Category Archives: Uncategorized

ASU = edX’s ‘Cleaner’

By John Warner

Thanks to Inside Higher Ed reporter Carl Straumsheim, we now know that the edX/Arizona State contract for the pending “Global Freshman Academy” initiative, through which ASU intends to MOOC-ify a year’s worth of general education credits, contains another interesting little tidbit.

On page 28, Item 1, sub-point d, we get the following:

Non-InstitutionX MOOCs. Institution will evaluate other MOOCs offered on the edX Site and, subject to appropriate review and approval, consider offering Institution credit for a fee to edX learners who earn, or have earned, verified certificates of achievement for such non-InstitutionX MOOCs.

Previously, I suggested that one of the motives for ASU’s partnership with edX was to draw students to the institution via the ersatz Gen Ed MOOC experience. Enticed by the Gen Ed Starter Pak, students would take more ASU courses either online or face to face. ASU would then “launder” those MOOC credits from the transcripts, as they made it clear they do not intend to distinguish among the different course formats.

My vision is extremely limited, however, which is perhaps why I’m ill-suited to running a neoliberal university.

This particular clause makes it clear that ASU has the potential to expand their laundry service to the entire edX universe. In other words, they may do what the founding partner institutions of edX – MIT and Harvard – would likely never consider, give full institutional credit for a course taken as a MOOC outside their own institution.

As sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom, who studies the financialization of higher education, put it on Twitter, this is a “different level” of articulation altogether when it comes to transfer credits.

Currently, we have a system where accredited institutions often deny transfer credits (sometimes unjustly) from other accredited institutions in an effort to require students to take more credit-bearing courses (for more money) under their roofs. There is no particular monetary incentive for schools to accept credits once a student has decided to transfer. In fact, it’s the opposite.

[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: ]

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Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Out in Front, and Optimistic, About Online Education

By D.D. Guttenplan

Richard C. Levin during Yale’s commencement exercises in May 2012. The former university president is now C.E.O. of Coursera, the largest provider of massive open online courses, or MOOCs.
[ Credit Jessica Hill/Associated Press ]

LONDON — Besides his name and email address Richard C. Levin’s new black-and-white business cards contain just two short lines of type: “Coursera” and “CEO.” Mr. Levin, the former president of Yale University, was named head of the online education company late last month.

With seven million registered users and 25 million course enrollments to date Coursera is the largest provider of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. A for-profit company, its main rivals include Udacity, another commercial firm, and edX, a nonprofit backed by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But with its sole revenue stream coming from a small minority of students who enroll in its “Signature Track” — which charges a fee of around $50 to verify a student’s identity, and issues a certificate upon successful completion of the course — questions have been raised about how long its backers will have to wait to see a return on their investment

In a recent interview, Mr. Levin predicted that the company would be “financially viable” within five years. He began by disagreeing with Andrew Ng, Coursera’s co-founder, who described Coursera as “a technology company.”

Q. Why is the former president of Yale going to a technology company?

A. We may differ in our views. The technology is obviously incredibly important, but what really makes this interesting for me is this capacity to expand the mission of our great universities, both in the United States and abroad, to reach audiences that don’t have access to higher education otherwise.

[ Full article available at The New York Times: ]

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Posted by on April 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


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How Entertaining Does Education Need to Be?

Taking a class and watching Scandal aren’t the same thing

She’d be awake if her classes were more fun.
[ Photo by Photick/Sigrid Olsson/Thinkstock ]

By John Warner

I’m wondering how “entertaining” my classes should be.

On the one hand, being entertained is a good thing. If we are entertained, we are enjoying ourselves, and making class enjoyable probably goes a long way toward getting students to show up.

I do OK on this front. The end-of-semester evaluations seem to say so. RateMyProfessor, for what that’s worth, backs them up.

The bar for being an “entertaining” teacher is actually pretty low. Once in the room, the audience is captive. Students expect boredom, so if there’s even a glimmer of mirth, the appreciation is outsized.

