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The current issue of the Canadian Journal of Education is focused on youth voices inside and outside of education. I especially appreciate the latter focus; as I commented on Friday during my talk, learning takes place every conscious moment and the social environment is at least as important as the classroom in determining educational outcomes. This this essay (in situ) on the Science Girls: "in ScienceGirls, we have a choice; we choose the themes and subthemes, whether it is for the newsletter or the science fair project, so we have more choices. We make decisions by ourselves; it helps us develop our personal curiosity, autonomy and independence." How important is that, not just to science learning, but learning in general? See also the article Science isn’ t just what we learn in school by Allison J. Gonsalves.[Link] [Comment]
I don’t usually do guest blogs, and when I do it’s always because I know they will be of the highest quality – and I NEVER accept unrequested guest blogs from people I don’t know.
However, I was a participant in a study on MOOCs by Nicole Christen for a paper as part of her Master in Educational Technology program at the University of British Columbia. She kindly sent me a copy of her final paper. I was so struck by the quality of this paper and its significance that I immediately asked her if she would be willing to provide a summary in the form of a blog post. Here is the summary of her paper. I found no need to change it. I strongly recommend though that you read the paper in full, which is available here.Nicole Christen MOOCs: Disruptor or Indicator of Something Deeper?
Why have massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, established a stronghold in the educational marketplace? Are they responsible for disrupting the traditional system of higher education? And, how can post-secondary institutions survive the changes taking place?
In the summer of 2013, amidst the early hype surrounding MOOCs, I conducted a qualitative research project. My objective was to explore the motivations driving institutions to launch MOOCs and join MOOC consortiums. MOOCs have been labeled as a disruptive force to the traditional system of post-secondary education; however, my research argues otherwise. MOOCs, themselves, are not the source of disruption. Deeper forces are at work.
About My Research Project
In order to understand the reasons behind the rapid implementation of MOOCs by post-secondary institutions, I interviewed educational technology thought leaders from around the world whose areas of expertise included distance learning and open learning at the post-secondary level. During each 30 minute interview, I asked a series of questions designed to help me identify common underlying themes surrounding MOOCs and the overall concept of open learning. The themes extrapolated from my interview data provide a solid overview of fundamental shifts that have occurred as a result of the technological revolution and remain relevant regardless of any changes to MOOCs that have taken place since this research was conducted.
Forces Driving the MOOC Movement
Media hype that portrays MOOCs as an all-powerful disruptive force overlooks the underlying factors behind the adoption of MOOCs. In particular, the post-secondary marketplace is becoming increasingly driven by learner desires. Self-directed, distance education at the post-secondary level has existed for decades; however, the relative ease with which people around the world can now access the Internet, has created a tipping point. In many cases, learners are no longer as limited by geographical boundaries or technological limitations. Open learning initiatives, such as MOOCs, remove financial barriers as well. Instead, learners can (and do) go where their needs will best be met. The educational marketplace is becoming learner-driven.
Interpretations and Implications
Why, then, are MOOCs significant? Because MOOCs are a clear indicator that the realm of post-secondary education is changing as a result of advances in technology. The shift from a top-down, institution driven marketplace to one where a learner can use technology to create a personalized, piecemeal learning experience from multiple institutions requires institutions to ask themselves what they offer learners that is unique. If one institution meets a unique need, and can fulfill this need on a mass scale for learners better than any other institution, then other institutions need to find a different competitive edge.
Furthermore, if MOOCs become a viable educational option (viable in the sense that employers begin to value emerging credentialing systems created by MOOC providers), then there is a real risk that MOOCs will encroach upon the territory of undergraduate education. Post-secondary institutions rely on heavy enrollment of first and second year students to fund their operations and programs. Losing first and second year students to MOOCs will be detrimental to any institutions.
With that said, according to many of the people I interviewed, there will always a be place for research universities and Ivy league schools. These research-based schools fulfill a market need for an element of prestige attached to credentials, networking opportunities with leaders in the field of study, and the opportunity to conduct innovative research. The institutions most at risk of losing students to online and open learning initiatives are those that simply disseminate information generated elsewhere (typically from prestigious research-based institutions).
Given the potential impact of MOOCs, they can certainly be classified as disruptive; however, they are not a disruptor. The shift toward a learner-directed marketplace, widespread access to high-speed Internet, and the ever-increasing global network of information are the true disruptive forces. If MOOCs had not emerged, then some other form of open learning would have emerged to meet the need for low-cost access to educational resources.
Additionally, MOOCs may not be a lasting phenomenon, especially because a sustainable model for operation has yet to be proven; however, if their popularity fades, another innovative open learning opportunity will arise. Things will not go back to the way they were. The demand for open learning will not disappear.
How can institutions survive the disruption taking place in post-secondary education?
