Posts tagged ‘distance education’
These are really exciting results. Done well, on-line professional development is as effective as face-to-face professional development. These results are promising for our CSLearning4U project. In particular, the benefit that Barry Fishman saw is what we were most hoping for, based on our studies with Klara Benda — it’s all about fitting into the teachers’ lives.
Of course, the devil is in how the teacher training is designed and executed. “There are no shortcuts in professional development,” Fishman stressed.
In the study, teachers who received the online professional development weren’t just plopped in front of YouTube. Instead, the group took a series of self-paced “short courses” via computer. They also interacted online with facilitators who helped them through the units and answered their questions.
Like their counterparts in the face-to-face group, the teachers were expected to become familiar with geographic information system software and how to teach it, as well as how to engage students in a hands-on, iterative learning process. Teachers in both groups had access to the same print materials and computer simulations.
Fishman and his colleagues found that teachers in the online group spent wildly varying amounts of time learning the new curriculum. One teacher cruised through the material in three hours. Another took 52 hours to digest everything. But the classroom results were largely the same.
“One of the benefits of online professional development is that it lets teachers move at their own pace,” Fishman said. “The same thing is probably going on in face-to-face [settings]. You just zone out when you’re sitting in a 40-hour workshop.”
This is a great result, if I can believe it. They took 605 students, some in a traditional course and some in a “hybrid” course, and did pre/post tests. They found no difference in outcomes.
Here’s what I’m not sure about: What happened to those students who failed or who withdrew? Other studies have suggested that online courses have higher withdraw/failure rates. Is that the case here? There is only one footnote (page 18) that mentions withdraw/failure: “(27) Note that the pass rate in Figure 1 and Appendix Table A3 cannot be used to calculate the percentage of students who failed the course because the non-passing group includes students who never enrolled or withdrew from the course without receiving a grade.” But that’s it. If you lose more students in one format, and the students you lose are the weaker students (not an unreasonable assumption), then having the same learning gains doesn’t mean for all students. It means that you’ve biased your sample.
The researchers asked the students to complete a number of tests and questionnaires before beginning the course and again after completing it, and they analyzed and compared the results between the two groups of students. The results revealed no statistical difference in educational outcomes between the two groups of students. In fact, the students in the hybrid course performed slightly better, but not enough to be statistically significant.
Some more statistics from another Coursera course. The final comments are interesting: Through MOOCs, “everyone can get at least some fraction of what we believe is fundamental knowledge.” That’s true. The interesting question is whether MOOCs get more students a fraction that they didn’t have previously (see the edX data about 80% repeating the course) than a similar face-to-face course. It’s not obvious to me either way — there are certainly results that have us questioning the effectiveness of our face-to-face classes. While MOOCs lead to few finishing, maybe those that do finish learn more than in a face-to-face class, and maybe overall (amount of learning across number of students), MOOCs contribute more to the public good?
Read on for the final metrics on Caffo’s class and a few thoughts from the associate professor at the university’s school of public health.
Number of students who signed up for Caffo’s class: 15,930.
Number who ordinarily sign up for the class when it is taught solely on campus in Baltimore: a few dozen.
Active users in the final week of the class: 2,778
Total unique visitors who watched Caffo’s video lectures: 8,380
Total who submitted a quiz: 2,882
Total who submitted homework: 2,492
Total who passed the course (averaging 70 percent or better on quizzes): 748
Total who passed with distinction (averaging 90 percent or better): 447
And here is Caffo’s take:
“Regardless of how MOOCs wind up, it is awesome to be a professor in a time where teaching is the hottest topic in higher education at research-driven universities. I also have a lot of sympathy for democratizing education and information. Very few people will have the privilege of a Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health education. But, with these efforts [including free online initiatives such as Open Courseware, iTunes U, Coursera] everyone can get at least some fraction of what we believe is fundamental knowledge for attacking the world’s public health problems.”
MOOCs from Open University UK (with its over 40 years of measurable success) at the lead? With Southampton (home of Dame Wendy Hall and Sir Tim Berners-Lee)? Now this really gets interesting. Hmm — OxBridge isn’t throwing hats into the rings yet.
A partnership of UK universities is launching an online project, challenging US universities that have dominated this emerging market.
They will aim to give the public access to higher education courses via computers, tablets or smartphones.
The partnership will include the Open University, King’s College London, Bristol, Exeter, Warwick, East Anglia, Leeds, Lancaster, Southampton, Cardiff, Birmingham and St Andrews.
Courses will be offered from next year.
