Opening up education
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Opening up education
Trends and developments in all aspects of open education: OER, Open courses (a.o. MOOC)
Curated by Robert Schuwer
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“The fun they had” or about the quality of MOOC | Ghislandi | Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society

“The fun they had” or about the quality of MOOC

Via Mark Smithers, juandoming
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Perception and use of massive open online courses among medical students in a developing country: multicentre cross-sectional study | Aboshady et al., BMJ Open

About one-fifth of undergraduate medical students in Egypt have heard about MOOCs. Students who actively participated showed a positive attitude towards the experience, but better time management skills and faster Internet connection speeds are required. Further studies are needed involving enrolled students in large representative samples, to assess their experiences using MOOCs. In addition, more effort is needed to raise awareness among students of such courses, as most students who had not heard about MOOCs did show interest in participating once they became aware of the courses.

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, February 11, 2015 7:27 AM

When MOOCs rose to prominence, Daphne Koller was one of the first to point out their promises for democratizing education. MOOCs, for example, are made available to everybody with Internet acces, including countries in the developing world, who now had access to educational content from top universities, as Koller said. In this lies the danger of cultural imperialism and I have reported on this in these pages as well as written about it (in the now defunct MOOC Forum journal). Still, these are mere opinions,  I had never seen any data about the actual appreciation of MOOCs by students in developing countries, until this paper was brought to my attention, that is. Hidden in the text is the one precious sentence which states that cultural issues did not appear to be a problem for the (Egyptian) students canvassed (through a questionnaire). In stead, other problems were mentioned, general ones such as a lack of time and more specific ones such as insufficient bandwidth. Altogether a very useful study, certainly for MOOC providers who have confessed to want to cater for the needs of students in developing countries. @pbsloep

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Investigating MOOCs through blog mining | Yong Chen | The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning

Investigating MOOCs through blog mining | Yong Chen | The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning | Opening up education |

Abstract: MOOCs (massive open online course) is a disruptive innovation and a current buzzword in higher education. However, the discussion of MOOCs is disparate, fragmented, and distributed among different outlets. Systematic, extensively published research on MOOCs is unavailable. This paper adopts a novel method called blog mining to analyze MOOCs. The findings indicate, while MOOCs have benefitted learners, providers, and faculty who develop and teach MOOCs, challenges still exist, such as questionable course quality, high dropout rate, unavailable course credits, ineffective assessments, complex copyright, and limited hardware. Future research should explore the position of MOOCs and how it can be sustained.

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, May 2, 2014 8:53 AM

The introduction to the article sometimes paints perhaps too simplistic a picture (such as that the xMOOCs and cMOOCs exhaust the universe of possible MOOCs; cf my recent scoop in early March: or a somewhat trite one (“MOOCs represents an emerging methodology of online teaching and an important development in open education.”). Still the article is an interesting contribution to  MOOC research for the methodology it employs: text mining and analysis of blogs on MOOCs. Language technologies - in this case concept analysis and mapping using leximancer - are a powerful means to crunch large amounts of textual data, often revealing patters that are not immediately apparent to the naked eye. The value of the article therefore does not lie in its introduction, but in the results and ensuing discussion. 


Chen summarises the results under the headings of benefits for learners, benefits for providers, and trends, concluding with a discussion of the limitations of his study. His conclusions are not earth shattering, but how could they? After all, this is a mere summary of what he came across in the 360 blog posts he analysed with the help of leximancer; it is not a position paper in any sense, at best it is a kind of meta-analysis. To put it differently, tongue in cheek, there’s no need to go through the 431 scoops I collected on these pages to get an impression of what has been discussed about MOOCs in blogs over the last 4 odd years. Read the article and you have a fair idea. And then you should go to individual blog posts to collect opinions. @pbsloep

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EMOOCs 2014 Conference | February 10-12, 2014 in Lausanne (Switzerland)

EMOOCs 2014 Conference | February 10-12, 2014 in Lausanne (Switzerland) | Opening up education |

