Miscellaneous

Are MOOCs, Bootcamps and Other Alternative Education Options Effective?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/22/2017 - 15:59

Kara Voght, U.S. News & World Report, Jul 23, 2017

According to this article, "A new study questions the quality of these programs, as well as the evidence that demonstrates their efficacy." When an article questions whether any form of online learning is "effective", the first question to ask is, "what do they mean by effective?" This is what I wondered on reading this article. I was disappointed, on multiple accounts. First,  American Council on Education  study cited in the article in no way resembles the coverage in this article. After gnashing my teeth I did some hunting and found a  second article  by the same authors published by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences which  does  cover the topic. But on a  reading  of the article I found nothing questioning their effectiveness (save the oft-repreted comment about MOOC completion rates), only an assertion that there is insufficient research on their quality. Both these reports - by researchers  Jessie Brown and Martin Kurzweil - are quality reports. It's a shame the U.S. News & World Report treats them so disrespectfully.

 

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The Complex Universe of Alternative Postsecondary Credentials and Pathways

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/22/2017 - 15:40

Jessie Brown, Martin Kurzweil, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Jul 23, 2017

This is a survey document (56 page PDF) tracking research and commentary on the rise of alternative credentials (such as microcredentials, badges and certificates) and alternative learning pathways (such as word-based learning, MOOCs and short courses. The report has very little to say about effectiveness (see the executive summary) though it does make comments in passing as it cites other articles (eg. by the Chronicle). It looks into the historical antedecents and is a detailed examination of the rise of these alternatives, including how they are beginning to be incorporated into traditionaal programs. At the end, it remarks on the dearth of quality assessment for these alternatives: "evidence of the efficacy and value of these alternatives— for students and taxpayers— is still thin. Robust data on many programs’ features, cost, enrollment, and outcomes are simply not available."

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Instructional Quality, Student Outcomes and Institutional Finances

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/22/2017 - 15:10

Jessie Brown, Martin Kurzweil, American Council on Education, Jul 23, 2017

This newly released report from  the American Council on Education (25 page PDF) begins up front with a definition of instructional quality - sort of: "we maintain that the most sensible approach is to consider both inputs and outcomes, or to look at how actionable instructional inputs impact student outcomes."  Reading through the report, though, we ssee the usual: persistance, completion rates, and GPA. It should be noted that this report seems far more interested in their impact on institutional revenue. I read this as an extended logical model; although "we are not aware of any study that directly evaluates the impact of improvements in instructional quality on net revenue" the report makes the case that such a link is there. As such, it does the job quite well.

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Feed your need to know

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Sat, 07/22/2017 - 14:54

The Keyword, Google, Jul 23, 2017

I search a lot, and I search in fairly precisely defined areas, and I need to keep up on news in these areas, so the new Google service - a feed based on my search interests that updates with news daily - would seem to be perfect. Except, first, it's only available in the U.S.; I'll have to wait a few weeks. And second (and worse, in my mind) it's only available in the Gogle App (for Android, iOS and Pixel Launcher).

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The principles of learning to design learning environments

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 17:41

OECD, Jul 23, 2017

This is a chapter from the recently released OECD  Handbook for Innovative Learning Environments, the entirely of which appears to be accessible for reading online (knowing OECD, this may be an accident, so download it quickly). The principles in and of themselves are interesting. There's seven in all, and each is a conjunction of sevaral points, so if we teased them out there might be a dozen or two. These pronciples, which are learning-centered, are then applied to teaching and to learning environments. As Grainne Conole says, "One to explore in more depth… "

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DIY VR Viewer

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 17:33

Richard Byrne, Free  Technology for Teachers, Jul 23, 2017

How much was oculus Rift again? OK, you're probably not getting the same quality of virtual reality, but you can't beat the price. "YouTube "celebrity"  Roman UrsuHack  offers the following video that provides an overview of making your own VR viewer."

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WeChat’s director of user growth talks up new features for overseas clients

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 17:29

Clayton Jacobs, ReadWrite, Jul 23, 2017

Worth keeping an eye on, because we'll see this capability migrate to our part of the world eventually: "WeChat began as a messaging app back in 2010 created by China’ s Tencent, but over the years, it has quickly become a tool of everyday life in mainland China. WeChat has 889 million monthly active users; 83 percent of people surveyed use WeChat for work, and 93 percent of respondents from Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities use WeChat’ s internal payment system for offline purchases."

