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MOOCs no longer massive, still attract millions

By Dhawal Shah

The first ever MOOC I took had 160,000 people signed up for it.

The forums were buzzing with activity. New posts were being added every few minutes. If I had any question at all, it had already been asked and answered by someone else.

But recently I have noticed forum activity and interactions in MOOCs have declined drastically.

This is despite the MOOC user base doubling in 2015. The total number of students who signed up for at least one course had crossed 35 million — up from an estimated 16–18 million in 2014 — according to data collected Class Central, where I work.

Change of pace

The first MOOCs were essentially college courses put online — they were approximately 10 weeks long and had weekly or bi-weekly assignment deadlines with a final exam. Like a college course, they followed a semester pattern and were offered once or twice a year.

But as course providers learned more about student behavior in online courses, MOOCs have evolved to meet the needs of the student. These needs include shorter courses with soft deadlines (i.e making it possible to submit assignments anytime before the end of the course, rather than having weekly hard deadlines).

Kadenze, a MOOC platform optimized for arts education, made such a switch recently. After the switch, the platform got more submissions in one month than in the whole of 2015 (Kadenze launched in mid June 2015), according to CEO Ajay Kapur.

But the biggest change to MOOCs in recent times has been that they have become more available. In other words, the number of courses that users can start immediately has risen significantly, as you can see in the graph below. (The graph shows the number of courses that a learner could start in September of each year. I chose September because it’s usually the biggest month for MOOCs.)

[ Full article available at VentureBeat: http://venturebeat.com/2016/09/05/moocs-no-longer-massive-still-attract-millions/ ]

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Posted by on September 5, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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Humans, the Latest MOOC Feature

By Carl Straumsheim

One of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s most popular massive open online courses is adding a feature not seen in any of its other humanities MOOCs: instructors grading essays.

Learners in Introduction to Philosophy: God, Knowledge and Consciousness, which started on Monday, now have the option to have their essays graded and reviewed by real, flesh-and-blood philosophers — in this first case, one of MIT’s own graduate students. The goal, according to MIT, is twofold: to give learners from all over the world an introduction to basic philosophical topics and — for those who pay $300 for an identity-verified certificate — an opportunity to improve their written argumentation skills and to experiment with new employment opportunities for philosophers.

The philosophy course, now in its third iteration, mirrors the development of MOOCs in general. When it first launched, it featured lecture videos and multiple-choice questions to test learners’ reading comprehension. The second time around, it evolved by adding peer grading, where each learner evaluates a handful of papers written by course mates.

Teaching the MOOC has been a “marvelous experience,” said Caspar Hare, the professor of philosophy who created it. Nearly 90,000 learners signed up during the first two runs. The discussion forums buzzed with debates about religion and free will. Yet Hare said he was left “feeling you could do more” — referring to the lack of writing assignments.

“It’s really central to the way you come to understand the field,” Hare said. “I just don’t think you can get rid of that.”

Essay grading in MOOCs has been a tricky issue for institutions to solve. MOOCs can enroll tens of thousands of learners, which means assigning even a single essay will lead to more content than an instructor and a small army of teaching assistants can read, let alone give meaningful feedback on. EdX, the MOOC platform MIT helped found, has piloted automated essay grading, but the technology is not there yet (not to mention that some instructors, including Hare, are highly skeptical of it).

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/09/02/massachusetts-institute-technology-experiments-instructor-grading-massive-open ]

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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The Philippines And Other Developing Countries Ramp Up Online Education Culture

By Jason Schmidt

Akshay Kulkarni wasn’t winning any awards as an undergraduate engineering student at Chaitanya Bharathi Institute of Technology (CBIT) in Hyderabad, India. All he had to show for his effort was a mediocre grade point average and growing skepticism focused on how his college degree would eventually help his future aspirations.

“Out of 400,000 seats available for engineers at colleges in my state,” says Kulkarni, “there were only 200,000 people even trying to get into those seats.” Although it was extremely easy to get an opportunity to earn an engineering degree in India, Kulkarni knew that landing a good engineering job was actually increasingly difficult.