At the moment of writing this European conference on MOOCs is still running. It has an interesting format, featuring four different tracks: policy, business, research and experience. If you want to hear about the first two, you need to come to the conference in rainy Lausanne, Switserland; or perhaps follow it remotely through its hashtag #emoocs2014. No such drastic measures, however, are needed to learn more about the research and experience tracks. The papers have all been published in the conference proceedings, edited by Ulrike Cress and Carlos Kloos Delagado. They may be downloaded from the conference homepage. A direct link to them is

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, February 10, 2014 3:41 PM

Since MOOCs still are a new kid on the block, as these pages testify, you cannot expect realistically to find thorough, well-elaborated papers with deep theoretical underpinnings and balanced discussions of the empirical findings. Still, for anyone with an interest in MOOCs there is a lot of interesting stuff, about completion rates, about self-guidance and its cognates, about MOOCs for such contexts as language learning, and much more. Quite a bit of the work flagged as MOOC related would not have been unfitting for a general conference on elearning or technology-enhanced learning, and I suspect that, had we not had MOOCs, many papers would have ended up there. But that is not criticism, rather an acknowledgement of the fact that MOOCs have given the old topic of online learning a new lease of life, be it in disguise. Who can be opposed to that?


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Empty classrooms in schools of the future

Empty classrooms in schools of the future | Opening up education |
They're big, mostly free, and have the potential to revolutionise education.


They're big, mostly free, and have the potential to revolutionise education.

The rising popularity of "massive open online courses" (MOOCs) is a powerful force for change in higher education. Typically offered free online, the idea is for people – "massive" numbers of people – to have access to free higher education.


Some of the best universities in the world, such as Harvard, Princeton and MIT, are offering free online courses to anyone who is interested, regardless of where they live or how good their grades were at school.

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MOOCs as a Worldwide Neocolonial Force: A Reflection on MIT’s Learning International Networks Consortium (LINC) Conference | James E Willis - Reflections on Teaching and Learning, blog

I had the privilege to attend MIT’s Learning International Networks Consortium (LINC) 2013 conference from June 16 – 19th. […] One topic, above all others, continues to resonate with me. […]  One of the attendees suggested that the MOOC (massive open online course) is a form of neocolonialism to the developing world. This means western educators presuppose a priority on what should be taught, what should be learned, and what forms “the” context of a given subject; MOOCs are the 21st century vehicle for spreading that presupposition to the world. It means that the first-world professors, instructional designers, and platform providers control not only the content learned by people worldwide, but more importantly, the ideologies spread through that learning.

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, July 17, 2013 10:23 AM

The question James Willis then asks himself is whether MOOCs indeed are a form of digitized neocolonialism. In earlier posts and blogs I have also considered this possibility, using the term cultural imperialism. Whatever the term, Willis quite accurately describes what the danger is in the above summary. In his description I suggest to take 'what should be taught etc.' broadly, that is, as not just encompassing the selection of courses but also choice of topics within courses and pedagogy.  The danger described then becomes obvious. All content is value laden, although some, such as religion, presumably more than other, such as programming languages. So with the content come all kinds of Western values. Second, pedagogy matters too. A pedagogy that heavily relies on Socratic discourse, which assumes you will challenge your professor, does not sit well with societies that put much value on authority. Luckily, this second objection is a less serious one in the current MOOCs as these heavily rely on a transfer or broadcasting model of teaching. However, the objection of the value-ladenness of content remains. 


Willis however is not convinced there is a danger. His counter-argument is that he is not convinced that this kind of criticism 'does real justice to historical notions of neocolonialism'. But that strikes me as quite beside the point. Perhaps he is right that the name used to label the criticism is unfortunate or plain wrong, but that does in no way violate the matter of the argument labeled. I for one still believe there is a serious danger of imposing Western cultural values and for that reason alone would dread the day that Sebastian Thrun's predication that in 50 years time only 10 universities survive comes true (that he apparently has retracted his prediction does not detract from the fact that he had no moral objections to its becoming true, on the contrary). See for details a series of blog posts of mine. 



However, let's assume for the sake of argument that Willis addresses material issues rather than semantic ones only. One argument is that MOOCs do not hold financial power over students outside the US. I beg to differ. Actually, MOOCs even do in the US. If authorities decide to divert funding from education, students either have the choice to pay even more fees and tuitions or 'take a MOOC'. If that doesn't affect you financially  what does? Willis conclusion is that 'the question [of the ill effects of MOOCs] is one of global versus local context' and admits that 'value systems of an influential first-world country can have tangible effect on the localized contexts of people worldwide'. Exactly! (@pbsloep)

timokos's curator insight, July 18, 2013 3:07 AM

Global versus Local: an important question!


