Miscellaneous

Challenging MOOCs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 06/28/2015 - 12:00
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Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jun 28, 2015

Audrey Watters completes a MOOC on superheroes in popular culture and reflects on it. "My fear: the treatment of Wonder Woman in “ The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture” is symbolic of how all topics will be treated by popular MOOCs. We’ ll get tittering, but no theory." I'm less concerned about the lack of theory (criticism as a discipline is overly fond of Theory) but share Watters's concerns about lack of depth. Additionally, the difficulty of managing a centralized discussion forum for a MOOC is something we encountered and addressed in our MOOCs (addressed by encouraging people to set up their own fora in their own locations around the web; our favourite troll could dominate the one central discussion, but was utterly defeated by the distributed discussion - a lesson the centralized MOOCs still haven't learned).

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MOOCs as a Method of Distance Education in the Arab World – A Review Paper

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 06/28/2015 - 12:00


Raniah Samir Adham, Karsten Oster Lundqvist, European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, Jun 28, 2015

The background on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will be familiar to most readers. The article, however, is a good overview of MOOC technology being developed in the Arab world and contains descirptions of  Edraak (Jordan),  Rwaq (Saudi Arabia),  MenaVersity (Lebanon) and  SkillAcademy (Egypt) (I've provided the links to the services because they are not in the article). There are also some institution-specific MOOCS such as the An-Najah National University MOOC and the American University of Beirut MOOC. The most interetsing part of the article describes why the Arab World needs MOOCs, with reasons varying from language, inspiration and gender separation. Related: "I am Different from Other Women in the World" The Experiences of Saudi Arabian Women Studying Online in International Master Programmes.

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Two Things to do in Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 06/28/2015 - 12:00
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nick shackleton-jones, aconventional, Jun 28, 2015

This is an interesting way to view two separate approaches to learning. The first begins with "responding to challenges" that would be faced by a student or learner; the other is to "present challenges". In the first, the provider furnishes resources, services and other "useful stuff", while in the second it creates experiences and "impactful challenges". "This is," says nick shackleton-jones, "really a simplified version of the diagram set out in 'The Tragedy of L& D'. It is presented here as two options because this is how it often comes up in conversation." Interestingly, neither aligns with the concept of 'courses' as we currently define them. "'Courses' - in the sense of 'content-dumping' (either online or as part of an event) do not feature in either activity... At the very foundation lies the false assumption is that learning professionals are tasked with stuffing information into people's heads. And that is not how learning works."

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Expectations for the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sun, 06/28/2015 - 10:00
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Malcolm Brown, Next Generation Learning Challenges, Jun 28, 2015

ELI's Malcolm Brown responds to comments from  Tony Bates and  Jon Dron about the  recent article on the Next Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE). Mostly, he defends the standards-based approach and Lego metaphor. "We’ re thinking about the technical and other standards needed to enable the NGDLE components to snap together. We are imagining a time when instead of adopting a platform, you have the opportunity to assemble your platform/environment, at least in part, by using components." I think it's important to understand the difference between standards (which are formally defined) and protocols (which are created through use and acceptance). The latter are inevitable; the former are unnecessary.

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The EDUCAUSE NGDLE and an API of One’s Own

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 06/27/2015 - 13:00


Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, Jun 27, 2015

Michael Feldstein addresses "the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative’ s (ELI’ s)  paper on a Next-Generation Digital Learning Environment (NGDLE) (OLDaily) and Tony Bates’ thoughtful  response to it." He also mixes in copious reference to Jim Groom and the  Domain of One's Own project, because it's consistent with the ELI paper. There are three major arguments from Bates that he weighs in on (the wording is Feldstein's, lightly edited by me):

  1. potentially heavy and bureaucratic standards-making process vulnerable to undue corporate influence.
  2. LEGO is a poor metaphor that suggests an industrialized model.
  3. NGDLE will push us further in the direction of computer-driven rather than human-driven classes.