Kulkarni understood that there had to be a way to differentiate himself from the thousands of other minnows floundering in the job market. Frustrated by the overall climate and structure of his undergraduate experience, he sought out a different avenue toward his future career: Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

“I ended up taking something like 15 MOOC courses while completing my engineering degree,” says Kulkarni, noting that he focused almost exclusively on the MOOC educational alternative instead of attempting to get As in his in-person courses at CBIT.

The big moment for Kulkarni, who now works as a software engineer at Microsoft, came when he realized his path less traveled actually worked. “My MOOC experiences made a big impact in my interview with Microsoft. I think my online courses and certificates helped to compensate for my low grade point average in engineering school. The Microsoft interviewer asked me, ‘Do you know anything about cloud computing?’ and I was like ‘I just TA’ed for a MOOC cloud computing course at Berkeley.’ That was the last cloud computing question I got asked.”

And Kulkarni isn’t alone.

[ Full article available at Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/schmittjason/2016/08/25/the-philippines-and-other-developing-countries-ramp-up-online-education-culture/#1be9746266e5 ]

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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DeMillo on MOOCs and College Affordability

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Technology has the potential to solve the affordability and access problem in higher education, according to the author of Revolution in Higher Education.

By David Weldon

As Richard DeMillo sees it, technology has the potential to make a college education more affordable and more accessible than ever before. The author and director of Georgia Tech‘s Center for 21st Century Universities spends a lot of time thinking about the past, the present, and especially the future of education, and shared his vision with attendees of the Campus Technology 2016 this week in Boston.

In many ways, higher education is at a crossroads, DeMillo explained.

“We’ve gotten to this state by choosing the most expensive – and least effective – way to run our universities,” DeMillo said. “The cost of tuition is rising at four times the cost of inflation. And I don’t think that will change anytime soon.”

In order to be sustainable, universities must find new ways to deliver education, he said. “One way to think about it – you’ve got this fight between a method of teaching that is thousands of years old, and something that is very different.” In particular, he believes massive open online courses will be a key part of the transformation.

MOOCs are certainly not new; a good number of colleges and universities offer online courses to the masses now. But what DeMillo envisions is the broader use of MOOCs to enroll more full time students than was previously possible – for entire degree programs.

Georgia Tech is doing just that. The college first began offering MOOCs in 2011 and has steadily increased its investment in the program since. Last year, the school put its most difficult degree program – the master’s degree in computer science – online, at a cost to the student of $6,700.

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: https://campustechnology.com/articles/2016/08/04/demillo-on-moocs-and-college-affordability.aspx ]

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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MOOCs ahead

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Harvard gathering to review how online learning has worked best, and how to improve it

By Clea Simon

MOOCs (massive open online courses) have sparked explosive growth in both education and opportunity. Consider edX. Since this joint Harvard and MIT online platform launched in 2012, it has attracted more than 27 million course enrollments representing more than 8 million learners, uniting students all over the world with teachers and course material through lectures, interactive forums, problem sets, videos, and more.

What many of those students may not realize is that the learning goes both ways. Each time a student clicks a link or logs into an online conversation, he or she leaves a digital trail. And that information is vital to expanding and improving the future of learning.

“There’s a tremendous demand for learning from people around the world,” said Peter K. Bol, vice provost for advances in learning (VPAL) and the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. He pointed out that 70 percent of edX registrants already have bachelors’ degrees. “They’re doing this because they want to learn,” he said. “And with large amounts of data available, we can actually figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”

The proper, careful, and organized use of that information will be the topic of an expansive workshop and conference on Friday. This first Harvard-MIT data workflow event for edX institutions will introduce participating institutions to the edX infrastructure and allow attendees to share their perspectives on the need for analytics and reporting at their home institutions. Among other schools, Arizona State University, Boston University, Colgate University, Hamilton College, Rice University, Wellesley College, and Microsoft Corp. have made plans to attend.

The focus of the daylong event, said Dustin Tingley, faculty director of VPAL and professor of government, will be on “learning from the students how they’re using the platform, and learning how we can design a better educational experience for those students.”