"While MOOCs may not be neocolonialist strictly speaking, they certainly have the ability to irrevocably alter localized contexts. So, the question becomes: do MOOCs redefine what a global and local context mean?"

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How to value the merits and demerits of MOOCs? | Peter B. Sloep - Stories to TEL, blog

How to value the merits and demerits of MOOCs? | Peter B. Sloep - Stories to TEL, blog | Opening up education |

A blogpost of mine which suggests to widen the discussions about the pedagogical value of MOOCs by seeing them as learning environments which result from a particular set of design considerations.

Via Peter B. Sloep
timokos's curator insight, July 7, 2013 5:45 PM

Good article on the need to focus on the analysis and evaluation of the pedagogy of MOOCs

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MOOCs and Distance Education Institutions | Terry Anderson - Virtual Canuck, Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric world, blog

MOOCs and Distance Education Institutions | Terry Anderson - Virtual Canuck, Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric world, blog | Opening up education |

Much has been written and much more will by the time you are reading this article, from when I write it in March 2013 – the MOOC terrain is under very rapid development. John Daniel (2012) article, does a good job of defining and describing MOOCs and clearly notes the different models and pedagogy (xMOOCs, cMOOCs) that differentiate pedagogies, practices and profits involved in today’s MOOC offerings. In this article, I attempt to update our map of the terrain and provide a lens through my 2003 Interaction Equivalency Theorem (Anderson, 2003) to help us understand and explain this latest development and/or fad in higher education.

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Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, June 25, 2013 5:52 AM

After unpacking the acronym (and saying some very useful things about the O of openness), Terry Anderson discusses MOOCs under the headings of:

- pedagogy: "I am not so quick to denigrate this [cognitivist-behaviourist] pedagogy …"

- loss of academic jobs: "… technophiles have been making predictions and teachers dreading the possibility of their replacement by advanced communications technologies. Prior to MOOCs these promises have not materialized …]

- participation: "… there many different types of students attracted and they have wide variety of expectations and commitments …"

- credentialing: "Perhaps between these two competing systems [degree credits versus certificates of completion] lies an opportunity for nimble open education institutions."

- business models: "Two features of MOOCs have most concerned politicians, press and academia. These are the lack of a clear revenue model to justify institutional expenses and entry of ‘silicon valley’ mindset…."

- implications for open and distance education: "MOOCs and especially those developed by for-profit companies can be perceived as yet more unwelcomed competition to distance education institutions. But …"


The article is written from the perspective of how MOOCs affect open universities, but has a lot of sensible thinking to offer to anybody with an interest in MOOCs. Terry's willingness to make unpopular claims, adds to this: "It is quite surprising to me how many of my educational colleagues seem so skeptical of any potential improvement in education effectiveness, as if our profession is incapable of exploiting technological and pedagogical innovations that are available to us." Highly recommended reading! (@pbsloep)

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Refactoring Coursera

Refactoring Coursera | Opening up education |
There’s really four elements companies like Coursera have brought to the table. Massive Classes: This was the original “intellectual” pitch. Massive data was going to build better...

Via timokos
timokos's curator insight, May 31, 2013 7:55 AM

Strong analysis of the evolution of Coursera's Business Model and their move into the LMS and Publishing Services Market

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The End of History and The Last MOOCs

The End of History and The Last MOOCs | Opening up education |
Francis Fukuyama wrote in 1997 "The End of History and The Last Man", a book that became soon extremely popular and so influential that some say that international policies were shaped at that time...


If higher education reached the point of simple delivery of various reading lists, different resources, standardized tests and formal processes then it may be that the history of education really ended and we reached the days to accept it. If universities find the idea that they are responsible to their societies to provide alternative and courageous solutions, unaffected by corporate interests and short-term profit perspectives, to contribute to the world by making of higher civilization, then we have to admit that the entire discussion should be reduced to the packaging and technological solutions. We just have to provide pre-packaged education to all who can pay a small price. If it works for cheap hamburgers, it should work for junk education. Moreover, the idealistic perspective of alternative thinking as solution for flexibility, creative and new ideas for our crises may be just a futile and dangerous exercise for consumers and amenable employees.