MOOCs are still quite new, so it’s not surprising that more platforms are coming out. It’s a little surprising that this is the third one to come out of Stanford. Why is Stanford ground-zero for the MOOC movement? Because Stanford is so entrepreneurial or innovative? Because of the Silicon Valley culture which encourages exploring use of technology to solve problems, like education? Because Stanford has deep enough pockets that they can afford to experiment? I really don’t know, and do find it fascinating.
To unpack that a little: When Class2Go says it’s portable, it means that it wants to be platform agnostic. Its documents are already portable, its videos already live outside its system on YouTube, its assets can be repurposed as professors see fit and the platform’s exercises and problem sets are in the Khan Academy format (meaning they’re not in a proprietary database) and can be used anywhere.
In terms of interoperability, Class2Go’s website reads, “we don’t want to build or maintain more than we have to,” so it stands on the shoulders of, or relies significantly on, other services to run, like Khan, Piazza, YouTube, Python Django, Amazon AWS, Opscode and Github. Furthermore, designing the platform for both teaching and research means that the platform will leverage data to inform and evolve pedagogy, as well as to give them a glimpse into the efficacy of lessons, teaching style, tech tools, etc.
The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) organizes efforts to focus computing research in the United States. I’m on the organizing committee for this effort, triggered by MOOCs, to identify research issues in online learning for the computing research community.
Participants will explore and delineate computer science and multidisciplinary research agendas designed to improve formal and informal education. The workshop will build on CCC’s earlier visioning activities on Global Resources for Online Education (GROE), addressing education-relevant research in areas such as intelligent student modeling through data mining, mobile computing for data logging, social networking, serious games, intelligent learning environments, HCI to facilitate educational interactions, computer-supported collaborative learning, interactive visualizations and simulations, and many other areas, to include research at the interface of computing and the social/behavioral sciences.
While the workshop will build on a rich existing landscape of cyber-enabled education research, it also will be informed by very recent developments, such as massively open online courses (MOOCs), that make important dimensions of scale and openness explicit. Throughout the workshop, issues of education and learning quality will be also at the fore; how will the character of education change, and what are the important dimensions and evaluation methodologies for designing online educational instruments of quality at scale for different populations? What computing-relevant multidisciplinary research imperatives will grow to facilitate cyber-enabled transformations in online education?
This CCC visioning workshop will address these and related questions on computing-relevant multidisciplinary research, looking 5-10 years out, for online education. Importantly, the workshop will not address shorter-term concerns such as credentialing and business models for online education ventures, except as these inform the workshop’s focus on longer-term research agendas.
This is the exciting next stage after MOOCs. MOOCs are an interesting platform, but their success has been narrow. We need more models for on-line learning for different audiences, yet still supported by higher-education. Here’s an exploration of another model.
The virtual classroom is a cross between a Google+ hangout and the opening sequence of “The Brady Bunch,” where each student has his or her own square, the equivalent of a classroom chair. However, with Semester Online courses, there is no sneaking in late and unnoticed, and there is no back row.
Unlike the increasingly popular massive open online courses, or MOOCs, free classes offered by universities like Harvard, M.I.T. and Stanford, Semester Online classes will be small — and will offer credit.
“Now we can provide students with a course that mirrors our classroom experience,” says Edward S. Macias, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Washington University in St. Louis, one of the participants.
“It’s going to be the most rigorous, live, for-credit online experience ever,” said Chip Paucek, a founder of 2U.
I guess what Agarwal says is true: Just because the first MOOCs have been “particularly challenging” with low completion rates does not mean that a MOOC could not work for “less well-prepared students.” But, it also gives us no reason to believe that they could succeed. Lots of people are hoping that MOOCs will succeed at lower-level classes, at increasing completion rates. Would you invest $5M (of taxpayer money) explicitly to improve completion rates over face-to-face classes, when MOOC’s currently have lower completion rates than face-to-face classes? NSF grants are for far less money, and demand much higher expectations of return (though one might argue that NSF should go after riskier investments). Or maybe the situation in higher education (especially U. Texas) is so dire, that MOOCs are considered a last-chance effort?
But for Anant Agarwal, the president of edX, poor retention in the early courses, which were built to be particularly challenging, does not mean a MOOC aimed at less well-prepared students is doomed to fail.
“That is one of the particular exciting things about the University of Texas coming on board,” said Agarwal in an interview on Monday in Boston, where he had just given the keynote talk at a meeting of the New England Board of Higher Education.