[ Full article available at Harvard Gazette: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/07/moocs-ahead/ ]

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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3 Ways to Use MOOCs to Advance Your Career

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By Walter Frick

The vast majority of people who sign up for a MOOC—a massive open online course—never complete it. More than 50% consume less than half of the course’s content. This is wrongly viewed as evidence that MOOCs don’t work, that people are dropping off and not getting value. The assumption behind that conclusion is that you have to complete a whole, semester-long course to get value from online education. As a MOOC addict, I can tell you: that’s not true. Instead, I’ve found there are at least three good ways to learn from MOOCs, depending on your goals and the time you plan to spend.

In some cases, it makes sense to go for a certificate, which means completing all the coursework and usually costs money. For courses on Coursera, edX, or Udacity, getting a certificate typically requires several hours of work per week, for several weeks or even months. In the end, you get to add a line to your resume certifying that you completed the course.

But that’s not the only way to use MOOCs. Another option is to audit the course, watching all the videos but not necessarily completing all the assignments. The downside is you don’t get a certificate, and in some cases you don’t have full access to quizzes or other helpful materials. The upside is you have less pressure to get work done, and can often learn at your own pace. In many cases this option is also available for free.

Finally, in some cases you can get what you need just by sampling a MOOC, watching a video here or there to get the specific knowledge that you need. For example, say you wanted to do some regression modeling in Excel. Other resources may exist to learn about regression, but the instruction in MOOCs is often of higher quality. Instead of watching a full course, you might find a single lesson within a broader statistics course and watch just that lesson. Many of the platforms will let you do this sampling for free, though others, like Lynda.com, run on a subscription basis.

[ Full article available at Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2016/07/3-ways-to-use-moocs-to-advance-your-career ]

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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Are MOOCs Forever?

By Jeffrey R. Young

This is the latest episode of our new podcast series on the future of higher education. You can subscribe in iTunes, to get prior and future episodes.

Think back to the early days of MOOCs. Professors at Stanford and Harvard and other places were suddenly teaching really big classes, free. Hundreds of thousands of students at once were in those courses. It was an unprecedented giveaway of what had traditionally been the most expensive education in the world.

Back then, I met several students who were binging on the courses the way you might binge-watch a season of your favorite show on Netflix. They took as many courses as they possibly could, powering through and finishing as many as 30 courses in a year. When I asked why they were in such a hurry, the most popular reason was that they thought it was all too good to last. As one of those binging students told me, “I’m just afraid this whole thing might end soon.” Surely, universities would change their mind about this, or the start-ups working with colleges might lock things up.

Fast forward to last month, when Coursera did something that stirred up all of those concerns again. On June 30 the company deleted hundreds of its earliest courses, as part of a shift to a new software platform. Reaction, as you might expect, was negative on social media and blogs. One programmer called it cultural vandalism.

To be fair, many of the courses will actually be brought back on the new platform. For the company, the reason to upgrade was a philosophical shift, to offering courses that start on demand rather than just once or twice a year, as their early courses did. Coursera said it had found that completion rates were just better when people could start at their own convenience, but the episode did raise continuing concerns about the future of MOOCs. Will the free courses really stick around, and do MOOCs have staying power?

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/Are-MOOCs-Forever-/237130 ]

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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A University’s Offer of Credit for a MOOC Gets No Takers

Students and their professor looking at a computer screen.

Students at as many as seven colleges will earn course credits for MOOCs this fall, predicts Ray Schroeder (standing), vice chancellor for online learning at U. of Illinois at Springfield.
[ U. of Illinois at Springfield ]

It was big news last fall when Colorado State University-Global Campus became the first college in the United States to grant credit to students who passed a MOOC, or massive open online course.

For students, it meant a chance to get college credit on the cheap: $89, the cost of the required proctored exam, compared with the $1,050 that Colorado State charges for a comparable three-credit course.

That is a big discount.

Yet almost a year after Global Campus made the announcement, officials are still waiting for their first credit bargain-hunters.

