Miscellaneous

Review of ‘Online Distance Education: Towards a Research Agenda.’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 12:00


Tony Bates, online learning and distance education resources, Oct 23, 2014

Although Tony Bates considers this book "essential reading for anyone who wants to take a professional, evidence-based approach to online learning (distance or otherwise)" he suggests that "we need a better way to disseminate this research than a 500 page printed text that only those already expert in the field are likely to access." It doesn't help that there's  no open access version (at least that I could find). Moreover, writes Bates, "I groaned when I first saw the list of contributors. The same old, same old list of distance education experts with a heavy bias towards open universities."

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The strengths and weaknesses of MOOCs: Part I

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 12:00
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Tony Bates, online learning and distance eductaion resources, Oct 23, 2014

Tony Bates surveys some advantages and disadvantages of MOOCs. One item he focuses on is the demographics of MOOC users. "most MOOC participants are already well-educated and employed. The work by Kop and Fournier (collected here (I don’ t know why everyone cites the 2014  EdX research but ignores this earlier research)) on the population served by MOOCs also found that it was an older and well-credentialed demographic. But I wonder how relevant this is. The 1994 surveys of internet users show that the average user was North American, educated and professional. They were also overwhelmingly male. But it would have been incorrect to conclude from this data that the internet would not have a broad society-wide utility or appeal. It shows, simply, that there is a characteristic demographic that benefits from innovation earlier than everyone else.

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On the Question of Validity in Learning Analytics

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 10/22/2014 - 12:00
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Adam Cooper, CETIS Blogs, Oct 22, 2014

So your learning analytics have produced a result. How do you know you should rely on it? As Adam Cooper writes in this post, there are two dimensions of assessment of analytics results: reliability (or, how closely focused the results are on a single value), and validity (or, how closely the results are to the correct result). Note, he writes, that mere predictive accuracy is not enough to establish validity. How does the prediction compare to a random result? How many false positives and false negatives were there? The prediction could be accurate, in other words, but lucky. But more, we need to ask whether the tool could ever be used in practise and whether the results generalize or are reproducible.

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Revealed: how Whisper app tracks ‘anonymous’ users

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:00
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Paul Lewis, Dominic Rushe, The Guardian, Oct 21, 2014

The Guardian is  standing by its story that Whisper, the application that guarantees complete anonymity to users, is tracking and sharing their locations. For its part, although Whisper dismisses the Guardian story as a pack of lies, it has also altered its terms of service to  allow such tracking. And  according to American Journalism Review, "Whisper in particular is aggressively pushing its content to reporters as potential sources  for news stories." It also had a  partnership with Buzzfeed and the  cable news channel Fusion. The thing is,  you can't be an anonymous app and a news source at the same time. Some links via American Press Institute 'Need to Know'.

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Our Digital Futuire: A Crowdsourced Agenda for Free Expression

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:00


Various authors, Open Media, Oct 20, 2014

"At its best," reads the executive summary of this report, "the Internet encourages us to share, use our creativity, and express ourselves freely. It fosters the same key experiences that help us preserve our imaginations and our capacity to learn as we grow from children into adults." Drawing from contributions from the community, the report makes three main recommendations:

  1. Respect creators
  2. Priorize free expression
  3. Embrace democratic processes

"Citizens, particularly young people, are increasingly questioning the legitimacy and effectiveness of traditional models of governance and hierarchical processes of decision-making; a new method befitting the era of participation is sorely needed."

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Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:00
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Louise Brown, Toronto Star, Oct 20, 2014

It's not exactly what I had in mind when I talked about alternative assessment mechanisms recently, but you can see how this website, which rates students based on groupwork, easily fits the category. "A York University MBA grad has launched a website where college and university students can rate their classmates — up to five stars, with room for comments — on how they perform on the pillars of group work: teamwork, competence, dependability, work ethic and communication skills."