My hope is that my research can provide a starting point for institutions to explore the ways in which they can withstand the changes taking place within post-secondary learning by exploring new niches to fill and discovering which specific learner needs they are best equipped to meet. For example, open learning programs (such as MOOCs) often provide information in a way that can be considered akin to a free, interactive textbook. Certain institutions can build on MOOCs by providing classes that help students understand the material being presented to them. In essence, the institutional programs would complement MOOCs. The most important take-away from my research is that the conditions which have lead to the rise of MOOCs have also created new gaps in the educational marketplace, opening the door for many other innovative approaches to adult education.
My formal research report is titled Open Online Learning: This Changes Everything and can be found at http://nicolechristen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Open-Online-Learning.pdf
Bio: Nicole Christen is a digital media strategist and a recent graduate from the Master of Educational Technology program at UBC. Read more about Nicole’s professional background and areas of interest at www.nicolechristen.com/portfolio.
Pablo C. Muñoz Carril es profesor en la Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, y un entusiasta del uso de las tecnologías para mejorar la calidad de la educación. Ha experimentado la educación en línea tanto en la vertiente del docente y el investigador, como en la del estudiante.
Desde los ya clásicos juegos como Pong, Space invaders o Pacman (entre muchos otros), la industria del videojuego ha experimentado en las últimas décadas una evolución asombrosa, tanto desde el punto de vista cuantitativo (aumento de las ventas en consolas, expansión en su uso, acceso multiplataforma, heterogeneidad de las temáticas, etc.), como cualitativo (calidad de gráficos, mejora del nivel de jugabilidad, opciones multijugador y en red, adaptabilidad a las preferencias del usuario…).
Si bien la inmensa mayoría de los videojuegos han sido concebidos con un objetivo de marcado carácter lúdico y de entretenimiento, en la actualidad ya se comienza a hablar de términos tales como “gamification” y “serious games”. Sin entrar en detalles conceptuales, se puede decir que el uso de videojuegos “serios” (sobre todo pensando en el ámbito de la educación superior), permiten al alumno desarrollar diversas competencias mediante aprendizajes inmersivos y situados.
Este tipo de videojuegos suelen estar diseñados para potenciar el desarrollo de enfoques basados en la resolución de problemas, el trabajo colaborativo y el feedback inmediato. Algunos ejemplos ilustrativos nos los ofrece Rose Jensen en la entrada de su blog titulada: “50 Great Sites for Serious, Educational Games”.
Bajo nuestro punto de vista, e independientemente del nivel educativo o del área de conocimiento en la que nos movamos, existe un hilo conductor de fondo en este tipo de “videojuegos educativos”: estimular al estudiante para que pueda aprender de forma más amena ciertos contenidos curriculares; potenciar su nivel de atención; y servir de acicate para aumentar su motivación, así como su predisposición hacia el aprendizaje.
Dejando a un lado las percepciones peyorativas que algunos docentes (y familias) pueden ver en cuanto a la naturaleza inocua, perniciosa, inútil o de pérdida de tiempo respecto a la incorporación de los videojuegos como un recurso complementario en situaciones de educación formal; lo cierto es que este tipo de tecnologías gozan cada vez de mayor aceptación. De hecho, en un estudio del año 2012 llevado a cabo por la empresa GfK y en el que participaron más de 500 profesores de educación primaria de toda España, se evidenció cómo casi 1 de cada 3 docentes había realizado actividades con videojuegos con sus estudiantes (sobre todo en matemáticas, conocimiento del medio y lengua española) y cómo el 79% del profesorado manifestaba la aprobación del uso de videojuegos como herramienta educativa para la enseñanza.
Estas cifras nos hacen reflexionar en torno a los posibles beneficios que aportan los videojuegos educativos. Sin ánimo de ser exhaustivos, enumeraré brevemente algunas cuestiones:
- Permiten el desarrollo de habilidades psicomotrices. De facto, existen tipologías de videojuegos que combinan el ejercicio con el componente lúdico y que reciben el nombre de “exergames”. Para diversos autores, este tipo de juegos potencia el desarrollo de actividad física, la cual redunda en la mejora de la salud de los estudiantes y contribuye a desarrollar otros aspectos como el aumento de la autoestima, la interacción social, la motivación, la atención y las habilidades visuales-espaciales. Sensores de movimiento como el dispositivo Kinect para Xbox y complementos como Balance Board para Wii han contribuido a popularizar este tipo de videojuegos.
- Son una buena forma para transmitir no sólo contenidos sino también valores. Un ejemplo conocido al respecto lo tenemos en el videojuego Re-mission creado por HopeLab.
- Pueden favorecer el desarrollo de determinados aspectos cognitivos y habilidades transversales, como el desarrollo del pensamiento lógico y sistemático, la capacidad deductiva e inductiva, la mejora de la concentración, la capacidad analítica, estratégica y de planificación de la acción, la evaluación de situaciones para la toma de decisiones, etc.
- Contribuyen al desenvolvimiento de capacidades sociales (tales como desarrollar el sentido de la responsabilidad, aprender a trabajar en equipo, favorecer la socialización…) y personales (promover la autonomía personal, mejorar la autoestima y el auto-control, disminuir la tensión e irritabilidad, etc.)
