news (external)

Ethics and soft boundaries between Facebook groups and other web services

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Thu, 2014-04-17 21:08

Frances Bell, Francesbell's Blog, April 17, 2014

Fances Bell explores some of the murky issues surrounding access to 'closed' sites and services such as Facebook groups. These are not accessible to people without a Facebook login, and as such may be inaccessible to people who for one reason or another don't want Facebook. But also as such, these may carry a presumption of privacy on the part of members, some of whom may think posting to the course group isn't 'public' in the way posting a blog port or web page is. Meanwhile, can you post what was said on one Facebook group (or mailing list, or whatever) on another Facebook group? What if it's a 'closed' (members only) group? Tough questions.

[Link] [Comment]

Educating Modern Learners Is Live!

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Thu, 2014-04-17 21:01

Audrey Watters, Hack Education, April 17, 2014

Audrey Watters announces the arrival of her online publishing venture with Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon, Educating Modern Learners, "a site dedicated to news and analysis about the future of teaching and learning through a progressive education (and progressive ed-tech) lens." It will, sadly,  cost you $35 a month to read. Not open content, obviously.

[Link] [Comment]

Literature is not Data: Against Digital Humanities

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Thu, 2014-04-17 19:49

Stephen Marche, Los Angeles Review of Books, April 17, 2014

I don't think there's anything wrong with the  digital humanities per se but I accept the criticism that it would represent a misapplication of big data. As Stephen Marche writes, "Literature cannot meaningfully be treated as data. The problem is essential rather than superficial: literature is not data. Literature is the opposite of data." In particular, "algorithms, exactly like fascism, work perfectly, with a sense of seemingly unstoppable inevitability, right up until the point they don’ t.`Well fine. But why is this the case? I would say that it's because data (as we know it) is about mass, while meaning is based on context and connection.

[Link] [Comment]

5 Key Barriers to Educational Technology Adoption in the Developing World

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Thu, 2014-04-17 19:40

Clayton R. Wright, Educational Technology Debate, April 17, 2014

I think this is the real challenge to talking about educational technology in the developing world: before you can get to educational technology you have to consider, if not overcome, these barriers. What are they?

  • electrical power
  • internet connectivity
  • training and professional development
  • value of teachers
  • sustainability

Most of these could be solved with money - and in a nation like Canada, they would be - but some, like electricity or internet connectivity, would require a great deal of money, because of the need to build social infrastructure before you can build a learning infrastructure. And most of the discussion around them talks about short-cuts or work-arounds: solar power, for example, or mobile internet. But you can't short-cut the last three, and that's why these problems are ongoing.

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Minnesota students and instructors are developing an online platform similar to a MOOC

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Thu, 2014-04-17 02:10

By Taylor Nachtigal, Minnesota Daily

As the nature of higher education evolves from traditional classrooms to online, a group of graduate and professional students want to ensure the University of Minnesota follows the trend. Some students and instructors are working with the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly to develop an online platform for graduate and professional students to pool their knowledge and expertise to address common, University-wide problems. The website will work similarly to a MOOC, or massive open online course, and serve as a virtual learning platform that allows people to connect anytime to explore shared interests or solve common problems. “The nature of knowledge is changing,” said Christiane Reilly, a Ph.D. student who is consulting project leaders. “Younger generations are used to solving problems by looking up information on the Internet when they have a problem.”

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Facial Biometrics Replacing Passwords in Online Learning

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Thu, 2014-04-17 02:05

by FindBiometrics

Biometrics have a very special place in multilingual deployment scenarios. The human body speaks its own universal language of identity. We have seen this particularly benefit the healthcare industry through field deployments that leverage fingerprint biometrics to better keep track of health records regardless of language or literacy barriers. Now, we are beginning to see this philosophy applied to the space of online learning. Biometric ID and motion analysis specialist KeyLemon SA announced yesterday that it has partnered with Swissteach AG in order to bring facial recognition sign-on to the Global Teach online learning management system. Currently a supplemental level of logical access security, the resultant demo solution uses 20 points of facial data to guard sensitive information.