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MOOCs: A Review of the State-of-the-Art

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:00
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Ahmed Mohamed Fahmy Yousef, Mohamed Amine Chatti, Ulrik Schroeder, Marold Wosnitza, Harald Jakobs, CSEDU 2014 - 6th International Conference on Computer Supported Education, Oct 20, 2014

This is quite a good overview of the current state of MOOCs with a number of good images, statistics and definitions, making it a great reference paper for future discussions. "84 peer reviewed papers were selected in this study. A template analysis was applied to analyze and categorize the MOOCs literature into 7 dimensions, namely concept, design, learning theories, case studies, business models, target groups, and assessment."

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Launching the new Open Access Button. Push Button. Get Research. Make Progress.

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:00
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Unattributed, Open Access Button Blog, Oct 20, 2014

I'm sure every research has had the same experience: we do a search on Google or follow up a promising reference form some other paper, access the link, and are faced with nothing but a subscription wall. It's a daily occurrence for me, and to my min, these search results are nothing but spam. The Open Access Button is intended as a remedy. "We have gone from an idea to a really useful, workable bookmarklet which has helped track thousands of people running into paywalls. Our bookmarklet was great, we love it but we want to grow and make the Open Access Button better, we’ re launching the new Open Access Button on Tuesday October 21st." See also: "Researchers want to be read, acknowledged and quoted."

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New LMS Market Data: Edutechnica provides one-year update

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:00
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Phil Hill, e-Literate, Oct 20, 2014

Phil Hill gives us a look at a rich source of information about the LMS market, Edutechnica'a one-year update. Although the study is US-focused, it does also have data for the "anglosphere" (Canada, the US, the UK and Australia) (do read the Edutechnica post for an update on the nature of institutions studied). The major news is: Blackboard still leads, Canvas has overtaken D2L, and Moodle has a significant and still growing market share.

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Where Has All the Learning Gone?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:00
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Rob Reynolds, The Learning Lot, Oct 20, 2014

It has been a couple weeks since the EDUCAUSE conference, but this retrospective is worth reading (and I was in Brazil so I can be forgiven for being a bit slow with this item). Rob Reynolds observes, "At EDUCAUSE, it seemed evident that the problem we are trying to solve is that of making our businesses -- our institutions, companies, products -- more successful." From where I sit, I think that this is probably the result of the withdrawal of public money from education - educators and technology companies look to where the money is, and increasingly, it's not students, it's business and industry.

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Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:00
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Tamar Jacoby, The Atlantic, Oct 20, 2014

It is tempting to want to simply import Germany's successful apprenticeship training model to the United States, says Tamar Jacoby, but such an idea should be approached with caution. For one thing, the system is expensive - from $25K -to $80K per apprentice. It also depends on significant government involvement in industry in order to create and maintain cross-industry standards. And it is focused on blue-collar training, which is seen as second-rate on this side of the ocean. But, on the other hand, the system is flexible and effective, it is popular, and it trains highly skilled workers who produce world-class machinery. But note the attitude: “ German companies want to train,” one trade association executive told us, “ because they know the schools can’ t do it. Especially in today’ s tech economy, vocational schools alone can’ t prepare the workers we need.”

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Marc My Words: In Learning and Performance Ecosystems, the Whole is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts (Part One)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 12:00
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Marc Rosenberg, Learning Solutions Magazine, Oct 19, 2014

Marc Rosenberg describes what is essentially the Learning and Performance Support System (LPSS) we are in the process of launching here at NRC. He writes, "A learning and performance ecosystem introduces new capabilities that integrate learning and performance solutions into the work environment, where the vast preponderance of learning actually takes place. While training is still important, the overall strategy minimizes the need for workers to leave work in order to learn, reducing work disruption, and placing more learning opportunities directly into the workflow."

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Comparing xMOOCs and cMOOCs: philosophy and practice

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 21:00
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Tony Bates, online learning and distance eductaion resources, Oct 18, 2014

Good post clearly describing the difference between xMOOCs and cMOOCs. "The early  MOOC courses had relatively identifiable  designs which still permeate most MOOCs. At the same time,  there  are two quite different  philosophical positions  underpinning xMOOCs and cMOOCs,  so we need to look at each design model separately." See more Bates in this post defining what a MOOC is.