- Proporcionan innovadoras técnicas de evaluación posibilitando la exportación como objetos de aprendizaje adaptados a estándares SCORM o IMS.
- Desarrollar habilidades técnicas y competencias digitales.
Precisamente, en relación a este último aspecto, se puede ir más allá del simple uso de videojuegos educativos. Nos estamos refiriendo a la capacidad de dejar de ser simples usuarios para pasar a ser creadores. Así por ejemplo, el profesorado podría diseñar una metodología por proyectos para que el alumnado elabore sus propios videojuegos, de modo que se potencie el trabajo colaborativo, la capacidad de planificación y diseño, la creatividad, el tratamiento de la información y la competencia digital, así como el conocimiento explícito de la temática sobre la que versaría el juego.
Para lograr este objetivo existen hoy en día programas que permiten llevar a término esta idea sin necesidad de tener excelsos conocimientos en programación. Tal es el caso de Game Maker Studio o de e-Adventure; inclusive se han desarrollado aplicaciones para niños como Scratch (proyecto en el que está involucrado el MIT) que permiten resolver problemas, diseñar proyectos, comunicar ideas y familiarizarse desde pequeños con la programación y la robótica.
Como con cualquier nueva tecnología que irrumpe en el plano educativo, no debemos dejarnos embriagar por ecos de sirena, sino que será preciso reflexionar, investigar y probar la eficacia de los videojuegos a fin de que puedan ser integrados en el marco de una planificación curricular seria.
Old people often complain that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, that standards are falling, and it used to be better in our day. Having examined over 40 doctoral students over the last 45 years, often as the external examiner, it would be easy for me to fall into that trap. On the contrary, though, I am impressed with the quality of theses I have been examining recently, partly because of the quality of the students, partly because of the quality of the supervision, and partly because online learning and educational technology in general have matured as a field of study.
However, one advantage of being old is that you begin to see patterns or themes that either come round every 10 years or so or never go away, and that certainly applies to Ph.D. theses in this field. So I thought I might offer some advice to students as to what examiners tend to look for in theses in this field, although technically it should be the supervisors doing this, not me.Who’s being examined: student or supervisor?
When I have failed a student (which is rare but has happened) it’s ALWAYS been because the standard of supervision was so poor that the student never stood a chance. Somewhat more frequently (although still fairly uncommon), the examiners’ recommendation was pass with substantial revision, or ‘adequate’ in some European countries. Both these classifications carry a significant message to the academic department that the supervisor(s) weren’t doing their job properly. (Although to be fair, in at least one case the thesis was submitted almost in desperation by the department, because the student had exhausted all his many different supervisors, and was running out of the very generous time allowed to submit.)
So the good news, students, is that, despite what might appear to be the opposite, by the time it comes to submitting your thesis for exam, the university is (or should be) 100 per cent behind you in wanting to get you through. (In recent years, this pressure from the university on examiners to pass students sometimes appears to be almost desperate, because a successful Ph.D. may carry a very significant weight towards the performance indicators for the university.)Criteria for success
So at the risk of over-simplification, here is my advice for students, in particular, on what I, as an examiner, tend to look for in a thesis, starting with the most important. My comments apply mainly, but not exclusively, to traditional, research-based theses.Level 1.
I have three main criteria which MUST be met for a pass:
- is it original?
- does it demonstrate that the student is capable of conducting independent research?
- does the evidence support the conclusions drawn in the thesis?
The minimum a doctoral thesis must do is tell me something that was not already known in the field. Now this can still be what students often see as a negative outcome: their main hypothesis is found to be false. That’s fine, if it is a commonly held hypothesis in the field. (Example: digital natives are different from digital immigrants: no evidence was found for this in the study.) If it disproves or questions current wisdom, that’s good, even if the result was not what you were expecting. In fact, that’s really good, because the ‘null hypothesis’ – I’m trying to prove my hypothesis is false - is a more rigorous test than trying to find evidence to support something you actually thought to be true before you started the research (see Karl Popper (1934) on this).Competence in research
For students, there are three good reasons for doing a Ph.D.:
- because you want an academic position in a university or college
- because you want to work as a full-time researcher outside the university
- because you have a burning question to answer (e,.g.: what’s best done face-to-face, and what online, when teaching quantum physics?)
