekly activities will feature a range of presenters with a focus on foregrounding successful JISC and HEA funded UK projects and giving UK practitioners access to (and opportunity to learn from) some of the best of European initiatives.
We will design activities using the OULDI resources into the MOOC, and we will also use them in designing the MOOC itself - and share our efforts as a worked example. We will invite contributions from other projects of the JISC Curriculum Design programme. We will not be able to package or design activities around these contributions ourselves, but we will provide an example of how we package and integrate the OULDI resources - and will welcome any partners who wish to submit their own resources similarly packaged.
We will use, and adapt, Cloudworks as a platform for the MOOC, thus demonstrating its potential as a vehicle for conducting similar activities.
A learning design for a 8-10-week MOOC with associated resources, links to tools and design mapping showing intent and objectives.
The delivery of a 8-10 week MOOC in Autumn 2012, supported by an online learning environment (including use of CloudEngine software).
Series of podcasts slidesets and resource sheets contributed by presenters from partner institutions, other invited presenters and participants.
Hyper-linked list of learning design tools, resources and projects including reference to JISC’s Design Studio and Cloudworks.
Evidence from participants of the tasks undertaken – for example, if a task asks participants to review how their institutional processes consider arning design, the output could be a range of reviews of processes from across the sector.
An OER ‘Learning Design’ course pack: resources developed for the MOOC will be collated and packaged as an OER and deposited in OpenLearn.
Selected learning design projects developed by MOOC participants, documented in theform of design narratives, OEDs (open educational designs) and OERs.
An evaluation report will be made freely and openly available under a creative commonslicence. It will be deposited in ORO (Open Resources Online ) repository and referenced from Cloudworks and the JISC Design Studio.
Writing and presentation of at least one conference paper.
Exposure, use and embedding of learning curriculum tools, resources and approaches developed by JISC funded projects and others in to individual professional practice.
Empowering practitioners within their institutions to become agents for change
Raise awareness of learning design within the UK education and skills community by creating a ‘buzz’ around the concept.
Between 2 and 5 documented and evaluated demonstrator projects, showcasing the use of curriculum tools, resources and practices to address concrete challenges in genuine institutional contexts.
Between 2 and 5 documented and evaluated demonstrator projects, showcasing the use of curriculum tools, resources and practices to address concrete challenges in genuine institutional contexts.
Exposure, use and embedding of learning curriculum tools, resources and approaches developed by JISC funded projects and others in to individual professional practice.Between 2 and 5 documented and evaluated demonstrator projects, showcasing the use of curriculum tools, resources and practices to address concrete challenges in genuine institutional contexts.
Yishay Mor, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6A ,Tel: 07891456690 / Yishay.Mor@open.ac.uk
One of the signs that technology is on the verge of changing higher education in profound ways is the recent rise of MOOCs. That stands for Massively Open Online Courses, and the most recent high-profile entrant into this burgeoning field is edX, a shared venture between Harvard University and MIT that will start offering classes in Fall 2012.
When the Harvard and MIT partnership was announced in early May, Steve Kolowich wrote about the rise of MOOCs for InsideHigherEd.com, taking a close look at both edX and Coursera, ... .
Only time will tell which MOOC model will prove to be sustainable. But for now, what it means to you and me is the same: free worldwide access to courses taught by some of the best minds at some of the nation's top universities ... .
One big difference, of course, is that you won't get course credit toward a degree. But in most cases, you can earn a certificate for successfully completing a MOOC, and before long, employers and schools may start to place value on MOOCs. [snip].
Lots of people are already taking advantage of the opportunity. The MIT prototype course for edX, a class called Circuits and Electronics, drew 120,000 registrants, and a Stanford course in Machine Learning offered through Coursera attracted 104,000 registrants last fall ... .
When top-tier schools like Harvard, MIT and Stanford start giving education away to anyone who wants it, something big is happening. The forces at work here are complicated and there are many unanswerable questions about what MOOCs will mean in the long run. [snip].
While classrooms or campuses are not going away, the nature of a classroom is evolving. Sometimes they will be physical places, and sometimes they will be virtual. [snip].
More and more, educational technology is going to allow people to view education as part of an entrepreneurial approach to work and life--learning what they want when they want, getting the skills they need when they need them. MOOCs may not always be open to all and may not always be free, but for now, they are paving the way to a future where education is transformed by technology.
George Siemens, who leads Athabasca University’s Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute, makes the case for why colleges should experiment with inviting tens of thousands of students to participate in their courses free online. The model poses challenges to traditional education models, but will it work for teaching Chaucer?
