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Totara releases Seedlings to the community, cutting edge features though not “suitable for production”
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]
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]
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]
Two months ago Mike Caulfield lamented the inability for many people in online education, especially massive online initiatives, to honestly learn from the past. In the post Mike referred to the failed AllLearn initiative and the seminal post-mortem written up in University Business.
How does that relate? A paragraph from the 2006 post-mortem of AllLearn really stuck out for me:
Oxford, Yale, and Stanford have kept quiet about the collapse of their joint e-learning venture…[h]owever, AllLearn’s closure could offer an unprecedented opportunity to step back and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the business model… Further research into the series of collapsed online ventures may shed some light on what makes a successful distance education program, and enable some of the surviving online providers to redefine their business models and marketing strategies accordingly
Of course they don’t delve into these things honestly, and as a result most people in these institutions are unaware of them. Like Leonard, the institutions alter the record of the past. They wake up the next day with amnesia, consult a set of dramatically altered notes, and wonder why no one has tried massive Ivy League courses yet. The PR push to cover one’s tracks ends up erasing the institutional knowledge that could build a better initiative.
Little did Mike realize that he was writing a script.
One month later Coursera hired Richard Levin as its new CEO. As president of Yale, Levin was one of the key figures in the creation of All Learn in 2000, and after the 2006 collapse of the initiative Levin was one of the key figures directly responsible for the Open Yale Courses initiative.
The consensus view is that AllLearn failed to generate enough interest in its non-credit elite courses, and subsequently the program closed due to economics (by Levin’s own previous admission). In 2005 AllLearn attempted to address this challenge by branching beyond alumni as related in this Yale Daily News post [emphasis added in all quotes below].
“I think we’ve learned a lot form the experiment,” Levin said. “While I believe we’ve produced some very high quality courses, we’ve learned that it’s hard to generate large audiences sufficiently from these courses from just the alumni of the three partner schools. So we’ve reached out to attract broader audiences through affiliating with universities and through finding other organizations that might have an interest in making courses available to members.”
Fast forward a year, and it is clear that the effort had failed economically despite the broadening of audiences, again from the Yale Daily News.
Yale President Richard Levin, who served as AllLearn’s chairman, said he thinks that while the participating institutions learned what is necessary to manage a successful distance learning program, they were unable to make the project financially viable.
“We are disappointed that we weren’t able to find a way to make this successful economically,” Levin said. “[But] we learned a lot, and I think it will serve us well in the future.”
Open Yale Courses also provides non-credit elite courses. The problem? You might have guessed it, as described by this 2012 report for the Committee on Online Education.
Open Yale Courses has been supported by generous grants from the Hewlett Foundation, but those grants are ending this semester; and there is no provision yet for the continuation of this program. There has been extensive planning, however, to keep the 42 existing courses on the Yale site as well as the iTunes U and YouTube platforms. All of the courses are being stored and preserved for future study. New visitors are discovering Open Yale Courses daily and global media coverage, which has been constant and enthusiastic since the start of the project, continues unabated.
The initiative is now attempting direct solicitation as a method of funding.
I don’t mean to question Levin’s good intentions nor his considerable support of the mission of making education more accessible through online technology. However, I find it disingenuous to try and alter history. This week the New York Times interviewed Levin about his new role as Coursera CEO, and the reporter asked some good questions but lacked follow-up.
Q. Yale has not exactly been a mass institution.
A. No, but we were early in the on-line arena, with a venture back in 2000 called All-Learn.
Q. How much did you lose, and why didn’t that spoil this for you?
A. It was too early. Bandwidth wasn’t adequate to support the video. But we gained a lot of experience of how to create courses, and then we used it starting in 2007 to create very high quality videos, now supported by adequate bandwidth in many parts of the world, with the Open Yale courses. We’ve released over 40 of them, and they gained a wide audience.
So here we have yet another initiative offering non-credit elite courses, and one of the biggest challenges that Coursera faces is that it has yet to find a viable business model. The company is living on $85 million in venture capital investment and has not yet found revenue sources that go beyond a few million dollars per year (Signature Track). Levin called out this challenge in the same NYT interview.
