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Why Today’s MOOCs Are Not Innovative

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At the Campus Technology conference in Boston, Stephen Downes explained the difference between innovation and transformation.

By David Weldon

For years, the higher education sector has been talking about the need to innovate. Or has it?

Are the various calls for new methods of delivering educational content truly advocating reform; or are they just new ways of approaching old topics?

That was the question posed by Stephen Downes, program leader for learning and performance support systems for the National Research Council of Canada, at last week’s Campus Technology conference in Boston.

As a keynoter for the three-day conference, Downes was tasked with challenging the audience to rethink what it means to be truly innovative in the field of education. The topic was not accidental: Downes immediately followed the presentation of the 2016 Campus Technology Innovators Awards.

While there were plenty of examples of innovation on hand in the awards portion of the session, much of what is passing for innovation in education today is not really that, Downes said. And in the industry overall, is it innovation we are achieving — or change?

“Change is done to you,” Downes stressed. “Innovation you do.”

Downes is no stranger to dramatic change in education. In 2008 he co-created the first massive open online course in the world, setting off a revolution in online education.

But that sort of thing isn’t what will transform education, Downes said. MOOCs are delivery methods – not changes in curriculum. If we want to change education, we have to change how we think about teaching and content.

Downes didn’t offer a blueprint for how to do that, but challenged the audience to think about transformation in what we teach, how we teach it and how we personalize the experience.

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: https://campustechnology.com/articles/2016/08/09/why-todays-moocs-are-not-innovative.aspx ]

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Posted by on August 9, 2016 in MOOCs in the News, Op-Ed

 

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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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Research: Facebook May Keep Students in MOOCs

By Michael Hart

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University have published a study that suggests students may be more likely to stick with massive open online courses (MOOCs) if they use Facebook.

Saijing Zheng, a former doctoral student at Penn State and current research scientist at Microsoft led the research and said she found that open course students were more engaged on Facebook groups and preferred interacting more on the social media site than through the course tools. That may be good news for MOOC instructors who, according to Zheng, get frustrated because 90 percent of students who enroll in MOOCs leave the course after less than two weeks.

“Social media may provide another communication channel for the students,” Zheng said. “Current MOOC platforms do not include collaborative features for students to work together or good conversation channels between students and between students and teachers.”

Interacting with fellow students and teachers in Facebook groups and other social media sites is sometimes easier than through the conventional course tools. One advantage of Facebook groups is that users tend to sign up with their real names while students can create fake personas on course message boards and forums.

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: https://campustechnology.com/articles/2016/04/28/research-facebook-may-keep-students-in-moocs.aspx ]

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2016 in MOOCs in the News

 

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MIT Intros MOOC ‘Micro-Master’s’

By Dian Schaffhauser

There’s the master’s degree. And then there’s the “micro-master’s.” That’s what MIT is calling its new “modular credential,” which will have no admissions requirements. Earning it can shave a full semester off of a regular master’s. The topic is supply chain management (SCM), a full-time degree program that’s normally earned over 10 months on campus and costs $65,446 plus assorted fees and living expenses. Now students can take MOOCs for the first half, and then come on campus for the second half.

The first MOOC offering in the series, MicroMaster’s Credential in Supply Chain Management, delivered on the edX platform, will last for 14 weeks and require eight to 10 hours of work each week. Although the course is free, receiving a “verified certificate” will cost $150 and require students to pass a proctored exam. The class starts on February 10, 2016.

The latest approach comes two years after the institution began experimenting with a certificate program called “XSeries” sequences. An XSeries version of “Supply Chain and Logistics Management” has three courses, intended to be taken in sequential order. The passing grade for the MicroMaster’s certificate will be higher than that for the XSeries certificate, the institute explained on an FAQ page. A third course in the XSeries is expected to run in the summer of 2016. Once that’s over, MIT will replace the XSeries with the MicroMaster’s.

The newest pilot is being led by Sanjay Sarma, MIT’s dean of digital learning, and Professors Yossi Sheffi and Chris Caplice, who run the supply chain management program.