Something I learned in high school history has come back unexpectedly while I’ve been brooding about Jonathan Rees’ opposition to MOOCs and his views on what they threaten.
A couple of miles away from the place where I grew up is this beautiful Iron Age hill fort:
Within the inner circle are the remaining stone foundations of an original castle, and—critically—the well that stored water for the whole settlement. Soldiers controlled the resources in the middle, and the villagers and clergy lived in the outer circle, in wooden buildings of which nothing remains. In the early 12th century, exasperated by disputes with the castle guard over access to the well, the clergy took off with the community and restablished the city in a new location, where it still is today.
It’s a metaphorical stretch, but for me this decisive, strategic and disruptive move is a caution to those who are guarding the well of traditional higher education. [snip].
In other words, we’re not kept in business by market demand for the service we supply, but by taxpayer-voter consensus that a public higher education system is national infrastructure worth funding, even though the majority of the population don’t get to use it. [snip].
And in return, we offer something that’s under our exclusive control. This is why even though interested learners can now access free, open, online course content from anywhere around the world, this capacity on its own doesn’t change much, for a simple reason. Ryan Craig of University Ventures, writing for Inside Higher Ed, points out that:
the threshold issue is the gap between non-credit-bearing MOOCs and meaningful credentials, currently in the form of associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. … We would live in a better world if love of learning were the key motivator for payment and persistence in higher education. Alas, based on the 85 percent drop rate in Thrun’s non-credit bearing MOOC, we can fairly conclude that it is the credential that attaches to you for a lifetime.
In other words, as long as there’s a gap between MOOCs and massively open online degrees (MOODs?), the self-accrediting degree-awarding power of traditional institutions is safe in the keep.
Ryan Craig doesn’t think the world’s elite institutions will start awarding degrees assembled out of certificates of completion of even their own massively open course offerings. Why would they? The money they can throw into high quality resource development is small beer in relation to their overall budget. [snip].
But he sees the potential for a more disruptive MOOC-led shift coming from a different kind of university, that will somehow find a way to offer a low-cost, no-frills education using the mass transport model, airline-style:
It could be a private-sector university. Or perhaps a very innovative traditional university ... .
This is exactly what worries Jonathan Rees: what else will be thrown out, along with the existing model? If MOOCs represent a threat to the working conditions assured by the existing model, should we be opposing them now, on principle?
I agree that the Stanford-style MOOCs present a bluntly unappealing vision of worsening rank divisions in the global academic workforce: a small number of international scholar-superstars, a larger number of tenured faculty operating as local learning management franchisees, and an even larger number of local and virtual adjuncts competing on the world market to offer the best coaching service at the lowest rates. [snip].
But before we haul down the portcullis, it’s worth remembering that the older, flatter connectivist MOOCs have been built on really different principles. They use a loosely networked model of peer collaboration to support participants working together on shared ideas, not just standing about as witnesses to the spectacle of expertise. [snip].
So the place where MOOCs could really challenge universities is in our attempt to hang on to the contract for graduate professional development. [snip].
What if we stopped guarding this well? What if we all started working openly across institutions at the graduate level? This way, we would share the role of facilitation, provide more collaborative models of expert thinking, and offer wider access to a much more imaginative range of graduate-level offerings with a much more open model of cross-institutional accreditation. This way, students who want to pursue a self-managed and self-tailored approach to their later learning and professional development could do so with others from around the world. What would we lose?
Mainline universities loudly proclaim their love of online learning — and pedagogical innovation more generally — while doing everything possible to slow it.
Peter G. Klein, Guest blogger / May 17, 2012
I posted last week on Organizations and Markets about the tepid,and entirely predictable, reaction of the higher education establishment to the information technology revolution. Mainline universities loudly proclaim their love of online learning — and pedagogical innovation more generally — while doing everything possible to retard it. The strategy has been to make a few easy, low-cost, conservative moves that preserve the status quo, such as putting some existing courses online, while trying to suppress the innovative outsiders like Phoenix, DeVry, TED, Kahn Academy, etc. It’s a classic example of what Clayton Christensen calls sustaining innovation — incremental changes that keep the existing market structure intact. The last thing the higher-ed establishment wants is disruptive innovation that challenges its dominant incumbent position.
[snip]. If there is fundamental reform, it will surely come from outside the guild system, not within it. [snip]. ... [L]ook instead to bolder experiments like the Mises Academy — not a duplicate of the standard degree program, but a modular, flexible, focused approach to teaching Austrian economics and related subjects. Call it guerrilla teaching. Let’s see where this new movement can go!