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#1amconf, Altmetrics and Raising the Visibility of One’s Research

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 10:00
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Brian Kelly, UK Web Focus, Oct 18, 2014

Brian Kelly looks at the range and effectiveness of systems that provide metrics for the impact of one's research, this in the context of summarizing "the first dedicated altmetrics conference" that took place in London recently. It's not a universally popular concept. This paper, for example, focuses on the promotion of papers by Twitter posts that misinterpret what the papers are saying. So the paper has impact, but not for anything it actually says. On the other hand, altmetrics are a large step forward from the unreasonable idea that impact ought be  measured only by citations in academic papers. Kelly looks at a number of  altmetrics systems that have developed recently, including especially Kudos,

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An Exemplar Use of Lanyrd (and a Proposal for Creating Lanyrd Entries)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 10:00
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Brian Kelly, UK Web Focus, Oct 18, 2014

Lanyrd  is software specifically designed to help conference attendees get the most out of a conference. It does things like host event schedules and publish archives of presentations. It wasn't welcomed enthusiastically out of the gate - many conference organizers preferred to exert tighter control over conference materials - but it has slowly been gaining ground over the last four years or so and last year was acquired by Eventbrite. This article from Brian Kelly looks at Lanyrd anew, offering an exemplar use and best practices.

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Draft Roadmap

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 10:00
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Various authors, 4C Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of curation, Oct 18, 2014

In my email this morning: "The EC funded Collaboration to Clarify the Costs of Curation (4C) project is led by Jisc and includes the Digital Curation Centre and Digital Preservation Coalition among its 13 partners. Recently have been working with project partners to develop a draft Roadmap titled 'Investing in curation: a shared path to sustainability'." The glitzy 24 page PDF, which contains many pictures of money, is focused on six question documenting the efficiency process and "considers the actions necessary to achieve a change in the way that all organisations think about and sustainably manage their digital assets."

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The Cargo Cult of Game Mechanics

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:00
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Steven Wittens, Hackery, Math & Design, Oct 17, 2014

Really interesting article and really interesting presentation. The thesis is essentially this: game design today has devolved into moneymaking systems that depend on "whales", that is, a small number of compulsive users who will pay to keep playing the game. This is "gaming as serious media." "It generally involves taking away choice, using scripts instead of simulations, with mini-games and quick-time events thrown in to amuse your hindbrain. It's tacitly saying that real storytelling, real human comedy or tragedy, can't happen while a player is in control. It's non-sense of course, plenty of games have done so before." The analogy with serious games in learning is clear, and I think the case is well made. See also this deconstruction of Chrono Trigger.

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Could a Newly Launched Metaphorical Search Engine Really Work?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:00
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Neurobonkers, Big Think, Oct 17, 2014

I spent a little time playing around with Yossarian Lives, a search engine that produces metaphorical results for search queries. The idea is, you pit in a search term, it responds with a set of images, and you can select an image, give it a title, and add an explanation. You can then save your idea to a list, and view other people's ideas. I had mixed results, but some of the ones others have produced were quite good. Sadly, the service is really only useful as a toy, as the image sources are commercial libraries and any actual use could get expensive quickly.

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Bricolage by smart people

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 23:00


Daniel Lemire, Daniel Lemire's Blog, Oct 16, 2014

I've argued 'Against Digital Research Methods' in the past. Daniel Lemire summarizes the same point nicely: "It is fascinating how we have a hard time dealing with the fact that R& D is in fact nothing else but bricolage done by smart people."

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The 10K Hour Rule: Deliberate Practice leads to Expertise, and Teaching can trump Genetics

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 23:00
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Mark Guzdial, Computing Education Blog, Oct 16, 2014

This is a pretty good article, not only because it invokes the classic 'make a PBJ' example, and not only because it cites the  proper source for the 10,000 hours of practice rule (hint: not Gladwell), but also because it provides an intelligent discussion of how the rule applies, offers a telling argument against the counterproposal (that skills are innate and not learned), and teaches us the value of focus and reflection in learning. But there's a not-so-subtle shift from "people can learn" to "people can be taught" and an invocation of the  mysterious "power of a great teacher to go beyond simple rote practice to create deliberate opportunities to learn," as though no other means were possible to accomplish the same thing by oneself, or with the aid of friends, projects, life experience or software. See also: Practice Does Not Make Perfect.

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