However, the main purpose of a Ph.D. (as distinct from other post-graduate qualifications) from a professional or institutional perspective is to enable students to conduct independent research. Thus the thesis must demonstrate this competency. In a sense, it is a trust issue: if this person does research, we should be able to trust him or her to do it within the norms and values of the subject discipline. (This is why it is stupid to even think of cheating by falsifying data or plagiarism: if found out, you will never get an academic job in a university, never mind the Ph.D.)Evidence-based conclusions
My emphasis here is on ensuring that appropriate conclusions are drawn from whatever evidence is used (which should include the literature review as well as the actual data collected). If for instance the results are contrary to what might be expected from the literature review, some explanation or discussion is needed about why there is this difference. It may have to be speculative, but such contradictions need to be addressed and not ignored.Level 2
Normally (although there will be exceptions) a good thesis will also meet the following criteria:
- there is a clear narrative and structure to the thesis
- there is a clear data audit trail, and all the raw/original data is accessible to examiners and the general public, subject to normal privacy/ethical requirements
- the results must be meaningfully significant
Even in an applied thesis, this is a necessary component of a good thesis. The reader must be able to follow the plot – and the plot must be clear. The usual structure for a thesis in our field is:
- identification of an issue or problem
- review of relevant previous research/studies
- identification of a research question or set of questions
- conclusions and discussion.
However, other structures are possible. In an applied degree, the structure will or should be different, but even so, the reader in the main body of thesis should be able to follow clearly the rationale for the study, how it was conducted, the results, and the conclusions.Data audit
Most – but not all – theses in the educational technology field have an empirical component. Data is collected, analysed and interpreted. All these steps have to be competently conducted, whether the data is mainly quantitative, qualitative or both. This usually means ensuring that there is a clear trail linking raw data through analysis into conclusions that can be followed and checked easily by a diligent reader (in this case, the examiners). This is especially important with qualitative data, because it is easy to cherry-pick comments that support your prior prejudices or assumptions while ignoring those that don’t fit. As an examiner, I do want access to raw data, even if it’s in an appendix or an online database.
However, I am also willing to accept a thesis that is pure argument. Nevertheless, this is a very risky option because this means offering something that is quite original and which can be adequately defended against the whole collective wisdom of the field. In the field of educational technology, it is hard to see how this can be done without resorting to some form of empirical evidence – but perhaps not impossible.Significance of the research question and results
This is often the best test of how much the thesis is mainly the work of the supervisor and how much the student. A good supervisor can more or less frogmarch a student through the various procedural steps in doing a doctoral thesis, but what the supervisor cannot – or should not – provide is the original spark of a good research question, and the ability to see the significance of the study for the field as a whole. This is why orals are so important – this is the place to say why your study matters, but it also helps if you address this at the beginning and end of your written thesis as well.
Too often I have seen students who have asked questions that inevitably produce results that are trivial, already known, or are completely off-base. Even more tragic is when the student has an unexpected but important, well-founded set of data, but is unable to see the significance of the data for the field in general.
The problem is that supervisors quite rightly drill it into students that they must chose a research question that is manageable by an individual working mainly alone, and that their conclusions must be based on the data collected, but this does not mean that the research question needs to be trivial or that once the conclusions have been properly drawn, there should be no further discussion of their significance for the field as a whole. This is the real test of a student’s academic ability.Tips for success
There are thousands of possible tips one could give to help Ph.D. students, but I will focus on just a few issues that seem to come up a lot in theses in this area:1. Do a masters degree on online learning first
This will give you a good overview of the issues involved in online learning and should provide some essentially preparatory skills, such as an introduction to research methods and extensive writing.
Do this prior to starting a Ph.D. See: Recommended graduate programs in e-learning for a list of appropriate programs.
Do it online if possible so you know what its’s like to be an online student.
At a minimum, take a course on research methods in the social sciences/online learning.2. Get a good supervisor
The trick is to find a supervisor willing to accept your proposed area of research. Try to find someone in the local Faculty of Education with an interest in online learning and try to negotiate a research topic of mutual interest. This is really the hardest and most important part. Getting the right supervisor is absolutely essential. However, there are many more potential students than education faculty interested in research in online learning.
If you find a willing and sympathetic local faculty member with an interest in online learning but worried they don’t have the right expertise to supervise your particular interest, suggest a committee with an external supervisor (anywhere in the world) who really has the expertise and who may be willing to share the supervision with your local supervisor. Again, though, your chances of getting either an internal or external supervisor is much higher if that person already knows you or is aware of your work. Doing an online masters might help here, since some of the instructors on the course may be interested in supervising you for a Ph.D., especially if they know your work through the masters. But again, good professors with expertise in online learning are already likely to have a full supervision load, so it is not easy. (And don’t ask me – I’m retired!)
This means that even before applying for a Ph.D., you need to do some homework. Identify a topic with some degree of flexibility, have in mind an internal and an external supervisor, and show that you have done the necessary courses such as research methods, educational theory, etc., that will prepare you for a Ph.D. (or are willing to do them first).3. Develop a good research question
See above. Ideally, it should meet the following requirements:
a. The research is likely to add something new to our knowledge in the field
b. The results of the research (positive, negative or descriptive) are likely to be significant/important for instructors, students or an institution
c. You can do the research to answer the question on your own, within a year or so of starting to collect data.
d. It can be done within the ethical requirements of research
It is even better if you can collect data as part of your everyday work, for example by researching your own online teaching.4. Get a good understanding of sampling and the level of statistics that your study requires
Even if you are doing a qualitative study, you really need to understand sampling – choosing subjects to participate in the study. The two issues you need to watch out for are:
1. Bias in the initial choice of subjects, especially choosing subjects that are likely to support any hypotheses or assumptions you may already have. (Hence the danger of researching your own teaching – but you can turn this to advantage by taking care to identify your prior assumptions in advance and being careful not to be unduly influenced by them in the design of the research).