Last week, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote with evangelical zeal about the arrival of Massive Online Open Courses, the free courses from top institutions available to students anywhere in the world. Not only would MOOCs be a huge industry in five years, he said, but financially strapped community colleges could use the online lectures while their own professors could work “face-to-face” with students.
Also noticing and reacting to Friedman’s column last week were a bunch of faculty members who took to the blogs, complaining about his column, but worrying about their own future. A post by Mark Brown, an associate professor of government at California State University, Sacramento, criticized the notion that MOOCs could be a solution to the scarcity of public funding in higher education.
Another blog post, entitled, “Professors of the world unite. You have more to lose than just your jobs,” by Jonathan Rees, a professor of history at Colorado State University, Pueblo, said: “…the kind of technologically-induced educational and financial disaster that would make Tom Friedman cackle with glee is a lot more likely if you decide to stand silently and let other people make your university’s decisions for you without your voice being heard.”
So with all this rumbling, what do the three national unions that represent faculty members think about the MOOC movement and the faculty role? So far, they are dubious at best, and say that they are studying the issues involved.
Cary Nelson, the outgoing president of the American Association of University Professors, said that online models such as Coursera – an online entity offering free courses from Stanford University, Princeton University, University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania – can be terrific for delivering educational materials to retirement homes, “where folks are unlikely to assume any social responsibilities for the ‘knowledge’ they have acquired.”
“But it's not education, and it's not even a reliable means for credentialing people,” Nelson said. Education calls for real interaction with faculty members and a consensus through which faculty members can design, manage and evaluate degree programs, he said. “It’s fine to put lectures online, but this plan only degrades degree programs if it plans to substitute for them.”
Martin Snyder, senior associate general secretary at the AAUP, said the organization has principles in place asserting that faculty must have control over the constitution of the curriculum and the delivery, structure and assessment of a course. [snip].
Faculty groups should be concerned with curriculum control, said Mark Smith, senior policy analyst at the National Education Association. [snip].
Unions should strengthen contracts when it comes to curricular control and intellectual property, Smith said in an article called “Negotiating Virtual Space,” which he co-authored in 2011 for the NEA Almanac. [snip].
Sandra Schroeder, chair of the American Federation of Teachers Higher Education Program and Policy Council and president of AFT Washington, said that many questions remain about “about how, when and for whom these course options are valuable, particularly about the extent to which these programs can address the needs of students who require the most help.” [snip].
Schroeder suggested that instead of focusing on the “latest magic bullet,” educators need to address declining investments at the state level and on instruction at individual institutions. [snip].
One role that faculty groups can play is to ensure that MOOCs aren’t touted as a cost-cutting device for traditional universities, said Brown, the professor at CSU Sacramento. A dangerous scenario that Brown envisions: Super professors at elite universities replacing lectures by faculty members at other universities. [snip].
Margaret Soltan, an associate professor of English at George Washington University who was the first at the university to offer a MOOC, said that organizations such as the AAUP might not have any role in the conversation at the moment. [snip].
As for those professors worrying over MOOCs threatening their livelihoods, she has one word for them: relax. “Online is clearly inferior, even if done very well, [compared to] face-to-face education and to the social rites of growing up which college represents for many, many people,” she said.
"You dropped 150 grand on an education that you could've had for a dollar-fifty in late charges at the public library."
"Yeah, but I will have a degree. And you'll be serving my kids fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip."
While the characters in Good Will Hunting aren't discussing it, their conversation can shed some light on the current fervor over online education. These new initiatives will be more like public libraries than universities. They may come cheap — likely more than $1.50 in late charges — but those of us who aren't geniuses will still be sitting in lecture halls and discussion sections.
MIT recently launched MITx: the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange, in their own words "an initiative to offer exciting, challenging and enriching courses to anyone, anywhere, who has the motivation and ability to engage MIT’s educational content." [snip].
Many stakeholders in higher education and the media are getting excited. Stanford President John Hennessy said of the project and others like it, "There's a tsunami coming." Many media heavyweights, such as the New York Times' David Brooks are buying into the hype. Anya Kemenetz published DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education (2010) and The Edupunk's Guide to a DIY Credential.
Are we on the brink of an education revolution? I have doubts. [snip].. And I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Kemenetz' books and have found them a useful guide for navigating sites like the Khan Academy and MIT OpenCourseware. But will these projects be more like a university or a public library? [snip].