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Online courses, gateway to limitless knowledge

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Thu, 2014-04-17 02:02

by ASHIK GURUNG, Republica

KATHMANDU, April 07: In the heart of every scholar’s woes is their never-ending thirst for knowledge; the constant ‘need to know all’ basis and the burning desire to challenge the mind to higher analytical thinking and problem solving skills. To add to their distress, complications arise when they cannot find the required resources to quench their thirst: lack of teachers, overcrowded classrooms, exorbitant fees, missing books, unavailable courses; the list just goes on and on. But with the recent evolution of high-tech gadgets, these scholars can seek solace in the newly found panacea for their difficulties – online courses.

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Phasing out certificates of free courseware completion

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2014-04-16 20:12

Sebastian Thrun, Udacity Blog, April 16, 2014

The commercialization of MOOCs continues: "effective May 16, we will stop offering free non-identity-verified certificates." The funny part is that they say students are demanding this.

[Link] [Comment]

Small Private Colleges Are in Deep Trouble (as They Should Be)

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2014-04-16 19:30

Jordan Weissmann, Slate, April 16, 2014

While this is termed as "a small brush fire, clearing out some of the unhealthier institutions in higher ed" the credit default warnings being issued against small colleges may be the harbinger of something more widespread. The article suggests, "because they don’ t have much in the way of endowments, they tend to charge high tuition, and leave undergraduates saddled with debts that simply might not be worthwhile." These problems aren't unique to small private colleges, though.

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Wie sich Ei- und Samenzelle finden

ScienceTicker.Info - Wed, 2014-04-16 19:17
Wie sich Eizelle und Samenzelle erkennen, hat eine englische Forschergruppe im Detail aufklären können. Die Wissenschaftler identifizierten ein Protein in der Hülle von Eizellen, das mit einem Gegenstück bei Spermien eine schwache, aber folgenreiche Verbindung eingeht.
Categories: Science News

Choose your silo (or, Why are we partying like it’s 1999?)

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2014-04-16 12:30

Doug Belshaw, April 16, 2014

Even in 1999 things were more open than they are in mobile computing today. Right now, it feels more like the days of AOL and Compuserv - completely separate (and expensive) information silos. "It’ s nothing new," writes Doug Belshaw. "The  Agricultural Revolution in England 250 years ago provides another example. Here, common land was literally ‘ enclosed’ for private profit. The people on the land protested, but rapacious capitalists forced legislation through by way of ties with the government." We need to resist, writes Belshaw. "As users, let's not be seduced by 'free' as in 'free beer' but actively fight for 'free' as in 'liberty'." And let's support 'open', not as in 'for business' but as in 'doors'.

[Link] [Comment]

Time to retire from online learning?

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2014-04-16 12:02

Tony Bates, online learning, distance edcuation resources, April 16, 2014

Tony Bates is calling it a career. "After 45 years continuously working in online and distance education," he writes, "I’ ve certainly earned the right to stop." Among other reasons, he is upset about MOOCs - not the concept, but the hubris and nonsense - "Having ignored online learning for nearly 20 years, Stanford, MIT and Harvard had to re-invent online learning in their own image to maintain their perceived superiority in all things higher educational." Bates will continue to write and continue the blog, but most activities will end. I think it's fitting to say here that his contribution has been significant and that if I'm granted another 20 years in the business (I'm 55 to his 75) the impact of his work will certainly be felt in my own.

See also: D'Arcy Norman.

[Link] [Comment]

Stand Up and Be Counted

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Wed, 2014-04-16 11:46

Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, April 16, 2014

So, how is this going to work? Maryland has issued a letter telling distance education providers to students in the state to stand up and be counted. "Higher education institutions offering fully online education to Maryland residents must submit an application to register with the Maryland Higher Education Commission,” the letter reads. If you reply, then Maryland demands you "pay an annual registration fee of $1,000 and a bond valued at five times the average cost of tuition." But what if they don't - what if the provider is from Finland, or India, or Canada? I would resist such a demand to the full limit of the law - because compliance would mean a flood of demands for registration from thousands of jurisdictions around the world. Google or Microsoft can handle that and simply pass on the cost. The rest of us can't. So, what then? Would Maryland start blocking illegal online learning, the way the U.S. blocks casinos and Turkey blocks YouTube? There's no good end-game in that scenario.