His response to Bates is pretty much encapsulated in this slightly condescending overview: "Folks who are non-technical tend to think of software as a direct implementation of their functional needs, and their understanding of technical standards flows from that view of the world. As a result, it’ s easy to overgeneralize the lesson of the learning object metadata standards failures. But the history of computing is one of building up successive layers of abstraction." The thing is, in most areas, increasing levels of abstraction made it simple do do difficult things, but in education, increasing abstraction made it difficult to do simple things. And that's the core of Bates's argument, and I think Feldstein misses it.

 

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How to break away from articles and invent new story forms

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 06/27/2015 - 10:00
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Jeff Sonderman, Kevin Loker, Almerican Press Institute, Jun 27, 2015

I have talked in the past about how we as a society are developing a new multimedia language (and in the process, reshaping what 'language of thought' theories could possibly mean). We are seeing more and more evidence of this, beginning with this lead story. It's a great set of thought-experiments on how authors could respond to specific audience needs with more useful and informative multimedia responses. Do they work? Yes - as Poynter points out, the  most popular features on the New York Times web site were interactives and multimedia, not stories. And the upstart (and excellent) news site Quartz has just launched Atlas, a site for charts and graphics. We won't recognize that we think of as 'learning content' in just a few years, as we move beyond texts and courses and toward engaging and interactive multimedia.

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Revisiting our ‘MOOCs and Open Education Timeline’

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 06/27/2015 - 10:00
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Stephen Powell, Thoughts mostly about learning, Jun 27, 2015

I think this must is true: "The disruptive effect of MOOCs will be felt most  significantly in the development of new forms of provision  that go beyond the traditional HE market such as  professional and corporate training that appeals to employers." And "There is great potential for add-on content services and the creation of new revenue models through building partnerships with institutions and other educational service providers." The big grey box in the diagram, I think, means "we're not sure what happened" and the other box says "this is where we think it's going".

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Jisc to retire Jorum and refresh its open educational resources offer

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 06/27/2015 - 10:00
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Announcement, Jisc, Jun 27, 2015

Jorum, self-described as "the UK's largest repository for discovering and sharing Open Educational Resources for HE, FE and Skills," is being closed by Jisc as of September, 2016. There is no solid announcement of what will replace Jorum, if anything - "Jisc will be testing and looking into... (and) exploring..." but not pomising anything solid. Jisc explains, "We have consulted with stakeholders, users and the Jorum technical team who agree that with the evolution of apps and platforms which give greater user functionality and interactivity a next generation version will be welcomed." Jorum contains some 16,000 resources. More details are available from Siobhan Burke on the Jorum-Updates list.

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A framework for content curation

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 06/27/2015 - 10:00
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Ryan Tracey, E-Learning Provocateur, Jun 27, 2015

No, this is not  Dale's Cone (though you'd be forgiven for thinking it is). It is "a framework – for content curation." I've criticized the educational researcher's over-reliance on taxonomies in the past; this old saw is equally the villain. What we see here is very similar to Gagne's  9 events model. And like so many models before and after, it's a step-by-step model of how education or learning does or should work. It's very procedural, it's very prescriptive - and it's so utterly wrong. Education is not a linear process. It's not even something we can flow-chart. It's a constant complex and adaptive process, involving and balancing feedback from dozens of elements, pursuing a strange attractor of varying motivations, means and methods.

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Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 06/27/2015 - 10:00
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Alex Reid, Digital Digs, Jun 27, 2015

Alex Reid responds to the push toward conversion of university degrees - even post-graduate degrees, and those in the humanities - toward workforce training. I think that nobody disputes the idea that graduates should be properly prepared for post-graduate life. But what does that mean? Reid raises a couple of ideas worth pondering. One,  posted by Eric Johnson in the Chronicle, is that business should pay for its own workforce training. This is not a new idea; it has been discussed in these pages  here and here, for example. The other is that "rather than creating more hyper-specialized humanities phds... we should produce more flexible intellectuals: not 'generalists' mind you, but adaptive thinkers and actors." I think it's hard to argue against this.