2. Focusing too much on the number of respondents and not on the response rate, especially in quantitative studies. Most studies with response rates of 40 per cent or less are usually worthless, because the responders are unlikely to be representative of the the whole group (which is why student evaluation data is really dangerous, as the response rate is usually biased towards successful students, who are more likely to complete the questionnaires than unsuccessful students.) When choosing a sample, try to find independent data that can help you identify the extent of the likely bias due to non-responders. For instance, if looking at digital natives, check the age distribution of your responders with the age distribution of the total of the group from which you drew the sample, if that is available. If you had a cohort of 100 students, and 20 responded, how does the average age of the responders compare with the average age of the whole 200? If the average age of responders is much lower than non-responders, what significance does this have for your study?
Understanding statistics is a whole other matter. If you intend to do anything more complicated quantitatively than adding up quantitative data, make sure you understand the necessary statistics, especially what statistically different means. For instance, if you have a very large sample, even small differences are likely to be statistically significant, but they may not be meaningfully significant. Small samples increase the difficulty of getting statistically significant results, so drawing conclusions even when differences look large can be very dangerous from small samples.5. Avoid tautological research design or quantitative designs with no independent variables
Basically, this means asking a question, stating a hypothesis, or designing research in such a way that the question or hypothesis itself provides the answer. To elaborate, research question” “What is quality in online learning?’ ‘Answer: “It is defined by what educators say makes for quality in online courses and my research shows that these are clear learning objectives, accessibility, learner engagement, etc..” There is no independent variable here to validate the statements made by educators. (An independent variable might be exam results, participation rates of disabled people, etc.). Education is full of such self-justifications that have no clear, independent variables against which such statements have been tested. Merely re-iterating what people currently think is not original research.
For this reason, I am very skeptical of Delphi studies, which merely re-iterate already established views and opinions. I always ask: ‘Would a thorough literature review have provided the same results?’ The answer is usually: ‘No, you get a far more comprehensive and reliable overview of the topic from the literature review.’6. Write well
Easily said, but not easily done. However, writing that is clear, well-structured, evidence-based, grammatically correct and well argued makes a huge difference when it comes to the examination of the thesis. I have seen really weak research studies get through from the sheer quality of the writing. I have seen other really good research studies sent back for major revision because they were so badly written.
Writing is a skill, so it gets better with practice. This usually means writing the same chapter several times until you get it right. Write the first draft, put it away and come back to it several days later. Re-read it and then clarify or improve what you’ve written. Do it again, and again, until you are satisfied that someone who knows nothing about the subject beforehand can understand it. (Don’t assume that all the examiners will be expert in your particular topic.) If you can, get someone such as a spouse who knows nothing about the subject to read through a chapter and ask them just to put question marks alongside sentences or paragraphs they don’t understand. Then re-write them until they do.
The more practice and feedback you can get on your writing, the better, and this is best done long before you get to a final draft.Is the Ph.D. process broken?
A general comment about the whole Ph.D. process: while not completely broken, it is probably the most costly and inefficient academic process in the whole university, riddled with bureaucracy, lack of clarity for students, and certainly in the non-quantitative areas, open to all kinds of challenges regarding the process and standards.
This is further complicated by a move in recent years to applied rather than research theses. In an applied thesis, the aim is to come up with something useful that can be applied in the field, such as the design of an e-portfolio template that can be used for an end of course assessment, rather than the traditional research thesis. I believe this to be a step in the right direction. Unfortunately though education departments often struggle to provide clear guidance to both students and examiners about the criteria for assessing such new degrees, which makes it even more of a shot in the dark in deciding whether a thesis is ready for submission.Other suggestions or criticisms
These are (as usual) very personal comments. I’m sure students would like to hear from other examiners in this field, particularly if there is disagreement with my criteria and advice. And I’d like to hear from doctoral students themselves. Suggestions for further readings on the Ph.D. process would also be welcome.
I would also like to hear from those who question the whole Ph.D. process. I must admit to mixed feelings. We do need to develop good quality researchers in the field, and I think a research thesis is one way of doing this. I do feel though that the whole process could be made more efficient than it is at the moment.
In the meantime, good luck to all of you who are struggling with your doctoral studies in this field – we need you to succeed!Reference
Popper, K. (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery London: Routlege
Some good stuff in this article on adapting your learning content to mobile delivery, including a nice table listing the impacts of different media on mobile devices. Performance support was the leading application, followed by videos and assessments. Virtual classrooms and course modules were at the bottom. Also, there's the observation that "the mobile delivery of learning content does not need to be a monolithic event. It can come in phases, just like adoption," which I think is a good point. There's more; if you're interested in mobile learning this is a good post.[Link] [Comment]
Here are a couple of things I hadn't seen before, courtesy of this post scooped by Susan Bainbridge
into the Connectivism resource base. It's essentially an extended argument against the idea that connectivism is a learning theory, and is notable because of a long background on just what counts as a theory. There's also this slide show from Vilimaka Foliaki from Tonga comparing connectivism and constructivism.