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: https://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/10/13/mit-intros-mooc-micromasters.aspx ]

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2015 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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U Michigan Scales up MOOC Missions

By Dian Schaffhauser

The University of Michigan is expanding its MOOC presence. The institution, which was a founding partner in Coursera, will now be offering its massive, open, online courses on edX too, the first to begin in April 2016. The university also has ties to a third MOOC platform, NovoEd, which runs both educator and corporate operations.

Under the edX agreement, U Michigan will launch “MichiganX,” and promises to deliver “at least” 20 courses on the platform over the next two years. Three of the early ones will cover finance, learning analytics and data science ethics. The institution is also anteing up on Coursera at the same time, asserting that it will grow from 20 MOOCs on that platform to “more than 50” by December.

A major appeal of the edX platform, however, noted the school, was its open source nature.

“This new partnership aligns closely with our mission and values. Our core commitment is about experimenting, learning and adapting in order to shape the future of higher education,” said James Hilton, vice provost for Digital Education & Initiatives (DEI), in a prepared statement. “EdX and Coursera provide very different models with different sweet spots for experimentation. We are thrilled that our faculty will be able to take advantage of both platforms to push the boundaries of discovery.”

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/10/07/u-michigan-scales-up-mooc-missions.aspx ]

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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Coursera Survey Pins Down MOOC Benefits

By Dian Schaffhauser

More than seven in 10 learners report career benefits and more than six in 10 report educational benefits from completing massive open online courses (MOOCs). Participants from developing countries and particularly those with lower socioeconomic status and less education appear to be more likely to report benefits from pursuing MOOCs.

Those results and others come out of the first major research survey done among Coursera learners and reported in the Harvard Business Review. The survey was sent in December to 780,000 people from 212 countries who had completed a Coursera course prior to September 2014. The researchers received 51,954 survey responses from people in every one of those countries. The top ones represented were the United States, China, India and Brazil. Fifty nine percent of respondents were male; 58 percent were employed full-time; and the most common age was 26 to 35. The five-person research team included two data scientists and the president from Coursera, the assistant vice provost for global affairs at the University of Washington and a former project manager for Penn Global at the University of Pennsylvania.

The study asked people to state their motivations for taking a MOOC, then divided them into two “core” groups: career builders (pinpointed by 72 percent of respondents, but referenced as the primary driver by 52 percent) and education seekers (chosen by 61 percent, but designated as the primary motivation by 28 percent).

Among career builders:

  • Nearly nine in 10 reported benefits that included improved candidacy for a new position or becoming better prepared for a current job;

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/09/24/coursera-survey-pins-down-mooc-benefits.aspx ]

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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Research: Learning Is No Spectator Sport

By Dian Schaffhauser

MOOCs that rely primarily on people watching lectures may be missing an opportunity to help their students learn even more by adding interactive activities. Recent research into massive open online courses suggests that students do six times better in the course by “extra doing.” On top of that, they’re more likely to persist in the course.

Five researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) undertook a study in 2013 when their institution and the Georgia Institute of Technology collaborated to add elements of Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI) course, “Introduction to Psychology,” into Tech’s “Introduction to Psychology as a Science” MOOC. Taught through the Coursera platform, OLI materials were available as part of the larger course, along with lectures, quizzes and other activities.

The initial release of the Tech offering was designed as a 12-week introductory survey course. Each week the program focused on a major topic, such as memory, abnormal behavior, and sense and perception. Those were broken into three sub-topics supported by a 10- to 15-minute video lecture with slides along with assigned modules and learning outcomes from OLI. Modules included a variety of expository content such as text, examples, images and video clips and a large number of interactive activities, such as reading scenarios or studying images and answering questions. A quiz assessed students against the outcomes at the end of each week.

The course also used Coursera platform features such as discussion forums, writing assignments and quizzes (with questions drawn from the OLI item banks. At the end of the course students took a final exam with questions created by the instructor.

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/09/16/research-learning-is-no-spectator-sport.aspx ]

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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How Nanodegrees Are Disrupting Higher Education

New “micro” online certification programs are changing the educational pathways to success in certain industries

Student working on a laptop computer.