But, so far, public libraries and the Internet haven't been substitutes for schools and universities. One reason is that watching or attending lectures is, for most students, similar to reading books — it serves as an introduction to material. So a library of lecture videos will likely be pretty similar to a library of books. In order for learning of mastery of skills to take place, synthesis — where students, typically through various academic activities, move information from short- to long-term memory — is crucial.
By the way, VHS and VCRs were invented over 30 years ago, so the argument that online education will work because students will have access to so-called "superstar" professors seems far-fetched.
To be fair, many online education initiatives ask students to partake in these "synthesis" activities. But there's a legitimate question over whether the incentives will be great enough to stimulate student motivation. [snip].
Today's marginal college student needs the extra motivation, guidance, and discipline even more than traditional students. By all means, let's welcome the advent of online education and the benefits it will surely bring. At the same time, we should be realistic about its implications for the future of higher education.
In the past few weeks the twin quasars of the New York Times opinion page -- Thomas Friedman and David Brooks -- have waxed poetic about the coming revolution in higher education as presaged by recent announcements of elite universities moving online: MIT and Harvard with edX; Stanford, Princeton, Penn and Michigan with Coursera. According to Friedman, “In five years, this will be a huge industry.”
The exuberance is understandable and stems from two factors: (1) Quality; and (2) Affordability. It’s hard to argue with either given the reputations of the institutions involved and the current pricing for these MOOCs (massive open online courses): free.
The days of charging the same for an online program as a traditional on-ground program are numbered; much lower tuition models are coming to online education. The question begged by the Times is this: Are Stanford, MIT and the Ivy League likely to lead the way?
The threshold issue is the gap between non-credit-bearing MOOCs and meaningful credentials, currently in the form of associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. These are what matter in higher education for now and the foreseeable future. [snip].”
Higher ed. commentator Kevin Carey ... noted last week that Stanford responded to a piece he had written wherein he described last fall’s MOOC offered by then-Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun: “Over 100,000 students around the world [took] the course…. Those who did well got a certificate from the professor saying so.”
Stanford’s official response to Kevin was as follows:
“Students who did well did not receive a certificate. Neither Stanford nor the professors issued a certificate. All students who completed the courses received a letter from the professor saying that they had completed the course. And that’s it.”
Even so, given the number of elite institutions with MOOC dreams, in time a few may talk themselves through the obvious brand and reputational concerns and cross the chasm to something like a meaningful MOOC credential, perhaps with a differentiated brand like edX. Still, is this hypothetical adventurous elite university likely to dominate the online future?
We would submit that colleges today are less like funeral homes and more like airlines 30 years ago, when flying the friendly skies cost much more than it had to and there was similar grousing aplenty. [snip].
So it’s hard to envision any top-tier university launching an online program with the objective of keeping every aspect of its operation separate. Clearly, it couldn’t if it wanted to grant degrees; degrees must be granted by the accredited institution. But realistically, no online program would be completely separated from the mothership. The allure of trading off the brand is irresistible, ... .
So the right question to ask is: Who will be the Southwest Airlines of online education – delivering what customers need, but doing so much more cost-effectively? It could be a private-sector university. Or perhaps a very innovative traditional university with a clear vision of educating and granting credentials to millions of qualified students from around the world, along with a willingness to throw aside its existing model.
Either way we arrive at a conclusion that refutes the Times: it will not be MIT, Stanford or an Ivy League institution. Their impact is likely to be limited to the extent other universities opt to incorporate their content into new programs – equivalent to today’s textbook publishers. [snip].
Four weeks into their innovative and inventive Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), online learning specialist Dr. Curtis Bonk sits down again with The EvoLLLution, flanked by five of his teaching assistants to give us a mid-point update. Missteps and ideas for the future are discussed as Bonk, Yue Ma, Justin Whiting, Donggil Song, Kim Seeber and Abdullah Altuwaijri reflect back on their MOOC experience so far.
The notion of disruptive innovation was popularized by Clayton Christensen ..., and is described as change, usually technological, that causes upheaval of an entire industry sector. We have seen plenty of disruptive innovations in the modern digital era, ... .
There is a certain irony for those of us who work in academic biomedical and health informatics. On the one hand, we are immersed in the technologies that have caused so much disruptive innovation, ... . On the other hand, those of us in academic informatics apply our work at the intersection of two fields that may be the lone remaining holdouts for disruptive innovation, namely healthcare and education.