As I think about this, though, I realize there are different kinds of entertainment, or perhaps that there’s a difference between entertainment and engagement.

My wife and I have been binge-watching Scandal. Set in Washington, D.C., it tells the story of a political fixer played by Kerry Washington. It’s a procedural mixed with a conspiracy thriller, mixed with melodrama that would make a daytime soap opera blush. It’s is frequently laugh-out-loud ridiculous, and the show’s relationship with verisimilitude is like Donald Trump’s relationship with his hair. It resembles something real, but it isn’t fooling anybody.

[ Full article available at Slate: ]

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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


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MOOC-Eds Bring Professional Development Into the 21st Century

By Bob Wise

In a time of financial cutbacks, schools and districts have slashed professional development budgets at an alarming rate despite new education standards and assessments and increased demands on teachers and students. Instead of waiting with crossed fingers for a full economic recovery that will restore budgets, innovators in the education field are exploring new ways to meet the professional development needs of teachers in an economical way. Enter the Massive Open Online Course for Educators, or MOOC-Ed. The MOOC-Ed is an online course for educators that provides personalized, scalable, and flexible learning to improve teaching and student outcomes.

The buzzword “MOOC” is already loaded. Students, educators, and education pundits hold different views on the extremely popular new approach to digital learning that, in the cases of many colleges and universities, provides course credits to students. Many of these views are negative, citing a lack of definitive research on the effectiveness of MOOCs improving student learning and outcomes. This is true; MOOCs are relatively new inventions for student courses, and while I strongly believe they have the potential to help bridge achievement gaps and income disparities for students, conclusive research to support this doesn’t yet exist. While the debate continues around the effectiveness of MOOCs for student learning, I want to focus on a different kind of MOOC — one designed for educators as a cost-effective way to deliver quality professional development and help educators continue their education.

My organization, the Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance), paired up with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University (the Friday Institute) earlier this year, to offer the first-ever MOOC-Ed — Digital Learning Transition — geared toward school, district, and teacher leaders. In creating, monitoring, and engaging with participants in the course, we learned a few things about what makes MOOC-Eds successful and necessary for professional development in the twenty-first century. Based on those lessons learned, we’ve improved the MOOC-Ed and are running it again this fall. Registration is open here. The MOOC-Ed is free and open to the public.

MOOC-Eds offer self-directed learning with content that can be tailored and personalized to an educator’s specific goals. Think of a MOOC-Ed like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. The MOOC-Ed creators aggregate resources and tailor them for any type of participant, e.g., a school administrator may choose to watch videos and read articles on districts that have been successful with digital learning, while a teacher leader may focus on using data to more effectively personalize instruction. In this way, the courses are self-directed, and participants choose among a rich array of resources, and decide when and how to engage in projects and discussions that will further their own goals.

[ Full article available at The Huffington Post: ]

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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Uncategorized


Why Do Students Enroll in (But Don’t Complete) MOOC Courses?

Udacity office in Silicon Valley, ground zero for MOOCs.

By Ian Quillen

Less than 10 percent of MOOC students, on average, complete a course. That’s the conclusion of Katy Jordan of Open University, who published her analysis, pulled together from available data of some Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.

But do completion rates matter?

It’s not that course completion rates don’t inform observers about the nature of MOOCs, said Michelle Rhee-Weise, who follows higher-ed developments in online and blended learning as an education senior research fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation (formerly Innosight Institute). But with no negative academic consequences from dropping out, that information is less about the effectiveness of the courses themselves, and more about the reasons people might be enrolling, she said.

Among those reasons:

  1. Just because MOOCs give free access to higher education courses doesn’t mean their work is being ignored by the for-profit sector of an online learning industry estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Rhee-Weise said. That can make MOOCs a fruitful observation ground for those who are looking for ideas to infuse into their own online learning efforts.

[ Full article available at KQED: ]

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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Uncategorized