eLearning and Technology

8-Year Old Creates Stunning Victory For Gender Equality

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-05-04 23:34
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Leslie Salzillo, Daily Kos, May 04, 2015

I'm always sceptical when I read headlines about the great accomplishments of 8-year-olds like this, because I know that they require a lot of support from their parents just to get in the door of major publishers, not to mention deciding what to say and how to say it. But I also really like it when they (and their parents) do have an impact like that, because it's so good for the child, and it's so good for society to have children having an impact on major policy decisions. We should do it more often. So Kudos to  Els of North London for convincing a number of publishers to do away with the harmful 'for girls' and 'for boys' lables on books.

[Link] [Comment]

Four Scenarios on the Future of Credentials

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-05-04 20:32


Leila Meyer, Campus Technology, May 04, 2015

I'm not really a fan of the 'scenario-building' approach to projecting future trends, but it's all the range these days and so not surprising to see employed in this report (which is overall a pretty good overview of the environment). Here are the four scenarios (quoted from the study (17 page PDF)):

  • “ All Roads Lead to Rome,” imagines a future in which degrees awarded by the K-12 and post-secondary sectors still serve as the dominant form of credentials."
  • “ The Dam Breaks,” explores a future in which the employment sector accepts new forms of credentials, such as micro-credentials, on a standalone basis.
  • Every Experience a Credential,” considers what credentials might look like if new technologies enabled every experience to be tracked and catalogued.
  • “ My Mind Mapped,” imagines a future (with) breakthroughs in both the mapping and tracking of brain functions.

The universities are pursuing scenario 1, naturally. Most others are pursuing scenario 2. We are pursuing scenario 3. Nobody is really pursuing scenario 4, because it will be decades before the technology becomes practical, and would raise serious social and moral issues.

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Cybersafety: new guide demystifies

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-05-04 17:31
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Unattributed, Education Gazette, May 04, 2015

The Online Safety Advisory Group (OSAG) in New Zealand has released a set of guidelines to help schools to apply new laws and to understand the issues surrounding the safe and responsible use of digital technologies in school (54 page PDF). These issues, according to the guide, break in to three major divisions:

  • Cybersafety: Involves conduct or behavioural concerns.
  • Cybercrime: Involves illegal activity.
  • Cybersecurity: Involves unauthorised access or attacks on a computer system.

Probably the key statement is in one of the first pages of the study: "In general, preventative approaches that rely on technical or other protections simply do not work." In order to ensure safety and security, the whole community must be involved, people need to have a say in the measures deployed, and brought to the appropriate skill levels.

This report also deals with the sensitive issue of the surrender and search of devices in schools. Teachers can't just grab a student's phone, demand passwords, and start browsing. "Searching for digital information is a specialist activity. The New Zealand Police are the only authorised agency to conduct such a search." This is as it should be. There's a lot more in the report. People dealing with digital safety and security in schools should read it.

 

[Link] [Comment]

The Top eLearning Statistics and Facts For 2015 You Need To Know

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-05-04 17:31


Christopher Pappas, e-Learning Industry, May 04, 2015

The main statistic to me is that this thing that in 1995 we needed to prove was even viable is in 2015 growing steadily and becoming ubiquitous. Some snapshot figures (quoted from the article):

  • The global eLearning Market is expected to reach $107 billion by 2015
  • Self-paced eLearning market should see estimated revenues of $49.9 billion in 2015
  • The LMS market is expected to (be) worth approximately $4 billion in 2015 and over $7 billion in 2018
  • The worldwide mobile learning market in 2015 will reach $8.7 billion
  • The online corporate market is expected to grow by 13% per year up to 2017
  • 8% of companies use MOOCs, while another 7% consider to experiment with MOOCs. It is predicted that in the following two years this percentage will rise to 28%

That's not bad for a couple of decade's work.

[Link] [Comment]

Four of the top five YouTube channels are for kids (and the fifth is Taylor Swift)

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-05-04 17:31
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Stuart Dredge, The Guardian, May 04, 2015

I don't subscribe to the  Taylor Swift channel but I've been on it a lot as she provides high-quality music that is nice to listen to. As for the rest, well, not so much. "US-based toy unboxing channel Funtoys Collector was the biggest YouTube channel by some distance in March, with 477.5m views... second-placed Little Baby Bum, the British nursery rhymes channel, with 385.1m views that month. Two Russian cartoon channels, Masha and the Bear and Get Movies, ranked fourth and fifth with 323.1m and 311.2m views respectively." The reader is left to speculate what the various channels say about the cultures that produced them.

