Category Archives: Best Practices

Everything from copyright to dynamic PowerPoints …

Professor’s legal win will make MOOCs more dynamic

By Lowell Neumann Nickey

Cinema Studies professor Peter Decherney

Cinema Studies professor Peter Decherney

One professor’s legal victory means more content and less confusion for massive open online courses throughout the country.

Peter Decherney, a Cinema Studies professor at Penn, contributed to recent efforts towards a copyright exemption for Massive Open Online Courses that require content protected under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. On Oct. 28, the exemption was approved by the U.S. Copyright Office, meaning Decherney and his colleagues had accomplished what they had set out to do.

Decherney testified in May with help from the American University Washington College of Law intellectual property law clinic and the American Library Association. At the time, the DMCA did not allow professors to use digitally protected videos for online courses, despite professors being allowed to scan and distribute written course material. The exemption will allow MOOC professors to utilize copyrighted movies, television shows and Blu-ray videos for the first time.

Using clips is essential to the types of classes Decherney teaches. “The lectures for my course are very heavily illustrated with clips and other kinds of images, and they wouldn’t make sense without the clips,” he told Penn Current. “To hear me describe a film image is OK, but if you can’t see it, you’re really not going to understand what I’m talking about.”

Decherney speculated that the exemption could be useful outside of cinema studies. “It might also be true in a foreign language class, where you want to see the expression on someone’s face as you’re watching them speak. It could also be used in a biology class, looking at a detailed microscopic image from a science video. It has implications across the curriculum,” he told Penn Current.

This victory could have widespread impact across education in the country as the exemption allows for-profit learning platforms such as Coursera to use copyrighted material alongside traditional, nonprofit schools.

[ Full article available at The Daily Pennsylvanian: ]



Using MOOCs to Fill In Your Weak Spots

By Hanna Peacock

As a Biomedical Sciences major, I completed the two required “Physics for the Life Sciences” courses during the first year of my undergrad, and never considered those concepts again. Until now. I’m doing my doctorate in cardiovascular science, and the physics of blood flow has become an important element of my experiments. The little I remember from those two courses is far from sufficient for my current project. I’m now trying to teach myself the basics of fluid dynamics so I can properly understand and explain my own project.

It is obvious that there is no perfect suite of courses to take during your undergraduate degree that will prepare you specifically for your grad school projects. Inevitably we find gaping holes in our knowledge and skills, and wind up irritated with our younger selves for shying away from seemingly boring or useless courses during undergrad. Perhaps you even have an interest outside of your project (gasp!), and wish you had taken an elective course or two on it. Now your undergrad is done, and it’s too late to take those courses.

Auditing a course might be an option, but would require you to fit six hours of inconveniently timed lectures around experiments, meetings, and other obligations.

So, what can you do to fill in your weak spots?

The answer is MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses.

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: ]

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Posted by on October 6, 2015 in Best Practices



What learners do during MOOCs–and why it matters

A new report examines learner activities during MOOCs, and the importance of integrating certain tools

By Ronald Bethke

mooc-accessibilityCourse design may take a back seat to personal and environmental factors, and notetaking is just as critical during MOOCs as in face-to-face courses. These are just a few of the findings of new qualitative research that examines the experiences and practices of students who participate in MOOCs.

Published by Dr. George Veletsianos and two other colleagues in the British Journal of Educational Technology in May this year, the study aims to provide an understanding of how people experience MOOCs and why they engage in particular activities in the ways that they do.

The paper argues that up to this point, most research that details student behavior during MOOCs has been limited by researchers’ reliance on log file analyses and clickstream data to make inferences about learner behaviors. The paper aims to represent a major step forward in Dr. Veletsianos’ continued work towards learning more about the experiences of students within MOOCs.

Through interviews with 13 MOOC participants (ages 25-67), the paper was able to identify and make suggestions regarding three major areas of interest: interactions in social networks outside of the MOOC platform, notetaking and consuming content.

Connections Happen, Even if the MOOC Isn’t Effective

The first of the three major findings regarded interactions in social networks outside of the MOOC platform. This area of study places importance on the connections made while a student is participating in a course, such as digital connections with other participants in a MOOC, face-to-face interactions with friends and family, and face-to-face interactions with new connections made through a MOOC.