This potential disruptive innovation in higher education comes in the form of what some call massive open online courses (MOOCs). This area has received a great deal of attention lately with the foray of some of the leading US universities into this area, ... .
As most readers of this blog know, I have great enthusiasm for online learning. A good deal of my work in the last decade has focused on the fusion of educational technology with biomedical and health informatics ... . However, the result has mostly been education based on the traditional model of the professor teaching and interacting with a relatively modest number of students.
MOOCs change the calculus of online learning in a much more profound way. [snip].
Despite their high profiles, these are not the first such initiatives to disseminate high-quality higher education content via the Web. Two other initiatives, Udacity and the Khan Academy, have been doing this for several years. Resources like the University of Pittsburgh Epidemiology Supercourse have been in existence even longer.
Will these MOOCs lead to disruption in higher education? The cynic in me notes that Ng and Koller are not changing the core Stanford product, where a small number of highly smart students pay a substantial amount of money in the form of Stanford tuition for the privilege of being on the Palo Alto campus and getting a degree from Stanford. I also note that these courses are mostly basic courses, ... .
But the optimist in me with the goal of spreading knowledge via technology cannot help but be impressed at the uptake and reach of these courses. I certainly enjoy the global interaction I have through the various educational activities in which I take part in on the Internet. [snip].
As is often the case, the ultimate reality will likely fall somewhere in the middle. Clearly the Web provides an unprecedented vehicle for knowledge dissemination. But education is so much more than a student absorbing knowledge. There is also the in-depth application of that knowledge for real-world purposes. [snip].
Of course we have shown to our satisfaction at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) that pretty much all types of learning can be delivered online. But we have also learned that an education involves more than learning. Early on in our foray into distance learning, I was struck how we had developed, without deliberately trying to do so, a virtual community. When students join our program, they not only get access to our courses, but also our faculty, their student colleagues, and our connections to the larger informatics world, including our connections to industry. Even the staff in our office provide a conduit for their new journey into careers and other activities in the field.
But I am also, in a sense, part of this MOOC world, due to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) Curriculum Project that has absorbed a great deal of my professional time, effort, and passion over the last couple years. All of this potential for disruptive innovation of informatics education therefore comes at a time of critical juncture for our field. [snip]
In conclusion, I view the potential for disruptive innovation in higher education as a challenge and an opportunity. While I am not worried it will make my world dissipate like camera film or bank tellers, I do know the ride will be bumpy. But in the end, I am confident that education will be improved and possibly more cost-effective. I am also confident of the continued role I will play in advising students and others about directions and opportunities for our field. [snip].
By Caroline Ferguson / Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 / Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2012 05:05
Let’s do some math.
Suppose you were a member of the incoming freshmen class. Even if you received Seattle U’s largest widely available scholarship, you would still end up paying more than $72,000 for tuition over the next four years ... .
What if you could receive a world-class education for nothing more than the cost of Internet access?
It turns out Harvard and MIT are working on that with their upcoming partnership, EdX, which, according to its website, ... .
According to The New York Times, Harvard and MIT are only two of several universities offering massively open online courses, or MOOCs. This model of online education has been explored in the past to varying degrees of success. The New York Times cited Columbia University’s Fathom in 2001 as well as Yale, Princeton and Stanford’s AllLearn in 2006. Both eventually failed.
EdX has arguably made the biggest splash of any online education platform in the past few years.
Online education is still not considered to be on-par with traditional education. A Cleveland University study that surveyed 109 employers found that almost all would prefer to hire a traditionally educated job candidate over one that had received an online education. [snip]
However, many still consider the implications of EdX to be powerful. If it succeeds, it could change public perception of online education.
“If I were president of a mid-tier university, I would be looking over my shoulder very nervously right now, because if a leading university offers a free circuits course, it becomes a real question whether other universities need to develop a circuits course,” said MOOC pioneer George Siemens to The New York Times.
Both Washington State University and the University of Washington have developed extensive online programs, though neither provide free classes.
Currently, Seattle University’s online education opportunities are extremely limited, though not nonexistent.
Hughes thinks the program presents an opportunity to Seattle U and other colleges to have a productive dialogue about effective models of online education.
Education must “develop beyond education dumping, which is not instruction,” Hughes said.
Part of the purpose of EdX is to explore the possibilities of online education and how it can be improved.
EdX is still in development, but Hughes speculated that it could evolve beyond simple lectures.
5.9.12 | Earlier this month, education bigwigs Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology entered what New York Times Reporter Tamar Lewin referred to as an “academic Battle of the Titans,” after announcing their newest partnership, edX, which allows people all over the world to take free online courses offered by both universities.
