Higher education evolution, or Creative Destruction as this article calls it, typifies the tendency of costs to soar in industries where labor costs rise as productivity remains the same. This article in the Economist was surprising in the way it combined MOOCs, which are not for credit – the only MOOC, at Georgia Tech, that is for-credit – and the ASU Online program, which is not a MOOC. The author predicts a higher ed future of MOOCs, whereas I see them in their current form as an interim solution. Nonetheless the virtual migration of a good deal of higher ed will most likely continue. The victims, such as the small towns that rely on universities, will likely feel some pain. “Whereas the prices of cars, computers and much else have fallen dramatically, universities, protected by public-sector funding and the premium employers place on degrees, have been able to charge ever more for the same service. For two decades the cost of going to college in America has risen by 1.6 percentage points more than inflation every year.”
Data analytics are promising. Whether it’s the quantified self, the quantified child, personalized learning or adaptive learning the possibilities for the use of data are remarkable. There’s just one problem. It’s the data, and the quantity of data being collected about our children. It is being collected by private companies and startups, and it’s being sold to people we don’t want to have it. inBloom shut down amidst these concerns in April. We have FERPA, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, to protect this kind of information. But as often happens, technology took a big leap beyond regulation, which moves at a slow pace. People often come to the rescue when technology moves faster than regulation. Larry Lessig founded Creative Commons for copyright and IP challenges when digitization moved faster than regulation. We have yet to see what moves will be made to start protecting learner data. This article is from DML Central, and Doug Belshaw who, as always, expands on this issue so well. “There is some bad news, however — another mess that we are nowhere near solving. In fact, we’re so far buried by the logic of it that we will have to dig ourselves out. That mess is venture capitalists buying our personal data through startups.”
Unizin is a pro-active, offensive approach to pressure mounting inside higher education institutions. It puts Universities in control, and lets them achieve economies of scale by joining together and sharing resources, costs of licenses, assets, services for infrastructure, and leveraging contracts through bargaining power with publishers and other content providers. The founder of the group of institutions is Brad Wheeler, CIO of Indiana University, who had the vision and was able to execute the opportunity. Higher Ed has always focused on independence, rather than interdependence, but that’s the path to scale, he states. So far, Indiana University, University of Michigan, Colorado State, and University of Florida have officially joined (thanks Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein, who uncovered Unizin well before it happened.) Phil and Michael also reported six other universities who are reportedly joining, but it is not public yet. “The Unizin Consortium is universities coming together in a strategic way to exert greater control and influence over the digital learning landscape. It enables each institution, its faculty, and students to draw on an evolving set of tools to support digital learning for residential, flipped classroom, online courses/degrees, badged experiences for Alumni, or even MOOCs if desired. Unizin supports the differing missions and strategies of universities.
This is from an article I wrote on Medium exactly a year ago….May 2013. For some reason it has been tweeted lately so I am reposting. Link to full article at the bottom. It’s still relevant.
Learning is our new hobby. Dr. Thrun’s first MOOC an xMOOC, which is what we now call what we see in Coursera et al was an experiment, which was obvious and transparent throughout the course. MOOCs are a work in progress, constantly evolving, new pedagogies and andragogies emerging, assessments and the management of massive groups of people constantly changing. Participants are tolerant. They are learners. More than half of them as of writing have undergraduate degrees, and almost as many have a masters or terminal degrees.
Where have we seen this before? Large groups of people, participating in the innovation, joining together for “projects” done with peers in the crowd? MMORPGs. We formed guilds instead of project groups. We looked for “powers” in our fellow guild members. In MOOCs those powers are a life skill that will be an asset in a course project that is assessed by fellow learners. Instead of waiting for an upcoming game which we paid for we wait for our next course to start.