[ Full article available at eCampus News: ]

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Posted by on September 11, 2015 in Best Practices, MOOCs in the News



Shooting a MOOC

The law professor set where the MOOC will be filmed.

The law professor set. (Lloyd DeGrane)

By Prof. Randal Picker (guest-blogging)

If all goes well, my new free online course, Internet Giants: The Law and Economics of Media Platforms, will go live today.

In May 2014, in a two-hour window one Sunday evening, I wrote a four-page proposal for the University of Chicago’s online education committee, which I was serving on. I had chaired the university’s intellectual property committee when the university started down the MOOC path, and doing a good job with that project had the inevitable consequence: I was appointed to the university’s new committee on online education.

(Be warned: The first time you are asked to serve on a law school or university committee, you face an important and to-be-considered choice: Bungle the assignment and you will likely be free of administrative tasks going forward, but the natural consequence follows if you do the task well. That said, it is really important that responsible souls do this work.)

In that proposal, I set out the seven topics that I would ultimately end up doing in the online course as it is being released today. I didn’t simply take one of the courses that I teach and move it online. Instead, I created a new course from selected topics in three other courses that I teach at Chicago: Antitrust, Network Industries (the regulation of natural monopoly, starting with the railroad and the telegraph and moving forward) and Copyright.

I thought this was a sensible organization for a course centered on the idea of platforms. Platforms, or more generally two-sided or multi-sited markets, are perhaps the most important idea in the past two decades in industrial organization and related areas such as antitrust economics. The concept is important because it matches a set of behaviors and set of practices that have come to be so central to our lives.

My guess is that if I offered this course at the University of Chicago Law School, it might attract no more than 20 to 25 students, much smaller than the courses that I usually teach. That might be an acceptable size for a seminar, but I want my seminars to be focused on what the students say and much, much less about what I have to say. But a platforms course might work well across institutions, as I doubt too many law schools offer a course in platform law.

[ Full article available at The Washington Post: ]



6 Tips for Creating a ‘Mini’ MOOC

There are ways to allow your institution to experiment with online courses, even if they’re not intended to be “massive.” An online program manager shares advice.

By Dian Schaffhauser

Not every school is ready to run a massive open online course through one of the larger platforms like edX or Coursera — and maybe that’s not what’s needed anyway. Sometimes instructors simply want to dabble in order to understand something better. Case in point: the University of Michigan Dearborn. This institution with 9,000 students is considerably smaller than its sibling, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, which has 50,000 students. Whereas the Ann Arbor campus was one of the first schools to sign on with Coursera in 2012, the Dearborn campus hasn’t yet answered the call to develop courses for the MOOC platform.

Elizabeth Fomin, program manager for Dearborn’s College of Arts, Sciences and Letters Online Program, is immersed in all kinds of work at the university related to online learning and emerging technology. She also teaches courses in visual communication and Web technology. In a presentation at the recent CT Forum conference in Long Beach, CA, Fomin shared the lessons she has learned in helping her campus try out a MOOC initiative without waiting for an invitation.

Coursera and EdX Aren’t the Only Games in Town
For Fomin, the answer lay with an alternative MOOC platform, Canvas Network, which is run by the same company, Instructure, that produces her campus’ chosen learning management system, Canvas. Canvas Network will host courses from two-year and four-year colleges, K-12 schools and districts, academic partnerships and consortia, non-profits with an education or public mission, government agencies with an education mission and even for-profit companies if they’re teaming up with an educational organization.

The site currently hosts about 70 courses, all for free, as a way to demonstrate its commercial LMS. As Fomin described the Canvas Network MOOC offerings, “They don’t tend to mirror what you’d see in a traditional state university MOOC. They’re shorter. They don’t have as much interaction with the faculty. They’re more like e-learning — a little bit smaller [and] easier to digest.”