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Facebook opens up Internet.org amidst net neutrality row

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-05-04 14:31
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Unattributed, BBC News, May 04, 2015

Opposition to the internet.org business model from around the world (including these pages) has forced Facebook to open up a bit. The original plan was to create a service that would offer only Facebopok, Wikipedia, and a couple other providers. Now the plan is to allow more providers. "Although these terms will continue to restrict membership, Mr Zuckerberg said that people should not prevent others from using the internet in order to defend an 'extreme definition of net neutrality'." I personally don't think it's "extreme" to object when a service is offered that provides access to Facebook but not to OLDaily.People like me will never be able to afford to 'pay to play'. That's why the plan is objectionable.

[Link] [Comment]

The unwelcome guest: Why VMs aren’t the solution for next-gen applications

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Mon, 2015-05-04 14:31
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Dinesh Subhraveti, O'Reilly Radar, May 04, 2015

This is quite a good article explaining the nature of virtualization, describing why the virtual machine is undesirable in a production environment, and offering the alternative of 'containers', which do not virtualize entire operating systems, but instead provide a consistent and semantically rich interface to the operating system. "While a VM provides a virtual hardware interface that can run an operating system, a container offers a virtual operating system interface that can run applications."

[Link] [Comment]

China advocates online open courses

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:09

by Shanghai Daily

China’s Ministry of Education issued a document supporting further application of online open courses in college education on Tuesday. Colleges have been encouraged to adopt a teaching mode combining the increasingly popular Massive Open Online Course with traditional methods, the ministry said in the concise document. Chinese colleges should develop their own high-quality open courses and promote the courses abroad. Meanwhile, they should also introduce more excellent foreign open course projects, especially those on natural sciences, engineering and technology, according to the document.

http://www.shanghaidaily.com/article/article_xinhua.aspx?id=279025

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UI may extend winter-break classes for two years

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:05

by Johnathan Hettinger, Champaign News Gazette

After receiving strong positive responses to online courses offered over winter break, the University of Illinois is considering extending the period for two more years. The educational policy committee of the academic senate passed a proposal at its meetings on Monday, calling the 2014-15 classes “a generally positive undertaking for the campus.” The university offered eight four-week online classes as a part of a pilot program for the first-ever Winter Session. The classes were largely popular electives and had an enrollment of 764 students — 71 percent of the 1,070 capacity — which the proposal called “particularly remarkable.” According to the proposal, the courses would be offered during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 winter break periods. There would be a formal review of the effectiveness of the classes after that.

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-04-27/ui-may-extend-winter-break-classes-two-years.html

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Studies: Online Courses Unsuccessful at Community Colleges

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Mon, 2015-05-04 02:02

by the Hechinger Report

Online instruction at community colleges isn’t working. Yet policymakers are continuing to fund programs to expand online courses at these schools, which primarily serve low-income minority students, and community college administrators are planning to offer more and more of them. The latest salvo comes from researchers at the University of California—Davis, who found that community college students throughout California were 11 percent less likely to finish and pass a course if they opted to take the online version instead of the traditional face-to-face version of the same class. The still-unpublished paper, titled “Online Course-taking and Student Outcomes in California Community Colleges,” was presented on April 18, 2015, at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference in Chicago.

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/04/27/studies-online-courses-unsuccessful-at-community-colleges

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They turned college into McDonald’s: Adjunct professors, fast-food wages and how colleges screw more than just students

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Sun, 2015-05-03 20:30
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Paul Rosenberg, Salon, May 03, 2015

From the article, which needs no further commentary: "The congressional testimony Greenberg gave was taken in conjunction with the release of a report on contingent faculty in higher education, “ The Just-In-Time Professor,” summarizing results of an e-forum by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., which collected stories from 845 adjunct faculty in 41 states. 'In 2009, CNN Money ranked college professor as the third best job in America, citing increasing job growth prospects,' the report notes in its introduction, 'But, as will be seen in this report, many often live on the edge of poverty.'"

[Link] [Comment]

What If Students Could Fire Their Professors?