It would be deeply unfair of me to mock Blackboard for having a messy but substantive keynote presentation and not give equal time to D2L’s remarkable press release, pithily entitled “D2L Supercharges Its Integrated Learning Platform With Adaptive Learning, Robust Analytics, Game-Based Learning, Windows® 8 Mobile Capabilities, And The Newest Education Content All Delivered In The Cloud.” Here’s the first sentence:
D2L, the EdTech company that created the world’s first truly integrated learning platform (ILP), today announces it is supercharging its ILP by providing groundbreaking new features and partnerships designed to personalize education and eliminate the achievement gap.
I was going to follow that quote with a cutting remark, but really, I’m not sure that I have anything to say that would be equal to the occasion. The sentence speaks for itself.
For a variety of reasons, Phil and I did not attend D2L FUSION this year, so it’s hard to tell from afar whether there is more going on at the company than meets the eye. I’ll do my best to break down what we’re seeing in this post, but it won’t have the same level of confidence that we have in our Blackboard analysis.
Let me get to the heart of the matter first. Does it look to us like D2L has made important announcements this year? No, it does not. Other than, you know, supercharging its ILP by providing groundbreaking new features and partnerships designed to personalize education and eliminate the achievement gap. They changed their product name to “Brightspace” and shortened their company name to D2L. The latter strikes me as a particularly canny PR move. If they are going to continue writing press releases like their last one, it is probably wise to remove the temptation of the endless variety of potential “Desire2″ jokes. Anyway, THE Journal probably does the best job of summarizing the announcements. For an on-the-ground account of the conference and broader observations about shifts in the company’s culture, read D’Arcy Norman’s post. I’ve been following D’Arcy since I got into blogging ten years ago and have learned to trust his judgment as a level-headed on-the-ground observer.
From a distance, a couple of things jump out at me. First, it looks to me like D2L is trying to become a kind of a content player. Having acquired the adaptive platform in Knowillage, they are combining it with the standards database that they acquired with the Achievement Standards Network. They are also making a lot of noise about enhancements to and content partnerships for their Binder product, which is essentially an eBook platform. Put all of this together, and you get something that conceptually is starting to look (very) vaguely like CogBooks. It wants to be an adaptive courseware container. If D2L pulls this off it will be significant, but I don’t see signs that they have a coherent platform yet—again, acknowledging that I wasn’t able to look at the strategy up close at FUSION this year and could easily be missing critical details.
Second, their announcement that they are incorporating IBM’s Cognos into their Insights learning analytics platform does not strike me as a good sign for Insights. As far as we have been able to tell from our sources, that product has languished since Al Essa left the company for McGraw Hill. One problem has been that their technical team was unable to deliver on the promise of the product vision. There were both data integrity and performance issues. This next bit is speculation on my part, but the fact that D2L is announcing that they plan to use the Cognos engine suggests to me that the company has thus far failed to solve those problems and now is going to a third party to solve them. That’s not necessarily a bad strategy, but it reinforces our impression that they’ve lost another year on a product that they hyped to the heavens and raises questions about the quality of their technical leadership.
I want to include this post because it's such a clear example of marketing fail. Jon Kruithof attended the D2L Fusion conference and so was there for the John Baker keynote announcing the name change. First, he gets the name wrong - Brightside, Brightspace, what's the difference (I confess, I had to look it up to write this post, else I would have written Brightstream). But second, he settles into the natural abbreviation for it. You know, like how Desire2Learn becomes D2L. And Brightspace? BS. Oh my.[Link] [Comment]
El vídeo de mi participación en el II Seminario Bienal: “Las nuevas formas de enseñanza en la universidad digital” organizada por la Cátedra UNESCO de Gestión y Política Universitaria de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid el jueves 5 de junio de 2014 en la Fundación Gómez-Pardo de Madrid.
Las preguntas de la mesa redonda eran “¿Está cambiando la forma de impartir docencia? ¿Deberíamos cambiarla?” Y mi “tema”, la personalización de la enseñanza y el aprendizaje.
Incluye hacia el final un mensaje para ingenieros que se dedican al e-learning y la pedagogía. Autocrítica: demasiadas cosas en tan poco tiempo. Soy consciente.
El resto de charlas y mesas redondas del seminario puede verse aquí.
Mi agradecimiento al Prof. Michavila por la invitación y a todo el personal de la Cátedra Unesco por sus atenciones. Fue un placer
In a letter to campus leaders, Cal State University system office last month announced that Cal State Online will no longer operate as originally conceived. Emphasis added below.