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: ]

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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in Best Practices, MOOCs in the News



How to Use Online Learning as Part of Your Test Prep

By Chuck Cohn

In recent years, online learning has become an increasingly popular option for many students. Because online learning shatters the traditional borders of education, students can immediately access many benefits that were previously unavailable to them. Resources like MOOCs, OCW, and OERs can help with classes, employment skills, and even test prep. If you’d like to strengthen your test prep with these tools, here is everything you need to know:

What are MOOCs, OCW, and OERs?
The term “online learning” is loosely defined, partially because many of its components are still relatively new. However, there are several nuances worth noting. For instance, you may encounter Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs), which are like traditional classes with taped lectures, individual assignments, and group projects. You might also see OpenCourseWare (OCW) and Open Educational Resources (OERs), which are much broader, less defined online resources that could include readings, video explanations, practice questions, etc.

Students studying for tests like the ACT and GRE are more likely to draw from OCW and OERs, but MOOCs can also be useful. For example, students with large gaps in their content knowledge may benefit from completing a MOOC in a subject like algebra or writing.

Where should I look for online learning tools?
The best place to begin is generally the exam’s official website. For instance, if you’re preparing for the SAT, start with the College Board’s online SAT information. Many test creators offer practice exams and sample questions that you can complete online, and they may even explain why your wrong answers are incorrect. This is a great OER for all test-takers.

[ Full article available at The Huffington Post: ]

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Posted by on March 17, 2015 in Best Practices, MOOCs in the News


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The Inverse MOOC

By Allison Dulin Salisbury

The primary function of most MOOCs today is the dissemination of knowledge to the world. What would it look like if the opposite were true? What if MOOCs convened communities and individuals to focus on co-creation rather than dissemination? This fall Davidson College partnered with Middlebury College and OpenIDEO, a collaborative platform where people come together to tackle the world’s most pressing issues. We came together to pilot what I call an “Inverse MOOC,” where the MOOC is flipped from a content delivery platform to a community of inquiry.

Over the past six years OpenIDEO has hosted a dynamic set of  challenges in partnership with large stakeholders such as USAID, The Clinton Global Initiative, Mayo Clinic, The White House and AARP, among others.

Each challenge starts with a broad question, such as: How might we all maintain well being and thrive as we age? Or, How might communities lead the rapid transition to renewable energy? These challenges engage thousands of people from communities around the world, sometimes leveraging interactive voice response (accessible with a basic cell phone) to get stories from all over, even from places without access to the Internet.

A New Challenge

After 18 very rewarding months spent creating MOOCs on the edX platform, I was given the opportunity to dive into an alternative method of digital learning at scale when Davidson piloted a 10-week human centered design curriculum in conjunction with an OpenIDEO Challenge. The question: How might parents in low income communities ensure children thrive in their first five years? A small group of Davidson students — the Davidson Design Fellows — worked through three phases, including Research, Ideas and Refinement, with a focus on the City of Charlotte.

1. In the Research phase, students experienced the value of getting out of the classroom to talk to people, of humanizing these complex issues through face-to-face experiences. They learned to conduct interviews and focus groups with parents, stakeholders, innovators and experts. They shadowed organizations working with parents from low-resourced communities, such as childcare centers, home care providers and ESL adult education centers. They developed global context for the challenge through formal, peer-reviewed research. And through weekly workshops, students reflected on how to develop empathy — how to listen without judgment and avoid assumptions based on intuition.

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: ]

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Posted by on March 12, 2015 in Best Practices, MOOCs in the News


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How to calculate the real costs of developing and delivering MOOCs

By Meris Stansbury

Researchers at Brown and Columbia attempt to determine not just costs associated with MOOC production, but faculty time, marketing, and IT development … and if it’s all worth it.

MOOC-costs-researchIs a MOOC worth anywhere between $39,000 to $325,000 in development and delivery costs to your college or university? How do you know?

For colleges and universities already on alert thanks to uncontrollable costs associated with higher ed, the decision whether or not to spend hundreds of thousands on MOOCs should be an intimidating one.

However, according to Fiona Hollands, associate director at the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University; and Devayani Tirthali, independent researcher at Brown University, little publicly available information on MOOC costs based on rigorous analysis exits for those interested.

“It appears that lowering costs is not the highest priority for MOOC initiatives,” say the authors: “among the 140 or so institutions of higher-ed offering MOOCs in Allen and Seaman’s sample, less than ten indicated that exploring cost reducation was an objective for their MOOC initiatives.” In a separate study, Hollands and Tirthali also found that, of 29 institutions offering MOOCs, improving economics was a goal for only 38 percent.