“It is the largest and most diverse system and has a large number of first-generation [students],” he said. “And they and we all see online learning as a way of increasing the success rate. And for that the [low-level, high-enrollment] courses are going to be key.”
And edX is not done with completion-oriented partnerships. Agarwal says edX has received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop MOOCs aimed at community college students.
“We’ll be announcing community college partners soon,” he said. “We’ve narrowed it down and have got the final agreements in place.”
When the report “Researching Online Education” (quoted and linked below) was released, a couple people contacted me. “Tell them what’s really going on in collaborative learning! Tell them what we really know from research!” I looked at their report and concluded that the work I’ve done and am most familiar with doesn’t really have much to do with what they’re exploring. I don’t know much about business models in on-line collaborative learning. I do think that some of the work that I did 10-20 years ago in computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is relevant for today’s MOOCs and other on-line learning experiments.
The work led us to a few hypotheses: (1) We’re skeptical a business model that charges for content will work at scale and in the long run. (2) We expect education platforms that offer vertical content and/or specific education experiences will be more successful than horizontal platforms, though we think credentials and careers offer two opportunities for horizontal aggregation. (3) Without credentialing or careers, online education seems aspirational and removed from the day-to-day of many people.
I got started working in CSCL as soon as I got to Georgia Tech in 1993. Janet Kolodner took me under her wing and got me started on several projects developing collaborative learning activities on-line with engineers and architects around campus. Note that this was two years before Mosaic, so we had to build our clients ourselves. We built a system called CaMILE (Collaborative and Multimedia Interactive Learning Environment) mostly in HyperCard, but then moved it to the Web as soon as graphical browsers became available.
Relevant finding #1: With CaMILE, we created a form of collaboration we called “anchored collaboration.” Rather than a wholly separate forum, we could link to a particular thread in a discussion, so that we could (for example) link a homework assignment to a thread for discussion of that assignment. Jennifer Turns and I did an analysis which showed that anchoring collaboration led to longer, on-topic discussions than having a separate forum. It seems to me when I look around at on-line learning forums today, they’re mostly stand-alone — not integrated, not anchored.
Later, we developed the CoWeb or Swiki (which I talked a bit about in a previous post). We had several reasons for moving to Wiki’s. We had noticed with CaMILE that the anchors that were most effective were written by teachers. Would they have been as effective if written by peer students? Wikis gave us the chance to explore that. (Unpublished finding: Nope. The posts by the teacher are always the most interesting, generating the most traffic.) We were also interested in moving away from a strictly threaded model, based on the work in CSILE and the Knowledge Forum on network-based representations that may lead to better student learning. Most of our earliest work with the CoWeb or Swiki was descriptive: Teachers and students were doing all kinds of wonderful things with it, and we simply tried to catalog them. Over those early years, the Swiki evolved rapidly, in response to the needs of teachers and students. Jochen Rick did a nice CSCW paper describing our design process and how the Swiki met the needs of different roles in an educational context.
Relevant finding #2: One of our coolest findings from back then was that collaborative learning could be better than classroom learning at lower cost. Jochen Rick ran this study, in two English classrooms: One doing close-reading on paper, and the another doing the identical activity in a Swiki. We tracked costs down to teacher and student time (e.g., using diary studies). The Swiki-based learning was better and at lower cost. Here’s a paper providing an example of a blended classroom that really did reduce costs and improve learning.
Relevant finding #3: We did CSCL research for a long time (from pre-Web into the early 2000’s), and we started to notice how and where collaboration worked and when it didn’t work. Jochen did another nice paper on the interaction between the culture in the classroom and collaboration. (His dissertation work explored the complicated issues of permissions, privacy, and transparency in personal webpages.) We had one really large project where we worked on cross-disciplinary collaboration between engineers, mathematicians, and computer scientists. It was a disaster. Students had no interest in collaborating, and even accepted failing grades rather than participate in the Swiki. (We called this “non-integrated engineering education.”) Our work completely changed — instead of creating collaborative learning situations, we switched to studying why they didn’t work. These are important results for the MOOCs: Collaboration doesn’t always happen, and making it work sometimes requires changing culture, which is hard to do in an international, multiple-thousands-of-students “classrooms.”