As the CSU continues to expand its online education strategies, Cal State Online will evolve as a critical component. An early Cal State Online goal will continue: to increase the quality and quantity of fully online education offerings to existing and prospective CSU students, resulting in successful completion of courses and graduation.
The re-visioning of Cal State Online was recommended by the Council of Presidents and approved by the chancellor. This will include a shift to a communication, consultation and services’ strategy for fully online campus degree programs, credentials, certificates and courses supported by opt-in shared services. Cal State Online’s shared services will be designed, delivered and managed to:
1. Make it easy for prospective and existing students to discover, decide, enroll and successfully complete their CSU online education opportunities.
2. Make it more cost-effective for CSU campuses to develop, deliver and sustain their high- quality fully online degree, credential and certificate programs and courses.Background in a nutshell
In early 2010 a sub-set of the Cal State presidents – the Technology Steering Committee (TSC) – came up with a plan to get the system to aggressively push online education across the system. In fall 2011 the group commissioned a consultant’s set of reports to help them pick an operating model, with the reports delivered in February 2012. This study led to the creation of CSU Online, conceived as a separate 501(c)3 non-profit group1 run by the system, with the plan to use a for-profit Online Service Provider (OSP).2 Early on they realized that Colorado State University was already using the CSU Online name, and the initiative was renamed Cal State Online. The idea was to offer fully-online programs offered by individual campuses in a one-stop shop. Based on an RFP process, in August 2012 Cal State Online selected Pearson as their OSP partner.
Some media coverage of initiative:
- Cal State’s Online Plan, Inside Higher Ed, March 2012
- CSU Announces Partnership with Pearson eCollege on
Cal State Online Initiative, Cal State press release, July 2012
- Cal State Goes Online, Slowly, Inside Higher Ed, August 2012
- Cal State University offers new online program for 2013, SJSU Spartan Daily, September 2012
The March IHE article quoted official Cal State documents to describe the initiative.
“The goal of Cal State Online is to create a standardized, centralized, comprehensive business, marketing and outreach support structure for all aspects of online program delivery for the Cal State University System,” says the draft RFP. In the open letter, the executive director offers assurances that “participation is optional” for each of the system’s nearly two dozen campuses, “all programs participating in Cal State Online are subject to the same approval processes as an on-campus program,” and “online courses will meet or exceed the quality standards of CSU face-to-face courses.”What has changed?
This change is significant and recent, meaning that Cal State likely does not have full plans on what will happen in the future. For now:
- Cal State Online will no longer be a separate operating entity, and the remnant, or “re-visioned” services will be run by the existing Academic Technology Services department within the Chancellor’s Office.
The re-visioning Cal State Online team will be led by Gerry Hanley (Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Technology Services) with Sheila Thomas (State University Dean, Extended and Continuing Education).
- Pearson is no longer the OSP, and in fact, they had already changed their role many months ago to remove the on-site team and become more of a platform provider for the LearningStudio (aka eCollege) LMS and supporting services.
- Cal State is no longer attempting to provide a centralized, comprehensive support structure “for all aspects of online program delivery” but instead will centrally provide select services through the individual campuses.
- It is clear that Cal State is positioning this decision to show as much continuity as possible. They will continue to provide some of the services started under Cal State Online and will continue to support the programs that have already been offered through the group.
Some services will continue and CSU may keep the name, but it’s the end of Cal State Online as we know it.
I am working on a longer post to explain what happened, including (hopefully) some interviews for supporting information . . . stay tuned.
- I have not independently verified that the organization truly was set up as a 501(c)3.
- Pearson had a team in place at Cal State providing LMS, implementation and integration services, enrollment management & marketing, course design support, analytics and reporting, learning object repository, help desk and technical support, training and faculty support.
The post It’s The End of Cal State Online As We Know It . . . appeared first on e-Literate.
The slides in this presentation address: first, the relation between connectivism and free learning; second, the development of our understanding of networks and network technology; and third, the policy framework needed to enourage and promote free learning for development. The audio doesn't finish the slides but is an engaging discussion between myself and DFATDC staff.Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada seminar, Gatineau, Quebec (Keynote) Jul 18, 2014 [Comment]
A Malaysian Airlines jet carrying almost 300 people was shot down in Ukraine this week. On board: about 100 AIDS researchers, heading to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Australia.
Israeli troops have started a ground assault into Gaza. “291 Palestinians – most of them civilians, of whom at least 50 were under the age of 18 – have been killed since fighting began on July 8.”
Some 52,000 unaccompanied children from Central and South America have arrived at the US border since October. The children are seeking asylum here. And the response from many in the US has been so ugly.
Debra Harrell, a 46-year-old African American woman from South Carolina, was arrested for letting her 9-year-old daughter play in a nearby park while she was at work at McDonalds. Officials have put the child into foster care. Because oh yeah, that’s just sooooo much better for the girl.
Silicon Valley VC Tim Draper says he’s gathered enough petition signatures for a ballot measure that would split California into 6 states. This would create the country’s richest state (Silicon Valley) and the poorest (Central California).