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An Example Why LMS Should Not Be Only Part of Learning Ecosystem

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 19:00


Phil Hill, e-Literate, Jun 26, 2015

One of the things that really annoys me about business writing is the tendency of authors to drop the definite article ('the') or indefinite article ('a') from sentences and headlines. Phil Hill does this here (maybe accidentally, but hey... :) ). Does he mean: "An Example Why an LMS Should Not Be Only Part of a Learning Ecosystem"? Or does he mean "An Example Why the LMS Should Not Be the Only Part of Learning Ecosystem"? Two very different meanings: one suggesting an LMS can do many more things, and the other suggesting we need many more things in addition to an LMS. If we read to the bottom of the article, we read that "this episode gives a concrete example of how the traditional LMS should not be the only platform available in a learning ecosystem." But this would have been more helpful in the headline. So remember: don't forget your articles.

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CalArts Faculty and Alumni tale Leading Roles in Kadenze - An Innovative Arts Eduication Start-up

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 13:00
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Press Release, California Institute of the Arts, Jun 26, 2015

OK, this is possibly the worst-designed institutional website I've seen, which makes it painful to say it's the online home of an arts institute. But I have to link to it to say they've launched "a digital platform specifically created to support an online arts-based curriculum. Open to learners anywhere in the world, Kadenze launches in partnership with creative arts departments at leading universities and institutions." Here's a  video from Kadenze (pronounced 'Ka den zee'). Here's the site. Here's a course. There's a free version, a premium version, and of course more fees apply from partner institutions if you actually want a credential. More coverage on Inside Higher Ed, Helge Scherlund.

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A Sensible Higher Ed Business Model for Online Degrees: Are We There Yet?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 13:00
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Jim Shimabukuro, educational technology & change, Jun 26, 2015

"For students from low-income families, the bottom line is tuition that can be paid through minimum-wage part-time jobs. In other words, can they earn enough working 20-30 hours a week to pay their tuition?" This is in a world where minimum wage (relatively speaking) and tuition is increasing. But it's a key figure: it's what allows a person to be able to keep working while obtaining an education, which (with luck) will vault them into more meaningful and rewarding work. And - says  Jim Shimabukuro - we're on the verge of getting there. "The key to lowering cost is the elimination of irrelevant fees that have been historically associated with on-campus, face-to-face courses."

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HEFCE, Elsevier, the “copy request” button, and the future of open access

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 10:00
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Richard Poynder, Open, Shut?, Jun 26, 2015

According to Richard Poynder, "while OA advocates point out that most OA journals do not charge a fee, the reality (unless something changes) is that the pay-to-play model is set to dominate OA publishing." It is the result of publishers leveraging their existing advantage - their role in screening for high-impact publications and resulting relevance for promotion and tenure. "In effect, it would seem, traditional publishers are in the process of appropriating gold OA, and doing so in a way that will not only ensure they maintain their current profit levels, but that will likely increase them." And this position in being entrenched not only by increasing publication fees but by longer embargo periods. "Elsevier published a set of new sharing and hosting policies that, far from signalling the extinction of publisher embargoes, would seem more likely to set them in concrete."

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‘Too fixated on the price tag': Universities Canada president says tuition no barrier to education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 06/26/2015 - 10:00
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Heide Pearson, Metro, Jun 26, 2015

If you wonder why I occasionally take a negative view of the traditional university system in these pages, it's because of statements like this. Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada, speaking to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, said students are "'too fixated on the price tag' when it comes to tuition, and don’ t consider  supports available, such as scholarships, bursaries, financial aid from universities and income tax deductions." Most people do not qualify for scholarships, tax deductions only apply if you actually have an income, and the only reason to not fixate on the tuition price tag is to also pay attention to the ridiculous cost of books, housing, and other expenses incurred while studying. And that's in a good country, like Canada, where we do have a relatively accessible system. It's far out of reach to most people internationally. Here's a hint for the universities sector: start supporting students, figure out how to make the system accessible, and focus on the mission of improving education worldwide. Going to the Chamber of Commerce and criticizing your students is not on.