The last MOOCs will most probably serve independently as academic ATMs for delivery of resources, tests and “academic credits”, charging just few cents per transaction. Creativity, imagination and the aristocracy of the intellect will be part of a MOOC course on ancient history.

Via Kim Flintoff
Robert Schuwer's insight:

A (in some ways too) critical analysis of the MOOC-hype. Still food for thought. The author only focuses on using MOOC in regular HE, but does not include the value of MOOC's for life long learning

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Stop polarising the MOOCs debate | Cathy Davidson - University World News

Stop polarising the MOOCs debate | Cathy Davidson - University World News | Opening up education |

The academic conversation on MOOCs is starting to polarise in exactly the talking-past-one-another way that so many complex conversations evolve: with very smart points on either side, but not a lot of recognition that the validity of certain key points on one side does not undermine the validity of certain key points on the other. 

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, February 17, 2013 7:44 AM

A plea for a balanced view should always be taken seriously. After all, what is the point of a debate if you're unwilling to change your opinion, Habermas already noted many years ago. This does not mean that one can only articulate opinions that take a kind of middle ground, that are an amalgamate of extant opinions. Indeed, it means that one should articulate one's opinion as precisely and clearly as possible in order that others can critique it. Only that way, we can learn what different conceptions of MOOCs there are and how we think about each one of them. That is what I try to achieve through these pages, and that is exactly what Cathy Davidson does in this article of hers. 


She notes that perhaps MOOCs are a way neoliberals hope to make money, but that that observation does not exempt us from addressing the issue of their popularity. She acknowledges that rising tuition costs are a driver for MOOCs but puts this in perspective by establishing that i) there is no evidence that MOOCs do anything about those costs, ii) costs may have risen faster than inflation, but not faster than, say, the cost of luxury travel. 


In conclusion, Cathy urges that "we should all be emphasising, in every conversation: in the complex, changing world in which we live, advanced learning is necessary. Not a luxury. It deserves the public support of other necessities. Advanced education is far too important to price out of the market for all but the global 1%." (@pbsloep)

suifaijohnmak's comment, February 17, 2013 4:49 PM
My response
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What are missing in MOOC research? | Sui Fai John Mak

What are missing in MOOC research? | Sui Fai John Mak | Opening up education |

"There are missing elements – learners’ needs (and motivation), pedagogy (from both teachers and learners’ perspectives) and openness which seems fundamental and universal in most Higher Education system, but not thoroughly addressed, as most posts published in those newspapers have been written from the perspectives of news reporters, senior executives or CEO, professors, administrators and researchers, but not much by teachers and learners"

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, January 29, 2013 5:48 AM

John is right, empirical research on MOOCs, particularly xMOOCs, is badly needed. edX promisies to do so (see my October 2011 blog on the seminar by Katie Vale from edX, but I am afraid the data gathered by the for-profit providers will remain behind the company walls. So they are of little use (another argument against the commodification and privitasation of higher education?). 


For want of those data, John suggests different learners have different needs, some being better served by the social-constructivist and connectivist approaches of cMOOCs, others by the instructivist approaches of xMOOCs. For example, high-school kids preparing for college would do better in an xMOOC, lifelong learners better in a cMOOC. This seems to make intuitive sense. After all, if you learn calculus you will want to be told how to do that, and if you want to specialise as an environmental consultant, you need discussion. But do you indeed? John's classification is a good starting point, but perhaps the categories of learners and pedagogies need to be refined. And that of course would bring in the whole discussion on learning styles and on media use (a good starter is Tony Bates' recent blog post: Somewhere in that discussion (the various kinds of) xMOOCs and cMOOCs would no doubt fit.