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Sun, 2015-05-03 02:05

by Anya Kamenetz, NPR

A bill circulating in the Iowa state Senate would rate professors’ performance based on student evaluations. Just student evaluations. Low-rated professors would be automatically fired — no tenure, no appeals. The bill’s author, state Sen. Mark Chelgren, a Republican, argues that too many students are taking on student loan debt but not getting their money’s worth in the classroom. “Professors need to understand that their customers are those students,” Chelgren told the Chronicle of Higher Education.Though the bill appears unlikely to pass, it has made national news because of the broader debate around student debt, the cost of college and what, exactly, students are getting for their money.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2015/04/26/401953167/what-if-students-could-fire-their-professors

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Hybrid law school program allows far-away students to earn degrees

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Sun, 2015-05-03 02:02

BY G.M. FILISKO, ABA Journal

“The ABA was already allowing schools to provide one-third of their program through online learning,” explains Eric Janus, Mitchell’s president and dean. “We asked for a variance to 50 percent. That little bit of extra leeway gave us the flexibility to arrange the instructional time in a radical way.” The program is experimental, notes Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, and the association will track it closely. The school must report back on students’ performance, their integration into the school and attrition. The ABA hopes to learn whether the program can maintain quality while complying with ABA standards, Currier says. It also seeks insight on changes to standards that would give schools more discretion in distance learning. Only time will tell the value employers will place on a degree from a hybrid program. Black says he doesn’t plan to seek a law firm job.

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/hybrid_law_school_program_allows_far_away_students_to_earn_degrees

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ASU’s edX MOOC deal: Lots of links and a few thoughts

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Sat, 2015-05-02 17:27
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Steve Krause, stevendkrause.com, May 02, 2015

As the title says, a bunch of links and some thoughts. I like the Onion's take on the ASU experiment (which is to offer free MOOCs to first year students, where you pay only if you pass): "I always said I would take college classes if I didn’ t have to go anywhere, didn’ t have to pass anything, and didn’ t have to pay for it." heh. But this comment is also relevant: "$200 a credit isn’ t really that cheap for these kinds of credits because community colleges are typically cheaper and provide better support for students." Remember, courses are typically 3- or 6-credits. So you could end up paying $600 or $1200 for a course. That's not 'open' the way I define 'open'.

[Link] [Comment]

LinkedIn shares plummet after 'extraordinary' revenue miss

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Sat, 2015-05-02 17:27
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Sarah Frier, Globe, Mail, May 02, 2015

Here's another example of a stock losing a quarter of its value after missing an earnings target (and proof that releasing the news via an unauthorized tweet really has nothing to do with the plunge in value). "LinkedIn Corp. shares plunged 25 per cent after the company forecast revenue that missed analysts’ estimates, citing the strong dollar and slower than expected growth." More evidence of the irrationality of the stock market, which in this case appears to be about as accurate at pegging value as a blindfolded man throwing darts at a jigsaw puzzle. (P.S. this story pegs the cause of the drop on missed revenue expectations, but I've seen  stocks fall after exceeding expectations, on  the dubious ground that the "didn't beat expectations as much as expected").

[Link] [Comment]

Some Assembly Required: STEM Skills and Canada’s Economic Productivity

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Sat, 2015-05-02 17:27
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The Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future, Council of Canadian Academies, May 02, 2015

The arguments around the make-up of Canada's education system continue (there's a surprising lack of consensus which is either a precursor to a national policy, or an argument against one). In this report, the "Expert Panel on STEM Skills for the Future" argues that they had  "difficulty finding direct and robust evidence that STEM skills are unique ...  as central to innovation and productivity growth." They contend that "the fundamental skills required for STEM literacy, such as problem solving, technological proficiency, and numeracy, represent essential components of working smarter."

They write, "STEM skills are necessary for many types of innovation, as well as productivity and growth, but they are not sufficient on their own. Other skills such as leadership, creativity, adaptability, and entrepreneurial ability may be required to maximize the impact of STEM skills. Further, the Panel did not find evidence of a current imbalance in advanced STEM skills nationally, suggesting that the source of Canada’ s productivity problem is not a shortage of advanced STEM skills."

This is a really good report that will reward a much closer reading, because it offers not only a surface-level analysis of the stem skills needed for productivity, but a look at how these skills are developed and where they are needed. This is an excellent example of an evidence-based analysis of learning and development issues and trends. More coverage: Globe and Mail, news release. As Academica notes, the National Science Board reached  similar conclusions in a report in February.