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When Convenience Trumps Tradition

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 20:00
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Darren Draper, Drape's Takes, Jun 25, 2015

It's funny to read Darren Draper write about "feeling nostalgic for the favorite video stores I often visited as a kid" and ” 'Vincent' and the thousands of employees just like him, lie at the heart of what once  made Blockbuster so overwhelmingly great." I guess I'm a bit older, because I never did frequent video stores; the idea of renting av ideo never appealed to me (and seemed odd and foreign, as someone who watched video on TV and purchased albums from the record store). It's a caution to always question what "feels natural" to you. It's not (contra Draper) simply that people today want more convenience. It's that they never did build the sort of social structure around videos that he did. And probably never will - and probably won't miss it a bit.

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No, Sesame Street Was Not the First MOOC

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 20:00
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Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Jun 25, 2015

Audrey Watters does some good debunking in this article. It follows coverage of a paper from Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine about Sesame Street: “ The Original MOOC: Can Sesame Street Replace Preschool?” in Edsurge, and “ Sesame Street was the original MOOC,” from the Brookings Institution. Of course it's ridiculous to assert that Sesame Street was the first MOOC. Part of the problem with the coverage is that Kearney and Levine doesn't really talk about MOOCs. Another part is that the coverage gets Sesame Street wrong as well; we are told "that Sesame Street has not been researched, 'that perhaps the biggest, yet least costly, early childhood intervention, Sesame Street, has largely gone unnoticed.'" writes Watters. But "Sesame Street is the most researched television show in history – and not just researched after-the-fact to ascertain how it’ s affected students’ literacy and numeracy skills, but researched throughout the design and development process."

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Adaptive learning is a dead end

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 17:00
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nick shackleton-jones, aconventional, Jun 25, 2015

I agree with Nick Shackleton-Jones here. "When people think about adaptive learning they usually hold an  organisation-centric  model of the world, one in which activity is controlled and learning prescribed. A 'top-down'  view." But that's not what we need. "Adaptive learning might be cool if we didn't know how to automate - to give people guidance."

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Toward collaborative expertise: a teacher’s thoughts on the #HattiePapers

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 14:00
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Maxine Lyseight, Pearson, Jun 25, 2015

I followed the link on this Pearson blog post to "the recent research from John Hattie" that "has been out for a few days" and while I thought it was interesting I also thought that I had seen it before. Indeed I had -  in 2011.  And 2013. And last January. So what's new here? I'm not sure - it's essentially the same thesis (maybe the data have been updated? It's hard to say). There is a new blog post, and Pearson is trying to drum up conversation. The  current presentation has Hattie focusing on what he calls "distractions" - things that sort of work, but have tiny effect sizes (as determined by various meta-analyses and, it appears, PISA results). These distractions include such things as school choice, infrastructure and buildings, early childhood education, holding students back, and learning styles, and the like. So what does work? According to Hattie (at least as of 2009) things like self-assessment, Piagetian programs, formative evaluation, micro-teaching and acceleration. Though the current article points to something very different. In  this Pearson-sponsored paper the focus is on assessment - "resources that assist feedback to teachers and school leaders about their impact on all students and to reward robust discussion about that impact." (p.25) There's also an infographic.

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Learning to Teach with Open Educational Resources

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 06/25/2015 - 11:00
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Allison Littlejohn & Nina Hood, Little by Littlejohn, Jun 25, 2015

Long article by Allison Littlejohn & Nina Hood designed to help educators learn how to use OERs. You'll have to work to get through the very stilted language (it took them four lines to say "learn how to use OERs"). But the content is good. The six guidelines, summarized in English, are: "Instructors should learn about OER theory and discipline-specific OER theory. They need the opportunity for experience and practice using OERs by themselves and with others, and to be able to reflect on that practice. Learning about OERs should be linked with work activities."  These principles map more or less to six 'knowledge types' described later in the article. Image.

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