Although these classes are not the equivalent to receiving credit toward a degree at either institution, they would afford those who may not have access to Harvard or MIT the opportunity to experience the delights of listening to some of the sharpest minds on the topics of our day.
Million-Dollar Question: What’s the Value?
[snip]. But what, exactly, is the value of taking online classes – for free – that do not result in a college credit? This is an open question, and it was the topic of conversation in The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” last week.
Four educators and one student weighed in, covering many angles. Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, argues that while “competition is wonderful,” two obstacles limit the potential success of these ventures.
“First, students and employers want ‘diplomas’ (skill certification), which random certificates for individual courses probably will not meet. Second, for large numbers, college is as much a socialization and networking as an intellectual exercise, and such accoutrements of college life as booze and sex are hard to provide online,” writes Vedder.
I suspect he wrote the last with a bit of snark. Still, Vedder argues, these new opportunities have great promise to lower the cost of higher education by sidestepping the “three greatest enemies” to achieving this objective: the federal government and its often dysfunctional student aid programs, accreditation agencies with their entrance barriers, and the faculty of traditional colleges. He also suggests that alternative higher education institutions will give students more options, and that’s always a good thing.
Indeed, some version of that bundling might already be happening at Peer-to-Peer University.
Jeremy Gleick, a sophomore in bioengineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, praised the rigor of his UCLA online courses and the interaction between students and teaching assistants. But he doubts the same could be achieved in courses opened to tens of thousands.
We’re almost there—but as Christine recently wrote in “Jamming the System,” a look at standardized testing, the problems with robot graders are not limited to the grading itself.
Sean Decatur, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Oberlin College, counters that while “the next phase in the evolution of online higher education has begun,” this new platform should not be viewed as a replacement for on-campus interaction between students and faculty. Instead, it should be viewed as an additional tool for enhancing these interactions. [snip].
“A Moral Obligation”
Some additional points raised by other debaters include the role of lab work in higher education, which would be lost in completing a college degree online (they overlook, however, some innovative digital labs and video game experiences that can mimic lab work—more of which will be available in coming years), and the potential to encourage online interaction between different groups of students who may not talk to each other in the classroom.
Kathy Enger, director of the Northern Lights Library Network, takes a different approach. Recalling the student diversity she encountered when she first began teaching at an online university, Enger writes that it “contributed to the vitality of learning and was an unexpected component of the virtual experience.”
Despite the kinks these new partnerships contain, nearly all agreed that they represent an important step in education reform.
Moving Beyond Replicating the Classroom
On many levels, though, the debate is predictable and, well, unimaginative. Far too often, the people debating this issue are not imagining a truly fundamental shift that can occur when online collaboration around a topic takes off. [snip].
Also, too many are stuck in the mode of replication. [snip]. It’s not about replicating what happens in a classroom. The online opportunities are about reimaging how learning can happen.
Lawrence S. Bacow, William G. Bowen, Kevin M. Guthrie, Kelly A. Lack & Matthew P. Long
This Ithaka S+R report is a landscape review of important developments in online learning today. It is the first in a series that will provide leaders in higher education with lessons learned from existing online learning efforts to help accelerate productive use of these systems in the future. The goal of this research was to understand what benefits colleges and universities expect from online learning technologies, what barriers they face in implementing them, and how these technologies might be best shaped to serve different types of institutions.
Two important findings came out of this work: 1. the need for open, shared data on student learning and performance that are created through ILO; 2. the need for investment in the creation of sustainable and customizable platforms for delivering interactive online learning instruction. We hope this report will help to stimulate discussion and planning among leaders on these important topics.
This study complements Ithaka S+R’s Online Learning in Public Universities research project, which is testing the effectiveness of interactive online learning systems, and builds on Ithaka S+R’s experience with open courseware initiatives such as those profiled in Unlocking the Gates.
Source and Fulltext And Link to Report Available At
This summer, I’ll teach a “massive open online course” (MOOC) on gamification—the use of digital game-design techniques to solve business problems—through Coursera.
I teach this subject to MBAs at Wharton, but this new version will be delivered free, online, and open to thousands of students worldwide through recorded videos and interactive exercises.
The gamification course illustrates an important point about innovation. Startups have two great advantages. [snip]
What if an industry existed where the venerated incumbents didn’t have to worry about investors pushing for steady quarterly returns and customers beholden to dying products? Where sufficient threat of decline motivated innovation, but a collapse was not so imminent to starve the necessary resources? The leaders in that industry would have extraordinary potential for transformative innovation.
