Tag Archives: Open Access

Project Lessons Learned – Iteration 1 of the SJSU/Udacity Pilot

A research-based report of the results of SJSU’s Spring 2013 pilot of lower-level mathematics courses offered via Massive Open Online Course platform (though I do like the term Augmented Online Learning Environment, or AOLE) has arrived — or at least a preliminary version.  Dubbed “Project Lessons Learned” by the research team, the results are pretty much in-line with anecdotal expectations as well as the buzz coming from SJSU:  at-risk students w/o a strong background in higher education or the subject matter fared poorly, while students w/ a strong background in higher education and/or the subject matter did better.  This is not new to those critical of MOOCs as an agent of democratizing global education, and the (for lack of a better term) bellyaching that came from Udacity in regards to student population continues to ring hollow, as globally more students share characteristics with the unsuccessful demographic.

Udacity’s response is also expected, highlighting success and mitigating struggle.

All of this comes in the shadow of Udacity’s private-private education partnership, the Open Education Alliance.  How will Udacity utilize its successes and failures in developing an open education model?  Also, how many more education terms can Udacity co-opt?  The original MOOC definition was for a learning model rather different from today’s cultural understanding of MOOC, and Open Education/Open Access as a theory and practice (with distinct roots in the early part of the century, and a history well before that) does not, at first glance, look like Udacity’s vision.

Datapalooza = Yelp.gov?

This is a response to President Obama’s recent initiative regarding higher education costs, value and affordability, but I will start by talking about Yelp.

I don’t like Yelp.  I’m not as disestablishmentarian as Jaron Lanier (defining Wisdom of the Crowd as Mob Mentality), but I understand that multiple variables color the aggregation system on a company’s reviews, expertise perhaps one variable, perhaps not.  This concerns me.  The LA Times discussed Yelp’s business backlash yesterday.  Yelp continues to deny that failure to advertise with their website results in the site’s algorithm casting less favor on a business, but business owners are convinced that Yelp runs like the mafia, and see advertising as a necessary evil to cull favor with the site.

The most obvious solution to this standoff would be for Yelp to publish their algorithm, but that will not happen.  I imagine Yelp would say publishing such sensitive data would destroy their business, equating their success to the algorithm and not their developed branding and affiliation.  What publishing the algorithm would certainly do is show the numerous variables that dictate a company’s ranking and placement within a community of businesses, and those variables could spark discussions about the efficacy of crowdsourced commentary (for example, prolific users’ comments hold more weight than irregular users, meaning certain quantity is valued over potential quality).   Continue reading

Defining Edu Terms & MOOC Simulacra

At the heart of the Open Education Resources movement (and the Open movement in general) is the notion that education is a public good.  The progression to such sentiment may be based in a notion that an educated citizenry betters democracy and civic life (folks like John Locke and Thomas Jefferson), or that knowledge and wisdom are non-rivalrous and non-excludable (Econ 101), or that the increase and diffusion of knowledge stimulates societal and cultural growth (James Smithson, John Quincy Adams).  Regardless of its germination, the crux of such thought is that the provision of education from an egalitarian lens results in benefit across the population.

At face value the Massive Open Online Course fits this vision:  courses are free, prerequisites are encouraged but not enforced, and access to the best professors at the best universities is not bound to geography or economics.  And research into the framework of the MOOC points to the opening of university walls, the building of intra- and internet communications and an attempt to promote the increase and diffusion of knowledge for society, whether communal or global.  That’s why it’s worth noting that one of the primary voices in OER, David Wiley, sees the 2013 incarnation of MOOCs as a money grab:

I propose that, whenever you hear the acronym MOOC, you think: “Massively Obfuscated Opportunities for Cash”

How can a MOOC be both a bastion for openness and the epitome of closed content? Continue reading

Social Learning in Independent Spaces?

I recently posted a response to a research paper by Terry Anderson which looked at the various modes of interaction across learning platforms and spaces.  Among the important and interesting notes was Anderson’s assertion that high quality learning could happen if one of three interactions (student-student, student-teacher or student-content) was of a high quality, regardless of the quality of the other two.  Yet in my reading of Anderson’s work, I saw him continue to discuss student-student interactions with great importance, moreso than he gave to student-teacher or student-content.  This ties into some existing learning theory popular today, most notably social learning theory (though, to be general, the Canadians like to call it social cognition) via Bandura (and Vygotsky’s social development theory). Continue reading

When MOOCs Happen: Alec Couros Explores Personal Learning Networks

Alec Couros gives a quasi-case study account of his experience facilitating (and I really like that term to define the role of an instructor in a MOOC) EC&I 831, an open access course that grew into an open online course, and eventually had ten times the number of registered students interacting online.  The course is commonly organized with cMOOCs, based on the focus on open access, the online component, the learning theory of the course, and the ratio of external students to internal students.  In this anthology chapter, Couros uses his experience with EC&I 831 to discuss the importance of personal learning networks, analyzing learning theory behind open access learning (and subsequently Open Online Courses).   Continue reading

Distance Education – Where MOOC Theory Hides

The initial problem with writing this dissertation was tracking down the learning theories behind Coursera-like MOOCs.  These business models are incredibly new, and their PR focuses on issues of access and affordability rather than theory and pedagogy.  Most searchable MOOC research focuses on cMOOCs, the connectivism-inspired MOOCs sired initially Siemens and Downes (which we will explore more heavily in the future, such as DS106).

It’s easy to forget that the MOOC is an extension of distance learning; in some respects, it is a fancier correspondence course.  Thus, the theory exists, it’s just hiding in the world of distance education.  Terry Anderson and Jon Dron explore the learning pedagogies (and theories) behind the evolution of distance learning, viewing the evolution of the field as in tune with the sociopolitical and sociocultural climates of the world at the time.   Continue reading

Comparing MOOCs

My dissertation chair pointed out a problem with doing a dissertation on MOOCs…unless the scope is specific enough, the venture becomes an attempt to define a moving target.  This is evident in the manner in which we define MOOCs…in this blog I have begun looking at the MOOCs of Siemens and Downes as urMOOCs (coined by Bryan Alexander among others), although there are many who refer to them as cMOOCs (for Connectivist MOOCs).  That leaves the Udacity/EdX/Coursera model as MOOC, and any good sociologist or cultural theorist will tell you that by defining one as standard and another as derivative, we have already set false assumptions and beliefs.

C.O. Rodriguez wrote a paper for the European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning on the differences between the cMOOC and what we refer to as only MOOC, and even he had difficulty defining the terms, using “AI-Stanford Like Model” to delineate.  The paper is an ideal start for scholarly research on the topic, and as I read through his citations and continue to look over the work I will share those outcomes.  A few initial points I found noteworthy: Continue reading