I hesitate to speak about quality, because when we think of MMORPGs we think of a big business that sells software each person pays for, or even reserves ahead of time, that yields a profit. MOOCs are not there yet. They may have a “rock star” professor instead of fantastic animation, but people are taking the course at no charge. They are evolving and becoming more complex, just as MMORPGs evolved with better graphics and social layers. They have learned to shorten the lectures to 5 – 7 minutes, because that is what we tolerate. We are nowhere near the developmental phase we reached with MMORPGs. It is, however, a close analogy to watch. We learned from MMORPGs, we met peers, we formed groups, and we acquired skills. It is interesting to watch the parallel, and wonder where the divergence will take place. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of MOOCs, Open Education, Technology, and Online Learning – and to be a part of it.
In participatory culture, this type of debate is ongoing. Anonymity? Or is there more responsibility if people own their names? Amazon has eliminated the ability to comment anonymously. And though there are many great reasons for people to be able to post anonymously (past comment on article “We Need Online Alter Egos More Than Ever”) the Atlantic asks us if it is fair when students fill out course reviews without ownership. They make the analogy of trolling the internet. “The rise of the Internet has meant that people are no longer passive readers—as the journalism professor, Jay Rosen, put it, they are the “people formerly known as the audience.” They are active participants in the creation and dissemination of the information they consume.”
In this interview with CNN, the co-founders of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy discuss the many ways in which we are all left behind by technology and innovation as it accelerates. In many ways similar to my earlier post about data collection and young students, the discussion is focused on how quickly technology is racing ahead, before regulations or organizations have a chance to adapt. For example:
“• Are our regulations keeping up with new companies that let people summon a ride on the fly or rent out a room in their house?
• Are large employers able to look beyond the traditions of resume, transcript and interview when evaluating job candidates and learn how to value alternate signals like performance in a massive open online course?
• Will our primary education system decrease its current emphasis on rote learning and standardized testing and start teaching skills computers don’t have, such as creativity and problem-solving?
• Can we remove the Kafkaesque barriers in place today that prevent so many of the world’s most talented, tenacious and ambitious people from immigrating to the United States? Will the government start spending adequately in the areas where we know it pays off, like infrastructure and basic research?
Too often today, the answers to questions like these are “no” or “not enough.””
Thought provoking story on Politico about the amount of data acquired and retained by companies that gather information while students play games, take quizzes, or do homework. This is clearly a case where technology moved faster than laws, and whereas FERPA regulations have diligently safeguarded student data, none of the tools and platforms available now even existed – in fact “floppy disks were just coming into vogue.” Who could have anticipated the explosion of available student data? Politico highlights one firm in particular…..”The data analytics firm has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday.”
The potential of educational technology runs deep, and horizontally. Yes, it is about higher education and its evolution. Yes, it is about reimagining K12 education and with new modalities, tools, and most importantly pedagogies. But it is also about educating leaders in the corporate world. This article discusses the potential for technology to delivery highly personalized continuous education to individual leaders. This is an area where we will see growth, as the World Economic Forum partners with edX to launch its first course. “Online platforms for education have the potential to revolutionize the idea of continuous learning for executives. The MOOC model is ripe for adaptation to deliver structured courses to business leaders, helping them to think about potentially transformational combinations of ideas at the periphery of their industries. From GE’s blog.
Case study courses, the foundation of Harvard Business School for years, are effective for many reasons. Experiential learning almost always provides a meaningful experience, and short of real life experience, they are most effective. They provide a simulation that immerses the learner in the environment, considering alternatives and thinking critically about a situation they connect with. “Instead of building big interactive elearning courses to address the issue they created a series of case studies that were meaningful and real. Sometimes you don’t have time to build a big course.”
Helping students be successful online is much different than it is in traditional environments. Often assumptions are made about technical aptitude of learners who take classes online, but in many cases the technology is a barrier. Academic and study skills differ as well. Debbie Morrison’s article defines ways to support learners online. “Three Categories of Resources: The resources featured here address skill gaps in three areas: 1) technical, 2) academic and 3) study skills. The academic section includes resources for subject areas of writing composition, grammar and math. The technical section links to sites that provide instruction for learners in basic web skills including e-mail and file uploads, how-to navigate and search on the web, and it also features a list of resources for student support specific to learning management (LMS) platforms. The section on study skills provides a list of resources geared to learners studying online; skill development for time management, study planning and prioritizing.”