[Link] [Comment]

Online students can’t help being sociable

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Wed, 2014-04-16 02:09

By Sean Coughlan, BBC

It was a revolution moving higher education from bricks to clicks… and now it’s started to go back to bricks again. Online university providers, which offered people the chance to study from home, are turning full circle by creating a network of learning centres where students can meet and study together. Instead of demolishing the dusty old classrooms of academia, the online university revolution is responsible for opening some new ones. Coursera, a major California-based provider of online courses, is creating an international network of “learning hubs”, where students can follow these virtual courses in real-life, bricks and mortar settings. And there are thousands of meet-ups in cafes and libraries where students get together to talk about their online courses.

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What Recruiters Need to Know About EdTech–and the Expanding Talent Pool

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Wed, 2014-04-16 02:06


Fresh takes on education aren’t just about disrupting an ancient industry or helping people grow their skill set. Most of the focus on innovations in education–MOOCs, for starters, but also less formal online learning communities like Codecademy or Lynda–tend to focus on two things: the looming disruption of traditional education and the opportunity for just about anybody to sharpen their skills. A sometimes overlooked element of the industry, however, is the access it affords employers and recruiters to the skills of the broader talent pool. That’s the driving force behind recruiting Aquent’s MOOC program, Aquent Gymnasium. The recruiting company launched the program in 2012 with a business model that puts companies at the center of the movement.

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The Right Model for Live Online Classes

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Wed, 2014-04-16 02:02

by James W. Pennebaker and Sam Gosling, Inside Higher Ed

In 2012, we started teaching our Introductory Psychology course as a live online course. It was like a MOOC but was broadcast to 1,000 students who saw it in real time. One challenge of building a SMOC (a synchronous massive online class) was how to define the nature of the relationship we would have with students. The choice was to teach the class as a regular stand-up lecture or to try something more akin to a TV show.

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Orbital Mechanics - Wed, 2014-04-16 02:00
Categories: Cartoons, Science News

Building a Google custom search engine for LRMI-tagged pages

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Tue, 2014-04-15 22:19

Phil Barker, CETIS Blog, April 15, 2014

This is an interesting exercise in coding: "trying to create a search engine for finding learning resources by searching LRMI-tagged web pages." The  search engine they created works pretty well. But it only returns results from BBC and Open University, so far as I can tell. Which proves (yet again) that designing the standard and creating the search engine are the easy part - getting the rest of the world to tag their materials using it is the hard part.

[Link] [Comment]

One World

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Tue, 2014-04-15 21:55

Rodd Lucier, The Clever Sheep, April 15, 2014

In his first blog post in almost a year, Rodd Lucier reflects on his experiences at the Microsoft Global Summit (no link but probably this) focused on the the Millennium Development Goals. He describes a project pitched at the conference, "an inquiry project called 'One World'... an open and social hub was created for this project at" It's interesting to see him react to the evaluation experience: "My project team invested many hours in a project that took but minutes to be judged according to a rubric. We invested our time, talent, emotions and intellect, yet to date, we have received no feedback on our work." I guess a lot of students feel the same way.

[Link] [Comment]

Why successful consortia for online learning are so difficult

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Tue, 2014-04-15 12:59

Tony Bates, online learning, distance edcuation resources, April 15, 2014

Numerous online learning consortia have come and gone over the years, and none has really emerged as a market leader. Why not? Tony Bates examines how this mode of organization is fraught with difficulties. These comments are made in the context of Rachel Fishman's recent report, State U Online. "What the report does not adequately address are the economics of online learning," writes Bates. When courses are shared, who provides online support? Additionally, "Another major barrier is academic distrust of other institutions: 'Our courses are always good; yours are garbage.'" P.S. Russ Poulin comments, " WCET is  maintaining a list of consortia in the U.S. and Canada."

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