Not one student has taken the university up on its offer.

Jon Bellum, the provost, said the university had not expected a deluge of transfer credits from Udacity, the MOOC provider it is working with. The offer applied to only a single MOOC, in computer science, and the credits might be useful only to students who intended to finish their degrees at Global Campus.

The Colorado university is not the only one that has noticed a lack of activity on the pathways between MOOCs and credit-bearing programs.

The Council of Adult and Experiential Learning, through its LearningCounts program, helps adult students assemble evidence of outside-the-classroom learning into portfolios that can be redeemed for credit at some colleges.

After free online courses exploded onto the scene, the council expected that freelance learners would come calling in hope of converting their MOOC success into college credit.

But none did.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://www.chronicle.com/article/A-Universitys-Offer-of-Credit/140131 ]

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Posted by on July 8, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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Are MOOCs Key To Ensuring Your Skills Remain Valuable?

By Adi Gaskell

Last week I chaired a panel discussion at the EdTechX Summit in London on the skills required in the future workplace, and the panel touched on the crucial role lifelong learning will play if we, and our organizations, are to adapt to the rapidly changing times we find ourselves in.

It’s a crucial discussion to have because automation is widely regarded to be set to cause massive disruption to the careers of the present. Estimates vary, but we can probably expect perhaps a third of existing careers to be automated within the next 20 years, and yet these are exactly the careers that higher education is currently training people for.

Crossing The Chasm

Despite this apparent need for a more flexible, affordable and on-going approach to learning, platforms such as MOOCs have thus far failed to “cross the chasm” into the mainstream.

Most courses are taken by those already beholden of a degree, and there is a strong sense that HR departments are failing to capitalize on the courses available to ensure that employees are constantly learning and developing their skills. Indeed, a recent survey found that just one in four HR and learning and development professionals formed an established part of the training on offer to employees.

It was a perspective shared by Daphne Koller, founder of Coursera, who I spoke to at EdTechX. Despite the huge number of students enrolled on hers and other platforms, she still believes that MOOCs are in the early adopter stage of the innovation lifecycle.

Using MOOCs For Professional Development

Earlier this year, Wharton published an ebook that was specifically designed for professionals wishing to try out MOOCs as a way of brushing up their skills. The book chronicles the adventures of a number of professionals who have used MOOCs to bolster their resumes in ways that would ordinarily have been denied them by a combination of time and money.

[ Full article available at Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2016/06/21/are-moocs-key-to-ensuring-your-skills-remain-valuable/#491a52ba488a ]

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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Distance Ed’s Second Act

By Phil Hill

Now that the MOOC hype has died down and almost no one is arguing that those free online courses will upend the traditional university, are we instead entering a period where online education is having a real impact on the core of higher education? Not just for the for-profit outliers and not just for distance-education titans like Rio Salado College and Liberty University, but for the mainstream? While I would not argue that fundamental change has already occurred, there are some signs of a turning point.

The Babson Survey Research Group, which has tracked online college enrollment for the past 12 years, reports growth from 9 percent of U.S. students taking at least one course online in the fall of 2002 to more than 28 percent in the fall of 2014. The overall growth has slowed recently, but the drastic decrease in for-profit enrollment masks two very interesting numbers:

  • Sixty-seven percent of students taking online courses do so at public institutions.
  • The number of students at public and private nonprofit colleges who took at least one online course rose by 26 percent in just two years (2012-2014).

Online education is no longer the province of a small subset of colleges and professors. We are well above the 16-to-20-percent level in Everett Rogers’s technology-adoption curve that indicates a shift into the mainstream. As I described in a previous article, the characteristics of people trying out a new approach (primarily professors in this discussion) change significantly after the technology moves beyond the innovators and early adopters. You start getting people who are more cautious and even skeptical about the outcomes and who need more holistic support to make the jump. We are seeing signs that more and more professors accept that online education is inevitable, even in traditional institutions, and is appropriate for a growing number of nontraditional students and a growing number of disciplines.

[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/Distance-Ed-s-Second-Act/236571 ]

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2016 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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