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Tag: moocs

3-2-1 For 9-4-16

Three readings worth your time this week.

Remember all the talk from a few years ago about how MOOCs were going to disrupt higher education? Audrey Watters offers a great review of all the hype and attempts to figure out what happened to the MOOC revolution? Spoiler alert: it has to do in part with course completion rates around 15 percent. (about 8 minutes)

To celebrate the opening of a new year in most US schools, The Atlantic published the opinions of a panel of “education experts” on six different topics. The post on homework is an interesting read, and, despite the title of When Homework is Useless, most of the experts felt kids should still be required to complete at least some form of the traditional assignment. (about 5 minutes)

It’s probably only for total geek baby boomers, but I enjoyed this oral history of the 80’s 20-minute-into-the-future media phenomena that was Max Headroom. The program is still entertaining, and possibly even more relevant. (about 30 minutes)

Two audio tracks for your commute.

In a segment of the podcast Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell (whom you may know from books like The Tipping Point) talks about The Satire Paradox (39:10). The paradox being that satire doesn’t seem to change anyone’s mind. Something to think about.

Planet Money took a novel approach to the issue of fossil fuels by actually buying some oil and following it to the pump, looking at a variety of issues along the way. If you don’t have time for all five segments, listen to the last one that imagines a World Without Oil. (26:29)

One video to watch when you have a few minutes.

When it comes to TED talks, you probably think of inspiring lectures. But the E in the name stands for Entertainment and in this “talk” from a 2015 TEDx in Sydney, Australia, the wonderful acapella group The Idea of North explain their music and provide great, very entertaining examples. (17:04)


The All-Knowing Mr. Gates

Recently Bill Gates spoke to members of Microsoft’s Faculty Summit “on the future of education, programming and just about everything else”. I guess if you’re that rich, you must be an expert on pretty much anything.

So, what did the omniscient Mr. Gates have to say about education? For one thing, that he has not made any mistakes in funding his experiments.

Gates acknlowedged during the session that some of his work might have unintended, negative consequences, but not this one. “In the education space,” he responded to a question from the audience, “I frankly don’t see that much of a downside.”

No unintended, negative consequences. I guess, just like the Zune, we’re supposed to forget the billions and years spent on creating “small” schools, the concept that was supposed to revolutionize the American high school. Not to mention his current misguided and unsupported-by-any-research advocacy for “value add” teacher assessments.

Of course, Gates is also a major supporter of online education.

But, Gates acknowledged, we’re also a way out from online education achieving its full potential. We need to develop better understanding of what makes a good online course (“just sticking a camera in front of someone … who has a captive audience [won’t cut it]“) and how to replicate non-lecture experiences like lab time and study groups. We also need to figure out how to supplement the cognitive and social development that comes along with attending school in person (although, he noted, MOOCs might also be able to help teachers focus on these things).

I’ll be very interested to hear the all-knowing Mr. Gates explain how one teacher is supposed to support the cognitive and social development of 5000+ MOOC students. Especially in a one-way format like the Khan Academy, of which he is a major advocate.

And just so you don’t think Gates is only wrong about education, consider his view of the American intellectual property system, which he claims is “working very well”. For someone with lots of IP lawyers, he’s probably right.

The view from on high is so much better than the one here on the ground, isn’t it?

Clicks Instead of Bricks

The New York Times this morning has an interesting overview of the open courseware movement that’s rapidly expanding at the college level around the world. What one speaker at a recent conference on the topic termed investing in “clicks instead of bricks”.

MIT and Stanford have been pioneers in making many of their undergraduate courses available to anyone who wants to participate, without the cost but also missing the credentials. But they’re not alone anymore with, according to another conference participant, more than 21,000 courses from universities on six continents now available and more being added every week.

Despite courses being free to the student, someone must see a business model here. Recently two companies have been spun off from Stanford’s open online courses and one of them just raised $16 million in venture capital.

I’m not sure I completely buy the claim of a representative from one open university who says “you don’t need a teacher for learning”. Some people do, and it often depends on the complexity of subject matter, like medicine or engineering.

However, for many general learning and introductory courses that fill the schedules of many undergraduates, courses offered online and providing a self-paced approach is an option that needs to be available to students.

And a similar approach could work for many, if not most, high school courses. Certainly not for all students, just like independent learning isn’t right for all those in college, or all adults for that matter. But maybe we need to offer kids the choice to opt out of live versions of required courses, especially those that are not part of their spheres of interest.

Anyway, with the rapid growth and acceptance of college level open courses, a though comes to mind.

I wonder when we reach the point where the learning a person gains from participation in a class becomes more important than the credentials awarded for attending in person.

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