The industry I’m describing is higher education in the United States.
Scary because so many trends threaten the entire system: student costs rising as employment opportunities shrink, global competition for the best minds, industries in transformation, new online competition and an epochal shift in communications modalities from paper to screens, just to name a few.
Thrilling because all of these are opportunities in disguise.
Two years ago, Salman Khan was an unknown, former hedge-fund manager posting YouTube math lessons for his relatives. [snip].
Coursera, a venture-backed startup led by two Stanford computer scientists, applies this model to higher education. Penn, Stanford, the University of Michigan and Princeton are Coursera partners. Harvard and MIT just announced a competitor: EdX. [snip].
There are many serious questions about Coursera and its ilk, which I don’t have time to delve into in a short post. My point is not that they are bound to succeed. Quite the contrary: they are impressive because they are so challenging and risky.
If higher education can make this kind of monumental shift, it’s a sign for other industries facing the same innovation challenge.
Future of Education conversation with Stanford Mathematician Keith Devlin, co-founder and Executive Director of the university's H-STAR institute, a co-founder of the Stanford Media X research network, a Senior Researcher at CSLI, and "the Math Guy" on National Public Radio. In addition to talking about the use of different media to teach and communicate mathematics, we're going to dive into some deeper conversations about the recent move toward massive(ly) open online courses (MOOCs, one of which he is starting for free this fall on math), why he thinks that "higher education as we know it just ended," the impact of the Silicon Valley and venture capital in education.
Your education doesn't have to stop once you get out of school—being free of the classroom just means you have more control over what you learn and when you learn it. We've put together a curriculum of some of the best free online classes available on the web this summer for our second term of Lifehacker U, our regularly-updating guide to improving your life with free, online college-level classes. Let's get started.
Orientation: What Is Lifehacker U?
Whether you're just finishing the spring semester, or you're out of school and just want to keep learning and growing, there are an incredible amount of free, university-level courses that become available on the web every school year, and anyone with a little time and a passion for self-growth can audit, read, and "enroll" in these courses for their own personal benefit. Schools like Yale University, MIT, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, and many more are all offering free online classes that you can audit and participate in from the comfort of your office chair, couch, or computing chair-of-choice.
If you'll remember from our Spring 2012 semester, some of these classes are available year-round, but many of them are only available during the a specific term or semester, and because we're all about helping you improve your life at Lifehacker, we put together a list of courses available this summer that will inspire you, challenge you, open the door to something new, and give you the tools to improve your life. Grab your pen and paper and make sure your battery is charged—class is in session!
Vol 12, No 7 (2011) > Inge de Waard, Sean Abajian, Michael Sean Gallagher, Rebecca Hogue, Nilgün Keskin, Apostolos Koutropoulos, Osvaldo C. Rodriguez
In this paper, we look at how the massive open online course (MOOC) format developed by connectivist researchers and enthusiasts can help analyze the complexity, emergence, and chaos at work in the field of education today. We do this through the prism of a MobiMOOC, a six-week course focusing on mLearning that ran from April to May 2011. MobiMOOC embraced the core MOOC components of self-organization, connectedness, openness, complexity, and the resulting chaos, and, as such, serves as an interesting paradigm for new educational orders that are currently emerging in the field. We discuss the nature of participation in MobiMOOC, the use of mobile technology and social media, and how these factors contributed to a chaotic learning environment with emerging phenomena. These emerging phenomena resulted in a transformative educational paradigm.
Open Education, mobile learning, mLearning, MobiMOOC, MOOC, collaborative learning, OER, connectivism
PHILADELPHIA – Ivy League school officials suggest that one of the biggest impacts of massive online open courses – MOOCs – could be a renewed focus on teaching over research at elite American universities.
“Coursera already is affecting our campus,” said Jeffrey Himpele, associate director of the McGraw Hill Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University, ... .
He says many faculty members have been more focused on research instead of teaching in the past. Open education classes are changing that. Because of MOOCs and Princeton’s upcoming participation in Coursera, ... .
“It really is the ability to reach tens of thousands of students,” Himpele said, during a panel discussion at the Education Writer’s Association annual meeting in Philadelphia on Thursday. “They’re aware of their own role in the classroom in a way they were not before.”
Himpele says the MOOC courses are also forcing professors and universities to rethink the traditional 60 or 90 minute lecture structure for classes. Princeton’s upcoming Coursera course uses a 50 minute lecture format, broken into several 12-minute parts with quizzes in between.