Q. Doesn’t edX have an advantage in being not-for-profit, meaning they don’t have to worry about returning on investment so soon? Yesterday Andrew Ng said, “We’ve raised $85 million, so we’ve got some runway.” How much runway?
A. I think the principal investors in Coursera understand that this is a long term play. We’re fortunate to have patient investors; and as Andrew said, we’re quite adequately capitalized. I think we can become financially viable certainly within that five-year framework.
Q. You’re an economist. How do you get from here to there?
A. Right now courses are free and we’re charging for certification. We think that as the idea of using Coursera courses for professional advancement grows, the numbers seeking certificates will grow. And the price we charge probably can grow, too. A move from $50 or $60 for Signature Track to $100 is certainly imaginable. At $100 a pop, if you had two or three, or five million people. …
I would suggest that Coursera will not “get from here to there” by altering the record of the past. AllLearn failed to generate sufficient interest in its courses, and the proximate cause was not “insufficient bandwidth”. AllLearn in fact had several approaches that alleviated bandwidth concerns, including CD-ROM delivery and the ability to turn off high-bandwidth features. AllLearn’s average learner was a 47-year-old Yale alumni – hardly a case of low-income lack of access to sufficient bandwidth. Plenty of online ventures started in 2000 or prior have succeeded – Penn State’s World Campus, UMUC, most large for-profits, UMassOnline, University of Central Florida, etc. This was not a case of being “too early”.
Read the University Business post-mortem and the Yale article. The issue involved economics and insufficient revenue to offset expenses.
Coursera and all the xMOOC providers have this same long-term challenge of adequate business models. I called out this challenge as one of the four key barriers that MOOcs faced, based on a July 2012 post. I speak as someone who would like to see MOOCs succeed – not in their current form, but in a form that evolves to better meet learner needs. This healthy evolution won’t happen, however, unless the providers honestly evaluate the lessons of the past.
The post Coursera CEO Interview: Mike Caulfield nailed it two months ago appeared first on e-Literate.
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]
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 www.about.me/oneworldnetwork." 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]
Last week I was off the grid (not just lack of Internet but also lack of electricity), but thanks to publishing cycles I managed to stay artificially productive: two blog posts and one interview for an article.
- Post at 20MM on Textbook Preference Report: It’s Difficult to Prefer What You Can’t Access
Last week brought news of a new study on textbooks for college students, this time from a research arm of the National Association of College Stores. The report, “Student Watch: Attitudes and Behaviors toward Course Materials, Fall 2013″, seems to throw some cold water on the idea of digital textbooks based on the press release summary [snip]
While there is some useful information in this survey, I fear that the press release is missing some important context. Namely, how can students prefer something that is not really available?
- Post at EvoLLLution on Big Data Hype: The Day the Big Data Hype Died
March 28, 2014 may well go down as the turning point where Big Data lost its placement as a silver bullet and came down to earth in a more productive manner. Triggered by a March 14 article in Science Magazine that identified “big data hubris” as one of the sources of the well-known failures of Google Flu Trends, there were five significant articles in one day on the disillusionment with Big Data. [snip]
Does this mean Big Data is over and that education will move past this over-hyped concept? Perhaps Mike Caulfield from the Hapgood Blog stated it best, including adding the education perspective . . .
- Interview as Part of Buzzfeed Article: Why Education Startups Rarely Go Public
This is the fun one for me, as I finally have my youngest daughter’s interest (you made Buzzfeed!). Buzzfeed has added a new education beat focusing on the business of education.
The public debut last week of education technology company 2U, which partners with nonprofit and public universities to offer online degree programs, may have looked like a harbinger of IPO riches to come for companies that, like 2U, promise to disrupt the traditional education industry. At least that’s what the investors and founders of these companies want to believe. [snip]
“We live in a post-Facebook area where startups have this idea that they can design a good product and then just grow, grow, grow,” said Phil Hill, an education technology consultant and analyst. “That’s not how it actually works in education.”