But even with this attempt to take a more fine-grained look and bring in existing research, shouldn't these high school kids somehow need to figure out how to learn socially anyway. If we do not already start their initiation at high school, when will we? I would argue that in this day and age, there is a wider perspective to efficiency of learning that needs to be taken into account, a lifelong learning one, that is. (@pbsloep)

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Alastair Creelman: Open education - drop in rather than drop out

Alastair Creelman: Open education - drop in rather than drop out | Opening up education |

A common criticism of the current wave of more or less open courses is that there is a high drop-out rate with sometimes only 10-20% of students completing the course. In the traditional education system this is seen as a sign of abject failure but should we apply the same principles in judging the impact of open education? Does it really matter who completes the course or not since the motivation for studying via MOOCs and suchlike is not to gain academic credits but simply to learn. If only part of the MOOC is relevant to your current interests you will study that part and then move on. This is not a case of dropping out but more like dipping into a good book to read the parts that interest you.

Balkrishna Bokil's curator insight, June 7, 2013 2:41 AM

Good article which discusses the views held by followers of the formal educational system. These are the challenges on which we have to work. This is not easy but not impossible !

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From Instructivism to Connectivism: Theoretical Underpinnings of MOOCs

While the first MOOCs were connectivist in their approach to learning, later versions have expanded to include instructivist structures and structures that blend both theories. From an instructional design standpoint the differences are important. This paper will examine how to analyze the goals of any proposed MOOC to determine what the epistemological focus should be. This will lead to a discussion of types of communication needed—based on analysis of power dynamics—to design accurately within the determined epistemology. The paper also explores later stages of design related to proper communication of the intended power structure or theoretical design as these relate to various activities and expectations in the MOOC.

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Why 'Nano-Degrees' Can Never Replace Liberal Arts Colleges

Why 'Nano-Degrees' Can Never Replace Liberal Arts Colleges | Opening up education |

reallIn a market where jobs are constantly shifting and disappearing, the kind of ultra-specialized training offered by companies like Udacity won't go very far.

Via catspyjamasnz, Peter Mellow, ғelιх c ѕeyғarтн
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For some reason the Pink Floyd song "Another Brick in the Wall" came to my mind when reading the article. I couldn't agree more with the last paragraph.

ғelιх c ѕeyғarтн's curator insight, September 13, 2014 10:26 AM

@TheAtlantic is answering a question that has not really been asked by anyone but this headline.

ExtensionEngine's comment, September 14, 2014 7:41 AM
I don't think anyone is suggesting that nano-degrees are a perfect replacement for a liberal arts degree anymore than a car is a perfect replacement for a horse and carriage. A car will never have the personal relationship and friendship of a horse. There will always be a place for traditional liberal arts but 93% of the world's population will never get a traditional college degree so the real objective is to provide those with an opportunity to learn.
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A Comparison of Five Free MOOC Platforms for Educators

A Comparison of Five Free MOOC Platforms for Educators | Opening up education |
There are a number of good options for educators looking to build their own MOOCs. Here is a look at five of the most interesting platforms.


By the end of 2013, most top universities had started to offer some sort of MOOC (massive open online course). Now, we are starting to see the MOOC product move into the corporate and private realm. Companies like Google and Tenaris are using MOOCs for training their employees, MongoDB is educating developers through the MOOC medium and thousands of private instructors are teaching classes on sites like Udemy.


If you are considering a MOOC for yourself or your organization, you’ll first need to determine which tool you will use to build the course. The following is an assessment of five popular free MOOC (and MOOC-like) platforms.

Via Miloš Bajčetić
Miloš Bajčetić's curator insight, February 27, 2014 5:18 AM

Moodle is an open-source LMS that allows users to build and offer online courses. It was built for traditional online classrooms rather than MOOCs, which attract a large number of students. It tends to be easier to install than edX, and there are hosted or one-click install options available.

Moodle is suited for organizations that want a full-featured, customizable LMS. The platform offers more than edX in terms of educational tools, analytics and SCORM compliance.