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Students are Better Off without a Laptop in the Classroom

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 17:16

Cindi May, Scientific American, Jul 23, 2017

So this is another one of those research surveys of "students who were enrolled in an introductory psychology course" which tell us utterly nothing but make it into the news anyway. In this case, the 'news' in question is Scientific American, which should be ashamed of itself. The study measured computer use in class and found "students are spending up to one-third of valuable (and costly) class time zoned out, and the longer they are online the more their grades tend to suffer." There's no reason to believe this is true generally, especially for courses that are  not  data-dumps like Psych 101. Via Joanne Jacobs.

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Beginning the  Conversation…A Made-in-Canada Approach  to Digital Government

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 15:06

Government of Canada, Jul 23, 2017

Some of the key conversations taking place in our field are echoed in this report on digital government in Canada. Most of the interestinbg stuff is near the end of the document: connecting with external tralent ("mechanisms like  Interchange  and newer flexible staffing regimes make it relatively easy and fast for hiring managers to bring outside professionals into government for short-term assignments"), user-centric design skills ("  a skills gap that needs to be addressed in the public sector at the intersection of user-centric design and agile prototyping and development"), cloud and open source technologies ("open source platforms have become an increasingly important foundational element for digital transformation in public sector organizations across the world"), digital identity ("many participants expressed a desire for the federal government to play a stronger leadership role, and to pilot digital identity solutions"), and digital literacy ("digital literacy was identified as being needed across government, at all levels and functions, to support smart decision-making"). The resulting website - Digital Canada - keeps people up to date on the program (and incidentally leaves the antiquated 'Common Look and Feel (CLF)' standards in the dust behind it as through they weren't even there) and their Twitter feed.

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Evaluating personalization

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 14:34

Philip Kerr, Adaptive Learning in ELT, Jul 23, 2017

This post looks at "the constellation of meanings that are associated with the term ('personalization'), suggest a way of evaluating just how ‘ personalized’ an instructional method might be, and look at recent research into ‘ personalized learning’ ." It follows a previous post illustrating how the term has been rendered meaningless by marketers. Unfortunately, writes the author, "but perhaps not surprisingly, none of the elements that we associate with ‘ personalization’ will lead to clear, demonstrable learning gains." But  what counts as a gain? This is what is missing in the research. "The Gates Foundation were probably asking the wrong question. The conceptual elasticity of the term ‘ personalization’ makes its operationalization in any empirical study highly problematic."

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Information Underload

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 14:17

Mike Caulfield, Hapgood, Jul 23, 2017

Mike Caulfiend comes out with a gem of a post questioning the concept of 'information overload'. The problem isn't too much information, he writes. The "big problem is not that it’ s a firehose, but that it’ s a firehose of sewage. It’ s all haystack and no needle." He has numerous examples: numerous cancer studies, no cancer cure. Numerous research studies, no repoducability. Big data in education, but no idea where this data should lead us. An "algorithm could only match you with the equivalent of the films in the Walmart bargain bin, because Netflix had a matching algorithm but  nothing worth watching." I keep telling people, 'education isn't a search problem'. Maybe I should be saying 'education isn't an algorithm problem'.

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Personalized Learning: Budget cuts spur new teaching model

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 14:06

Sarah Julian, NonDoc, Jul 23, 2017

This is a post touting  Momentum Schools, Oklahoma's version of personal learning. "Momentum gives students the choice of how, when and where they attend school [and]    instead of traditional group class time, students schedule meetings with individual teachers to assess schoolwork. Students work at their own pace to ensure they master the content." Doing what? I wonder. The story doesn't tell us. Digging into the Momentum site reveals it's competency-based learning.  We see pictures of students at computers, so I can guess. And the  reason  this model was adopted was to save money, so they're cutting teacher interacton. And I don't see any real  freedom  in this model: students are bound to the content, bound to the machine.

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Here (with 2 Years of Exhausting Photographic Detail) Is How To Write A Book

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 13:45

Ryan Holiday, The Mission, Medium, Jul 23, 2017

This is a terrific post delivering exactly what the title promises, running from ideation, proposal, research, writing and editing, and even cover design and legal review. The value of the post isn't in giving aspiring writers a recipe they should follow - indeed, the method is completely paper-based and therefore more cumbersome than necessary. But it offers valuable suggestions about process, for example, the notecard system, which is very similar to what I do here with OLDaily (each one of these posts is like a separate notecard). It's something to show students to have them think about the process of knowing, the process of learning, the process of creating.