News broke this spring about an assignment given to middle-schoolers in the Rialto Unified School District asking them to argue whether or not the Holocaust had occurred. Not surprisingly, many were incensed, but the school district asserted that none of the students actually argued that it hadn’t. Not so, according to the Daily Bulletin, which obtained copies of students’ essays. Dozens argued the Holocaust was fake. Teachers praised some of those for their well-reasoned arguments.Elsewhere in Education Law and Politics
Australia’s head of curriculum review, Kevin Donnelly, says that corporal punishment is “very effective.”
“School choice” – code for “vouchers” – didn’t work out so well for Sweden, I guess.
“How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way Into The Minds Of Public School Students” – good reporting from HuffPo’s Christina Wilkie and Joy Resmovits.
The estate of Arthur Conan Doyle asked the US Supreme Court for a stay after an appeals court ruled earlier this year that Sherlock Holmes should be in the public domain. But the Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan rejected the request without comment. “Chalk up another (small) victory for the public domain,” says Techdirt’s Mike Masnick.
“The Trials of Graham Spanier, Penn State’s Ousted President” in The NYT Magazine: “The case against Spanier is at best problematic, at worst fatally flawed. More than 20 months after the state branded him a criminal, he still awaits a trial.” Hmm.
Following in the footsteps of the recent call by the NEA for Arne Duncan to resign, the other major teachers’ union, the AFT, says the Secretary of Education needs to be put on an “improvement plan” or Obama should fire him. No Secretary Left Behind.
Michelle Rhee’s education reform org StudentsFirst is “powering down,” reports Education Week, ending the work of paid staff in Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Maine, and Minnesota.
Apple might have to pay $450 million to settle antitrust claims related to e-book price-fixing. (However, Apple can appeal, and the settlement could change.)MOOCs and UnMOOCs
edX and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor announced the launch of a MOOC platform that will “deliver vocational & employability skills to women, youth, persons with disabilities and citizens in rural communities.”
Princeton history prof Jeremy Adelman won’t be teaching on Coursera any longer, but is moving his courseware over to the NovoEd platform. More from Jonathan Rees on the switch.
MOOCs might destroy MBA programs, according to research by two Wharton School professors. Here’s hoping that one certain Harvard business school prof is the first to be disrupted. *side eye*Meanwhile on Campus
Microsoft plans to fire 18,000 employees – about 14% of its staff. Most of the layoffs will come from the Nokia division (Microsoft acquired the handset maker last year).Upgrades and Downgrades
Pearson has launched a “competency-based education framework and readiness assessment for post-secondary education.” It’s fascinating to me how CBE is being touted as this new and exciting thing when the GED has been around for over 70 years.
Blackboard has a new UI for its LMS.
Facebook says it’s providing “free Wi-Fi access to a small number of students in the neighborhood surrounding the Rutherford Opportunity Center.” The company has a data center nearby.
“LeapFrog has long been a leader in the world of educational technology,” reads the lede in a Wired article this week. ORLY. Anyway. The company has some new hardware out.
Mozilla has launched its annual Maker Party, its “annual campaign to teach the culture, mechanics and citizenship of the Web through thousands of community-run events around the world.”
Moody’s Investors Services released its latest outlook for US higher education: and as it has been in recent years, that outlook (a rating of creditworthiness) is negative. This is “What You Should Know This Week,” a weekly feature on Educating Modern Learners. Chris Newfield also has a good response to what this means in terms of “permanent public university austerity.”
K12 Inc has opened a “family support center” in Alcoa, Tennessee. The facility, which won’t be used for teaching classes, will employ 150–300 people who will “help” families choose to put their kids into what remain incredibly lousy virtual classes.
Versal, an “interactive course creation tool,” has launched a “pro” version – $5/month or $50 a year for up to 200 “tracked learners.”
Amazon has announced its plans to released “Kindle Unlimited” this fall, a $10/month subscription service for up to 10 titles a month to read on one’s Kindle or Kindle app.
“Italian intellectuals up in arms over hotel named after Antonio Gramsci.” Because hegemony.Investments and IPOs
Warren Buffett has donated $2.8 billion to the Gates Foundation.
OpenEd, an OER recommendation service, has raised $2 million.
Datawind, the maker of the low-cost Aakash tablet, has raised $28 million via an IPO.“Research”
A study has found that text message to high schoolers don’t do much to encourage them to fill out their FAFSA forms for four-year colleges, but those who are headed to community college respond a bit better to the messaging.
From law professor James Grimmelman, who’s been leading the charge questioning the ethics of the research and publication of the infamous “Facebook study”: a lengthy letter (PDF) demanding a retraction of the PNAS article and a review of the practices surrounding human research and social media.
An interactive visualization from the US Census on where (STEM) graduates work.
“In a study released today (July 16), two academics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business estimate that the cost of a single scholarly article written by B-school professors is an astounding $400,000.” The disruption of business school professors! It's coming!!!