Wilko Dijkhuis's curator insight, March 1, 2014 2:28 AM

 5 free mooc platforms to use

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Massive Open Online Research: The MOOC Evolves into the MOOR

Massive Open Online Research: The MOOC Evolves into the MOOR | Opening up education |
By Adding a Strong Research Element, MOOCs can Deliver Greater Learning Value to the Students who Participate in Them. Anyone who follows education technology

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MOOCs, a short history | LISTedTECH

MOOCs, a short history | LISTedTECH | Opening up education |

Via Justin Menard, Pierre Levy, juandoming
Justin Menard's curator insight, July 23, 2013 9:11 AM

19 different MOOCs:

UKeU, ALISON, Udacity, Iversity, Crypt4you, edX (Initialy called MITx), Galileo Educational System platform, Veduca,  Coursera, openHPI , University of Miami Global Academy, Open Learning Global, Futurelearn, Coursolve, Open2Study, NovoEd, OpenupEd, Skynet, CourseSites (Blackboard)

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Research Questions for HarvardX

Research Questions for HarvardX | Opening up education |
The foundational tasks to get HarvardX research started and some of my own research questions.

Via timokos
timokos's curator insight, July 17, 2013 4:07 AM

Important research questions by Justin Reich, the HarvardX Research Fellow, I think everybody involved in MOOCs shoold be asking!


Interesting quotes that highlight Justin’s own views on the possibilities, current shortcomings and possible future of edX:


“The early evidence leaking out seems to be pretty clear on this point—MOOC participants are disproportionately people with college and advanced degrees—but I'm interested in doing a comprehensive review of economic diversity in HarvardX courses, and then examining the findings in light of my own theories of how expanding opportunity can exacerbate inequalities. All indications suggest that if we want xMOOCs to reduce inequalities, then we'll need to develop a set of design principles that allow us to target courses or supports to learners that we care most about serving.”


“My third interest is in design research, thinking about how we can expand our repertoire of practices on edX. How can we take the most interesting, innovative practices in online or residential education and bring them to life on for HarvardX courses?”For instance, in professional education (law, business, education), case studies are a vital part of teaching in many courses in programs. What tools could let people collaboratively engage in cases online? Could some of these cases be the foundation of new social games or simulations? There are a wide range of teaching strategies practiced across Harvard, and the edX LMS will need to grow to accommodate them.”


“Especially among the humanists I talk with from HarvardX, there is a great deal of interest in doing the kinds of things that connectivist MOOCs have been doing well for a number of years. I'm interested in thinking about how we push the possibilities of the edX platform or how we might use the marketing and student information system components of edX to support learning environments that are not primarily built on the edX LMS. A lot of my career is spent looking longingly at those educators who play on the exciting edges of things and then thinking, "OK, how do we get everyone there?"

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Waypoints in the MOOC Debates, Part III: The Udacity-Georgia Tech Contract | Christopher Newfield - Remaking the University

Waypoints in the MOOC Debates, Part III: The Udacity-Georgia Tech Contract | Christopher Newfield - Remaking the University | Opening up education |

I have spent some time trying to understand the MOOC business model, and yesterday Inside Higher Ed published one result, my 2000 word study of the Udacity-Georgia Tech contract, "Where are the Cost Savings?"   … Yesterday afternoon, Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun blogged on the Georgia Tech deal and commented on some of the points of my article. … I haven't found Dr. Thrun's post so helpful about the numbers.  But it does offer an important retrenchment in MOOC rhetoric.

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, June 26, 2013 10:39 AM

What then follows is a list of five claims that Sebastian Thrun has made earlier and now significantly weakens or even gainsays. The most poignant one is Thrun's now six-months old claim reported in the Economist that in 50 years the world has room for 10 universities only. Others are about the zero-dollar marginal costs of MOOCs, their lack of need for human contact, Udacity's cheap infrastructure and the democratising effect MOOCs supposedly have because of their openness. Most importantly, the promised cost savings do not seem to be realised, although Thrun is silent about this. The authors don't blame him, after all he is a company CEO, but do blame public officials for entering into deals without fully knowing the financial implications. 


If the authors are right, public universities thus seem to be on the brink of selling out themselves to venture capital in the hope of making massive cost savings. They are backed or even forced by politicians to do so, who, no doubt  expect to gain political mileage from promising parents an elite university education for their children at low prices. However, as the authors show, there is little hope that  the promised savings will in fact materialise. What remains is that, in the process, public education has died at the hands of Silicon-Valley-inspired venture capitalists.  Guess who is going to pay for the damages. (@pbsloep)

verstelle's curator insight, June 27, 2013 2:24 AM

Important debat, about the $7000 online master in Computer Sciences, a cooperation between Georgia Tech and MOOC-producer Udacity. 