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America’s hidden philosophy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 17:05

John McCumber, Aeon, Jul 22, 2017

This article offers what could be an interesting explanation for the state of educational policy and while I can't say I necessarily agree with it I can't entirely dismiss it either. It tells the story of UCLA  chancellor Raymond B Allen, who needed a reason to fire some Marxist professors during the McCarthy years. The argument he developed was that "members of the Communist Party have abandoned reason, the impartial search for truth." But what would 'reason' look like in this (capitalist) context? "Rational choice theory... was a plausible candidate. It holds that people make (or should make) choices rationally by ranking the alternatives presented to them."

The article doesn't extend the explanation to education policy, but I feel free to. It offers an explanation of the focus on STEM, as opposed to the non-rational theory-based disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. It explains the phenomenon of 'school choice' as an argument for privatizing schools. It explains  the popularity of 'evidence-based' practice measuring concrete outcomes such as test scores. And it explains  the rejection of 'social good' as an outcome in education. But as the article says, "  there is much more to a good society than the affordance of maximum choice to its citizens." And indeed, offering  choice  (as compared to allowing people to  create) is itself a mechanism of control.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Stunning market data predicts the future of online learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 15:39

Meris Stansbury, eCampus News, Jul 22, 2017

I'm not sure how "stunning" the data are, nor do I think the prediction is particularly specific. Still. The trend is worth observing - "a year-to-year online enrollment increase of 226,375 distance education students– a 3.9 percent increase, up over rates recorded the previous two years" and "more than one in four students (29.7 percent) now take at least one distance education course (a total of 6,022,105 students)." So, yeah. Online learning has arrived. P.S. don't bother with the infographic, which is just an advertisement for a cloud e-learning company.

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'Personalized Learning' and the Power of the Gates Foundation to Shape Education Policy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 15:32

Audrey  Wayters, Hack Education, Jul 22, 2017

What struck me in this post was this: "The amount of money that the Gates Foundation has awarded in education grants is simply staggering: some  $15 billion  across some  3000+ grants  since the organization was founded in 1998." And so Audrey Watters comments, "the Gates Foundation remains one of the most influential (and anti-democratic) forces in education. As such, it gets to define what 'personalized learning' is – what it looks like." Maybe. Or maybe not. Some of us  not  funded by Gates still have a horse in this race. 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Armenian Higher Education in the European Higher Education Area

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 15:21

Tatevik Gharibyan, Inside Higher  Ed, Jul 22, 2017

This is an update of Armenia's education strategy in the years after it joined "the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the Bologna Process by signing the Bergen Communiqué in 2005." Armenia - which I visited in 2014 - is a small country with few natural resources (though you can get pomogranates everywhere) and thus depends on developing its 3 million people and attracting students (and ideas) from neighbouring countries. 

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A new chapter for Glass

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 15:10

Jay Kothari, X Company Blog, Jul 22, 2017

They're back! Google has relaunched Google Glass with Glass Enterprise Edition. As a fashion statement Glass was a failure, but the technology proved useful in the workplace. "Workers in many fields, like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy." This is a use case that really makes sense, and would make even more sense with voice commands (there's no mention of this in the article). It's also a natural for on-demand context-specific e-learning. (As an aside, I find it interesting that the team at X.Company, which is a branch of Google/Alphabet, is using Medium as a blogging engine instead of  Google-owned Blogger.)

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Amazon Inspire

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 14:53

Amazon, Jul 22, 2017

As the EdSurge article says, "After more than a year of invitation-only private beta, Amazon just opened its free library of open-education resources, called  Amazon Inspire." You can't post your own resources on the site yet - but a statement from Amazon says this feature is coming soon. While site  calls  these open education resources, they are locked behind a subscription wall - they may be free, but you have to login to Amazon in order to view them, providing your name and email, zip code, the name of your school and the grades you teach, thus giving them your browsing and download information. This will be especially useful to Amazon when they include the non-free for-pay resources to the site. The site currently includes public domain and Creative Commons resources,  including  Non-commercial licensed resources, like this one.

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Facebook Says It Will Start Testing a Subscription-Based News Product in October

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 14:35

David Cohen, AdWeek, Jul 22, 2017

I have to believe that Facebook will be a lot more diligent about policing 'pirated' news content in user posts and groups than it ever was abusive content and   fake news. Because combating unauthorized file sharing is the  real  crisis we all face today. What I have noticed in general is that newspapers and magazine websites have begun to clamp down again with subscription paywalls, anti-ad-block barriers, and more. If I encounter one of those I just close the tab. And I do my very best to keep such links from appearing in OLDaily.

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