[Link] [Comment]

Scientists achieve critical steps to building first practical quantum computer

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Sat, 2015-05-02 17:27
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Unattributed, Phys.org, May 02, 2015

This is pretty interesting. To create a stable quantum computer, you have to simultaneously detect for two types of error, bit-flip and phase-flip errors. This article describes a quantum computer that can detect both simultaneously. As the article notes, "Quantum information is very fragile because all existing qubit technologies lose their information when interacting with matter and electromagnetic radiation," so error detection is especially important. Quantum computers, when developed, will represent an increase in speed in orders of magnitude, making currently intractable problems (like decryption, modelling and optimization).  More:  magic-state error detection,  error-correcting quantum computer, using  parity checks in error detection, original journal article.

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Preparing for the digital university: a review of the history and current state of distance, blended, and online learning

OLDaily by Stephen Downes - Sat, 2015-05-02 17:27
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George Siemens, Dragan Gaševi?, Shane Dawson, Athabasca University, May 02, 2015

This book-length publication will receive widespread attention, coming as it does with a media campaign complete with Gates Foundation backing and a Chronicle article. It's essentially a meta-study (sometimes known as a tertiary study) of the 'literature' in the field if distance education and (to a lesser extent) online learning. There are six chapters, each of which is a separate study, but most of which follow the same methodology of literature search and analysis. The first four studies focus on the history of distance learning, blended learning, online learning, and assessment. The last two look at future research in MOOCs and technology infrastructure.

Having said all that, this is a really bad study. What it succeeds in doing, mostly, is to offer a very narrow look at a small spectrum of academic literature far removed from actual practice. A very narrow range of sources was considered, limited to a few academic journals, and within this search selection was based on titles, keywords and abstract. Most of the leading thinkers in the field are eliminated from the history of the field (though Curt Bonk does well). And the major conclusion you'll find in these research studies is that (a) research is valuable, and (b) more research is needed (see, eg. "To foster quality interactions between students, an analysis of the role of instructional design and instructional interventions planning is essential." p. 40 and throughout ad nauseum). The most influential thinker in the field, according to one part of the study, is L. Pappano (see the chart, p. 181). Who is this, you ask? The author of the New York Times article in 2012, 'The Year of the MOOC'. Influential and important contributors like David Wiley, Rory McGreal, Jim Groom, Gilbert Paquette, Tony Bates (and many many more)? Almost nowhere to be found.

There are two ways to conduct a study of the literature in a field. One way is to use search algorithms and criteria to find a subset of the literature, and read only that. The other way is to spend the time it takes to become broadly familiar with all of the literature in the field, and select the most important of that. This study uses the former method, and the absence of a background in the field is glaring and obvious. For a contrast, one might want to consult Tony Bate's  recent work of equal size and far greater value.

[Link] [Comment]

New report suggests universities could save money with blended learning

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Sat, 2015-05-02 02:10

By Nichole Dobo, Hechinger Report

Older students who don’t want the full on-campus experience — and the costs associated with it — might be served effectively through high-quality online college degree programs, according to a new report. And that might reduce the carbon footprint, too, saving money for both college and student. The typical student pursuing an online degree through Arizona State University is a 31-year-old woman with a job who started college elsewhere and is seeking a place to complete it, according to a report the university released this week at the annual ASU+GSV Summit, a conference for people interested in education innovation. “The boundaries between online and face-to-face are crumbling,” Dan O’Neill, general manager for the Walton Sustainability Solutions Services at Arizona State University, said in an interview Tuesday.

http://www.mvariety.com/special-features/education-first/76202-new-report-suggests-universities-could-save-money-with-blended-learning

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The Future of College: It’s Online

Online learning update by Ray Schroeder - Sat, 2015-05-02 02:06

by Daphne Koller of Coursera, Wall Street Journal

Online education, by reducing cost and removing physical barriers, can open doors of opportunity to millions of people who otherwise might not have access to postsecondary education. The “sage on the stage” at a university will no longer be a common mode of delivery. In the classroom—whether physical or virtual—we will see more attention given to group projects, conversations and applied learning, with lecture content going the way of textbooks as something experienced in preparing for class. At the same time, universities will devote considerably more effort to activities that occur outside the classroom, be it research, individual mentoring by faculty or senior students, team activities, volunteering, internships, study abroad, and many more types of work and experience. Universities will largely distinguish themselves not by the content they deliver, but by the activities that support and enhance core learning activities.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-future-of-college-its-online-1430105057

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