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The MOOC as Three Kinds of Learning Management System | Justin Reich - EdTech Researcher, blog

Coursera describes itself as a "education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free." … If Coursera is selling courseware to universities, what exactly are they selling?

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, June 2, 2013 5:12 AM

Justin Reich then uses a taxonomy of learning management systems (LMSs) pioneered by John Richards ( to clarify the question he asks. I must admit that the distinctions he makes are not entirely clear to me, but this is how I understand them. The first kind is your typical LMS (or VLE in the UK?), a platform for course development, such as Moodle or Blackboard. To me, they are an example of a  substitutive technology, they provide alternative means of doing what people used to do already. As the name Blackboard aptly illustrates, traditional LMSs by and large conserve lecture-based teaching in classes, and only add alternative means to make learning materials available and add additional communication channels. The second kind Justin describes are self-contained online courses, with PLATO as an example (for those who still know this system). Here, there's no need for a teacher, they allow for fully independent learning, and to the user the technology (platform) and content blend seamlessly. This is an example of a transformative technology as it upsets dominant modes of teaching and learning. The third kind, which Justin dubs a digital teaching platform, sits in the middle: "This is a learning management system that is pre-populated with content and learning objects, but designed to be used by students in a classroom with a teacher." The punch line is that Coursera (and presumably the other MOOC providers too) are trying to be all three at the same time. Although this is new, Justin wonders whether such a hardly focused strategy will work. 


My understanding of what Coursera cs are trying to do is different, though. To me, MOOC providers are essentially providers of a technological platform (compare a 2011 blog post by George Siemens - - who discusses a similar notion). They provide a comprehensive and consolidated set of tools and technologies that not only afford a hopefully first-class user experience to the student but also take the dull logistic work out of the hands of the course providing professors and school (but see my blog post on the responsibilities MOOC providers could and should assume - In my perception then, Coursera cs best match the third kind in Justin's classification.


So the question is not so much whether Coursera cs will fail because of a lack of focus, but rather whether in the way we have organised our educational system there is room for such platforms. It seems to me that given the socio-political situation, in the USA there is whereas in continental Europe there isn't; or, put differently, that MOOCs will take a different form on both continents. The recent launch of a MOOC initiative by the European Association for Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), backed by the European Commission, seems to support this view ( (@pbsloep)

timokos's comment, June 4, 2013 5:05 AM
I agree that there is a completely different socio-political system in the USA and Europe, but I'm not sure if the OpunUpEd initiative will be able to compete with the reputation of the universities that have partnered with Coursera c.s. I wouldn't be surprised if Coursera tries the same strategy in Europe with lesser ranked universities (just as with their deal with the 9 State System Universities in the USA)
Peter B. Sloep's comment, June 5, 2013 7:29 AM
I am not sure about Coursera's business strategy. However, playing the elite university card has much more traction in the US and presumably many developing countries than it does in Europe, which has a more egalitarian educational system, France and the UK perhaps excepted.
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MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education | Li Yuan & Stephen Powell - JISC CETIS publications

MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education | Li Yuan & Stephen Powell - JISC CETIS publications | Opening up education |

This report sets out to help decision makers in higher education institutions gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and trends towards greater openness in higher education and to think about the implications for their institutions. The phenomena of MOOCs are described, placing them in the wider context of open education, online learning and the changes that are currently taking place in higher education at a time of globalisation of education and constrained budgets. The report is written from a UK higher education perspective, but is largely informed by the developments in MOOCs from the USA and Canada. A literature review was undertaken focussing on the extensive reporting of MOOCs through blogs, press releases as well as openly available reports. This identified current debates about new course provision, the impact of changes in funding and the implications for greater openness in higher education. The theory of disruptive innovation is used to help form the questions of policy and strategy that higher education institutions need to address.

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's comment, March 25, 2013 9:57 AM
You are right, pity that cMOOCs have not been included as their inclusion would have significantly widened the range of possible outcome scenarios. Still, in defence of the authors, I don't think they set out to cover cMOOCs as well as these are not seen as threatening to HE as it is now.
suifaijohnmak's comment, March 25, 2013 10:08 AM
Yes, I agreed fully with your view :)
verstelle's curator insight, March 26, 2013 3:58 PM

Thorough report from the Brittish JISC/CETIS. 