The two authors go on to list many other recent studies showing that MOOC costs were not a high-priority issue for institutions; instead, universities were more concerned with increasing access to education, raising institutional visibility or building brand, increasing student recruitment, and improving or innovating pedagogy.

But with recent national spotlights on college affordability, as well as questions surrounding MOOCs’ effectiveness for learning, can institutions continue to turn a blind eye to the high price of MOOCs?

[ Full article available at eCampus News: ]



Why My MOOC is Not Built on Video

By Lorena A. Barba

The participants of #NumericalMOOC will have noticed that we made only one video for the course. I thought that maybe I would do a handful more. But in the end I didn’t and I don’t think it matters too much.

Why didn’t we have more video? The short answer is budget and time: making good-quality videos is expensive & making simple yet effective educational videos is time consuming, if not necessarily costly. #NumericalMOOC was created on-the-fly, with little budget. But here’s my point: expensive, high-production-value videos are not necessary to achieve a quality learning experience.

The fixation with videos in MOOCs, online courses and blended learning is worrisome. At the edX Global Forum (November 2014), it was often mentioned that producing a MOOC is a high-cost operation, with an estimated average expense of $100,000 per course. This is probably a somewhat overindulgent price for appearance, rather than substance. There is no evidence justifying the “production value” from a learning perspective. In fact, as far back as 1971, Donald Bligh concluded that “there is not much difference in the effectiveness of methods to present information.” [1] In this sense, a video—however nicely produced—is not better than a lecture.

A personal anecdote

I recently decided that I needed to brush up on my knowledge of statistics. As a student of mechanical engineering, I took an undergraduate “Probability and Statistics” course years ago, but I don’t remember that much. With an interest in education research, I now feel I should be in command of one particular concept: p-values.

So, I registered for a MOOC: “Statistics in Medicine,” by Kristin Sainani, on Stanford Online. The content of this course is excellent and Sainani is brilliant: she uses many examples from the medical literature that make the subject come alive. Of course, I could hardly have the time to complete a traditional MOOC (with deadlines and a set end date)—last Fall, I was designing and teaching my own MOOC!—and the best I hoped for was to watch the lectures dealing with the concepts I wanted to learn.

I watched the first few lecture videos, to get a baseline, then cherry-picked the videos dealing with p-values. It was perfect to watch the vids on my iPad while on the treadmill, getting some needed exercise at the same time. The concepts were clear: I could follow the explanations easily and the examples put things in context and helped me understand the importance of knowing statistics!

[ Full article available at Class-Central: ]


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Posted by on March 5, 2015 in Best Practices


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Motivating Faculty to Teach Online

By Marie Norman

Online education continues to grow (though the breakneck pace seems to have slowed a bit of late) and an increasing number of college and university students want to take online courses. At the same time, faculty members seem reluctant to teach these courses.

This poses a conundrum for universities, and raises an important question: What, if anything, would make the prospect of teaching online more appealing to faculty? (In the first part in this series, I explored how MOOCs can encourage good — and bad — habits for professors.)

While pondering this question, I had the opportunity to work with a faculty member who is developing a MOOC. (MOOCs, for the uninitiated, are massive open online courses. They are created by faculty from various institutions and offered, usually for free, through outfits like Coursera, Udacity and EdX.) The faculty member’s enthusiasm for this project highlighted to me several advantages MOOCs have when it comes to motivating faculty interest in online teaching. It’s worth looking at what these advantages are and considering what they can teach us about faculty motivation to teach online.

Faculty WIFM

The WIFM (What’s in It for Me?) factor for faculty who develop a MOOC is clear. The creation of a successful MOOC has the potential to enhance an instructor’s professional reputation through global visibility. The instructor, therefore, has a personal and professional incentive to undertake the task, finish it and do it well.

Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that online courses are more time-consuming to develop and teach than face-to-face courses. Can we blame busy faculty (who juggle research, committee and teaching responsibilities) for questioning why it’s in their interest to get involved?

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: ]

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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Best Practices


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