By John K. Waters

Udacity created quite a buzz at the annual Google I/O conference this year when the for-profit online education provider unveiled its new Android Developer Nanodegree program. Created in close cooperation with Google, which owns the popular mobile operating system, the program is designed to provide software developers with the skills they need to build Android applications and a credential to prove to potential employers that they have those skills. Udacity later made the headline-grabbing announcement that it will refund half the tuition ($200 per month) for students completing the program in 12 months.

The Android nanodegree is the sixth member of Udacity’s young lineup of industry-led, career-oriented, online certification programs, but it’s not surprising that the launch of this one would draw so much attention. There are about a billion active Android users worldwide, and consequently, something approaching urgent demand for Android developers. But this high-profile launch also raises again the question of where these kinds of programs fit in the post-secondary educational landscape, and whether such focused learning programs might finally emerge as a disruptive force in higher education.

Udacity has trademarked the term “nanodegree,” but the concept of an institution-agnostic microcredential isn’t new and the company isn’t the only cutting-edge provider — it’s not even the first to work directly with Google. Earlier this year, Coursera announced partnerships with Google, Instagram and others to provide a series of “microdegrees.”

“Certificates have been around for a long time,” said Alexander Halavais, associate professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Arizona State University, “offered either on the industry/trade side, or in conjunction with university extension programs. In fact, the push of ‘university extension’ is well over a century old, and it was intended to break down some of the medieval structures of university education and make them more widely available.”

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/08/05/how-nanodegrees-are-disrupting-higher-education.aspx ]

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2015 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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Survey: MOOCs Supplement Traditional Higher Ed

By Joshua Bolkan

A new survey of students enrolled in massive open online courses (MOOCs) suggests that the courses are supplementing traditional higher education forms and “democratizing learning.”

Researchers from Duke University studied “13 free, open-access digital courses offered by Duke using the Coursera platform,” according to a news release, and found that the courses “are popular among youngsters, retirees and other non-traditional student populations.”

The team analyzed pre-course surveys administered to all students who signed up for a fall 2014 MOOC offered by Duke, looking specifically at responses from 9,000 people younger than 18, older than 65 and those who reported that they had no access to higher education.

Findings of the study included:

  • Students in the younger group often reported taking MOOCs in topics not taught in their schools;
  • Students in the youngest group also reported taking MOOCs to explore different disciplines to help weigh academic and career choices;
  • Those in the over-65 group reported taking MOOCs to pursue lifelong learning, to keep their minds active and to mentor younger students in their own professional field; and
  • Students who said they enrolled in MOOCs because of limited access to higher ed chose them because MOOCs were available despite their financial or mobility limitations.

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/07/06/survey-moocs-supplement-traditional-higher-ed.aspx ]

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2015 in Industry News, MOOCs in the News

 

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MIT Researchers Develop Model To Predict MOOC Dropouts

By Joshua Bolkan

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a model that aims to predict when students will drop out of a massive open online course (MOOC).

The model, presented at last week’s Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education, was trained on data from one course and is designed to apply to a wide range of other courses. “The prediction remains fairly accurate even if the organization of the course changes, so that the data collected during one offering doesn’t exactly match the data collected during the next,” according to a news release.

The study was conducted by Kalyan Veeramachaneni, a research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and Sebastien Boyer, a graduate student in MIT’s Technology and Policy Program.

“There’s a known area in machine learning called transfer learning, where you train a machine-learning model in one environment and see what you have to do to adapt it to a new environment,” said Veeramachaneni, in a prepared statement. “Because if you’re not able to do that, then the model isn’t worth anything, other than the insight it may give you. It cannot be used for real-time prediction.”

Veeramachaneni and Boyer began by compiling a list of variables such as amount of time spent per correct homework item and amount of time spent on learning resources such as video lectures.

“Next, for each of three different offerings of the same course, they normalized the raw values of those variables against the class averages,” according to information released by MIT. “So, for instance, a student who spent two hours a week watching videos where the class average was three would have a video-watching score of 0.67, while a student who spent four hours a week watching videos would have a score of 1.33.”

[ Full article available at Campus Technology: http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/07/01/mit-researchers-develop-model-to-predict-mooc-dropouts.aspx ]

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in MOOCs in the News

 

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