Many of the reported is not new for those who follow MOOC developments but it is worth reading e.g. for these conclusions:


"...there is a significant question for higher education institutions to address: are online teaching innovations, such as MOOCs, heralding a change in the business landscape that poses a threat to their existing models of provision of degree courses? [...] If this is the case, then the theory of disruptive 

innovation suggests that there is a strong argument for establishing an autonomous business unit in order to make an appropriate response to these potentially disruptive innovations"

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Professor Leaves a MOOC in Mid-Course in Dispute Over Teaching | Steve Kolowich - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Professor Leaves a MOOC in Mid-Course in Dispute Over Teaching | Steve Kolowich - The Chronicle of Higher Education | Opening up education |

Students regularly drop out of massive open online courses before they come to term. For a professor to drop out is less common.

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, February 18, 2013 8:10 AM

As Steve Kolowich aptly notes "[McKenzie's] departure marks the second debacle for Coursera this month." As many already have argued in response to the first 'disaster' (, such events are the growing pains of any innovation. Still I can't help but think that a clear contractual agreement between Coursera, the professor in question (McKenzie) and his institute (UCAL at Irvine), could have prevented this debacle. (When you read the article, the disagreement seems to be between McKenzie and his university over what constitutes a proper teaching style for MOOCs). Not to anticipate these kinds of issues is not taking the 37,000 students that apparently have enrolled and 'their hopes and dreams' (as Tony Bates puts it) seriously. I really think there is no excuse for such a lack of professionalism. Whether the course is free of not, doesn't really matter. Nor does whether MOOCs are generally speaking an innovation to be welcomed or frowned upon. (@pbsloep)

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The emerging MOOC data/analytics ecosystem | Simon BuckinghamShum

The emerging MOOC data/analytics ecosystem | Simon BuckinghamShum | Opening up education |

"We are about to see the emergence of a MOOC data/analytics ecosystem. Part of the value proposition to partners who sign up to deliver courses on a given MOOC platform is the access to high quality data on what happens with those courses.


This piece is not about interoperability standards and protocols, but about how trusted partnerships may emerge to assist ethical data sharing within and between MOOCs, in order to turbocharge educational innovation — one of the primary reasons that institutions are dipping their toes in the MOOC space."

Via Peter B. Sloep
Peter B. Sloep's curator insight, February 1, 2013 5:33 AM

Fascinating thought experiment about sharing learner data between Courses, by different schools across different MOOC platforms. In the spirit of Learning Analytics, it could improve teaching and learning through various kinds of partnerships. Simon explains this quite well.  


Whom I miss from the equation is the learner. In the triple of MOOC provider, content providing school Partner and Course (see picture), I miss the L of learner (some would argue, also the T of teacher, but I assume giving teachers their due is the responsibility of the Partner institution). The L of learners matters, lest schools end up to be data providers for the MOOC platforms, who no doubt will do what Facebook, Twitter and Google do with those data: sell them for a profit (after all, the course is free, so that is the deal you knowingly make as a learner). The picture is less bleak if schools (Partners) host their own MOOC platforms rather than use the commercial ones. But even then explicit attention right from the beginning for the learner's privacy is needed, not because the law tells us so, but because we need to take learners seriously. See also my blog posts on Online Learner Identities where I discuss the problem and some possible solutions. Find the last one here: ; (@pbsloep)

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Public Universities to Offer Free Online Classes for Credit | Tamar Lewin

Public Universities to Offer Free Online Classes for Credit | Tamar Lewin | Opening up education |
In an unusual arrangement with a commercial company, the universities hope that those who pass the free courses will pay tuition to complete a degree program.

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Peter B. Sloep's comment, January 23, 2013 1:57 PM
Yes, it is a promising idea. The good thing is that it
Peter B. Sloep's comment, January 23, 2013 1:58 PM
puts public universities in the US back in power.
Anne Whaits's comment, January 23, 2013 2:01 PM
Not just the US. Potential here for all HEIs.