Some are considering ways to flip their lectures, having students go over some basic material at home and going with a more engaging, discussion-oriented setting in class. [snip].
At the panel discussion on MOOC courses, other experts and faculty expressed more skepticism at the impact of MOOCs on top schools and the traditional college system.
Dr. Peter Struck, an associate professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, is teaching a Coursera class on classics and mythology. He compares online teaching to hosting a TV show rather than a classroom, which functions more like a play. His upcoming Coursera class has 14,000 student signed up already and counting.
Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector in Washington DC, said the fact that Harvard University ... recently teamed up with MIT on edX is significant. [snip].
Meanwhile, Joshua Kim, director of learning and technology in a program at Dartmouth College, identifies himself as a MOOC skeptic. He thinks the idea is trendy at the moment and a way for colleges – especially elite institutions – to bolster their PR and further the argument they are doing good in the world . But a MOOC focus, he thinks, can drain the resources and attention within a university to what it should be doing.
University of Pennsylvania Professor Peter Struck shares his thoughts on what MOOCs will do, won’t do and might do:
What MOOCs Will Do:
1) Will make the TV show class free to people.
2) It will allow professors and colleges to be better than the history channel at providing knowledge on history and other topics.
3) It will allow some real pedagogical advances, challenging the notion of a 50 minute lecture. [snip].
What MOOCs Won’t Do:
1) Won’t revamp higher education as we know it. [snip].
2) It won’t kill the lecture completely.
3) Won’t democratize knowledge the way some think it will.
What MOOCs Might Do:
1) Expand wisdom.
2) Broaden empathy ... .
3) I don’t know, if in the aggregate, it will make us smarter.
5) It might add to the credentialing frenzy of high school students who want to go to a Princeton or University of Pennsylvania, who see MOOC badges as another way to demonstrate their achievement, similar to AP classes.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “mook” (with a ‘k’) as “An incompetent or stupid person”; apparently it’s a word that achieved notoriety from its use in the 1973 film Mean Streets. But we’re not discussing that kind of “mook,” no sir: on this episode of Digital Campus, we’re discussing Massive Open Online Courses with Audrey Watters of Hack Education. We argue that there are MOOCs and then there are MOOCs, speculate about the purpose and future of MOOCs, and ... relate our own experiences as MOOC students. It’s a MOOC-a-palooza
Andrew Ng is an associate professor of computer science at Stanford, and he has a rather charming way of explaining how the new interactive online education company that he cofounded, Coursera, hopes to revolutionize higher education by allowing students from all over the world to not only hear his lectures, but to do homework assignments, be graded, receive a certificate for completing the course and use that to get a better job or gain admission to a better school.
The combination of all these factors gave birth to Coursera.org, which launched on April 18, with the backing of Silicon Valley venture funds, as my colleague John Markoff first reported.
Private companies, like Phoenix, have been offering online degrees for a fee for years. And schools like M.I.T. and Stanford have been offering lectures for free online. Coursera is the next step: building an interactive platform that will allow the best schools in the world to not only offer a wide range of free course lectures online, but also a system of testing, grading, student-to-student help and awarding certificates of completion of a course for under $100. [snip]
“The universities produce and own the content, and we are the platform that hosts and streams it,” explained Daphne Koller, a Stanford computer science professor who founded Coursera with Ng after seeing tens of thousands of students following their free Stanford lectures online. “We will also be working with employers to connect students — only with their consent — with job opportunities that are appropriate to their newly acquired skills. [snip].
M.I.T., Harvard and private companies, like Udacity, are creating similar platforms. In five years this will be a huge industry.
To make learning easier, Coursera chops up its lectures into short segments and offers online quizzes, which can be auto-graded, to cover each new idea. It operates on the honor system but is building tools to reduce cheating.
In each course, students post questions in an online forum for all to see and then vote questions and answers up and down. “So the most helpful questions bubble to the top and the bad ones get voted down,” Ng said. “With 100,000 students, you can log every single question. It is a huge data mine.” [snip].
These top-quality learning platforms could enable budget-strained community colleges in America to “flip” their classrooms. That is, download the world’s best lecturers on any subject and let their own professors concentrate on working face-to-face with students. Says Koller: “It will allow people who lack access to world-class learning — because of financial, geographic or time constraints — to have an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families.”
When you consider how many problems around the world are attributable to the lack of education, that is very good news. Let the revolution begin.