Tag Archives: President Obama

What We Cannot Learn from the Udacity/GT Partnership

Today’s Chronicle of Higher Education features an article by Steve Kolowich about the potential impact of the Udacity/Georgia Tech/AT&T online master’s program on the future cost of higher education:

The program, which started last winter, pairs MOOC-like course videos and assessments with a support system of course assistants who work directly with students. The goal is to create a low-cost master’s degree that is nonetheless “just as rigorous” as the on-campus equivalent—producing graduates who are “just as good,” to quote one of the new program’s cheerleaders, President Obama. The price: less than $7,000 for the three-year program, a small fraction of the cost of the traditional program.

By understanding what kinds of students are drawn to the new program, Mr. Goodman and his fellow researchers think they can begin to understand what competitors it might threaten.

Bringing down the cost of a professional program is an admirable goal, and this specific success could mean a great deal for the target population of this and other professional, graduate programs.  However, the rhetoric surrounding initiatives such as the Udacity/Georgia Tech/AT&T partnership rarely distinguishes between the target population of a professional program and the population at the heart of the crisis in higher education.

One year ago, Udacity pivoted its approach to online learning away from democratizing education for underrepresented learners and toward professional programs (I wrote about the decision at the time).  This pivot was maligned within scholarly EdTech circles for good reason:  Udacity had set its organizational intention at solving the cost problem of higher education, but its product was unable to adequately serve the population it intended to assist.   Continue reading

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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

Alternative Accreditation & the MOOC

One of the longstanding questions around the MOOC movement is financial:  there is a great deal of venture capital locked up in Coursera, edX and Udacity, but none of these organizations have provided a methodology of ROI for its benefactors, choosing instead to focus on heartwarming anecdotes about the potential of global education (quick tangent — Aaron Bady has a great takedown of the MOOCmania over here, where he challenges Clay Shirky’s most recent article and pinpoints the MOOC hysteria as an easy mark, where MOOC can stand for any potential and the current system for all failings).  While philanthropy is not lost on MOOCs, venture capital is not traditionally so gregarious with its investments, so a way to pay back the investors must emerge.  And here is where speculation begins in a rampant earnestness (my favorite part of this article is where Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller nonchalantly focuses on scalability…reminds me of the SNL sketch for the Bank of Change where the CEO says his bank [that deals wholly in making exact change] turns a profit based on volume).

Will it be advertising?  Certifications or testing?  Career services?  Do the MOOC providers have any clue*? Continue reading