One of the final projects I did in CSCL was with Karen Carroll. We noticed that, in our English class study, there really wasn’t all that much use of the Swiki by each individual. I had done a “dirty secrets” paper years earlier that got a plenary spot in a CSCL conference, showing that use of online collaborative forums, viewed from an individual level, was far too small for learning to occur. Our existing theory on collaborative learning (e.g., Roschelle, 1992) says that learning arises from the dialog between the participants — 0.5 notes/week/student (a fairly regular rate across several studies) is not a dialog. We found a couple of similar papers in the literature that, like our English class study, showed significant learning, but without significant dialog. How is learning occurring? Karen did a really interesting interview study, where she explored all the ways that reading the on-line forum led to learning activities, even if there was no posting. I wanted to follow up on that, to see how common these activities were and if they did explain the learning we were seeing. But then Media Computation came along.
I predict that we’re going to see more of this: Universities using on-line services to teach computing classes. Discussions with my colleague, Beki Grinter, have given me a new perspective on thinking about the impact of MOOCs and other on-line services.
Here’s what I’m wondering: Who got fired? Was NYU teaching this class previously? What happened to the teacher who used to teach this course? How do the administrators at NYU know that it was unsuccessful? Why do they think that Codeacademy will work better?
How will they know “if all goes well” with the pilot program? I wonder if the answer isn’t already determined. Once you’ve gone from a paid-course to a free-service, how can you possibly NOT decide that “it went well”?
A department at New York University is beginning to use a free online service to help teach computer-programming courses.
The department of media, culture, and communication in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development recently announced a partnership with Codeacademy, a free site that started last year and has quickly gained a following in the computer-science field, to provide a 10-week programming course this semester.
Fifty undergraduates will participate in the pilot program, which includes a weekly class and monthly lectures from technology-industry leaders. If all goes well, the course may be incorporated into the department’s curriculum.
Like everywhere else that’s considering MOOCs, the faculty of my school are talking a lot about what’s going to happen next. One of my colleagues echoed Elliot Soloway’s comment from the Google Faculty Summit, saying that soon, all that would be left is research universities, and all other college education would be by MOOC. He noted that there are some non-trivial issues in making MOOCs more effective. I wrote an overly-dramatic reply, which I include here with edits for context.
Those non-trivial improvements are the key challenge. I believe (even, hope!) that technology may one day create opportunities to teach better than we do now at less expense. But I see no reason to believe that it’s going to happen soon. Education is technology’s Afghanistan — school-conquering technology keeps charging in, and the technology limps out defeated:
- In 1913 Thomas A. Edison asserted, “Books will soon be obsolete in schools …. Our school system will be completely changed in the next ten years” [by motion pictures.] (Saettler 1968, p. 98).
- “I do wish to emphasize that I do not envisage replacing teachers entirely, especially at the elementary-school level. It would be my estimate that even under the maximum use of technology only 20 to 30% of students’ time in the elementary school would be spent at computer learning stations.” Patrick Suppes on Integrated Learning Systems (CAI) in 1992. (If you’ve been in any elementary schools recently, you know that it’s far less than that.)
Technological change happens, but not overnight. The iPhone didn’t come out of nowhere — I still have my Newton. Education is way harder than handheld personal computing. It will take far longer.
Here are two reasons for Georgia Tech to explore MOOCs:
(1) To figure out how to make them better, to help them evolve. It’s not going to happen soon, and if we do it, we should plan to be in it for the long (and probably expensive) haul. This is a noble pursuit.
(2) Expecting MOOCs to destroy universities as we know them in the near future (let’s call it the “MOOCopalypse”), we want to be ahead of the oncoming tsunami.
First, I don’t expect #2 to happen. Families are going into debt because they VALUE higher education. They WANT their kids to get it. How will they feel about their state universities graduating only 20% of those who enter? Even Sebastian Thrun doesn’t predict the MOOCopalypse, and he doesn’t see any reduction in universities happening soon.
Second, I don’t want #2 to happen — not as a professor, but as a citizen and a computer scientist. I predict that those who complete MOOCs in computer science are 80% White or Asian and 90% male. That’s not the world I want. I wrote a blog piece for CACM last May where I pointed out that 10 years after we started working on increasing female participation in computing, we have made almost no progress. And that’s with flexible, face-to-face systems with people offering the courses. Why should it get better in a “near future” with all MOOC’s all the time? How much will state legislators across this country support an all-MOOC world which so blatantly violates Title IX?
If we were to increase our involvement with MOOCs, we should only do it to support the development of technology (#1), not in fear (or worse, support of) the MOOCopalypse (#2). I completely agree with others in this thread (and wrote a blog piece recently saying similar things): We teach way better than any MOOC can. If we do teach more with MOOCs, we should be the harshest critics of MOOCs: We should measure demographics, we should measure learning, we should describe who-drops-out and not just who-completes. That’s how they’ll get better, and we’ll learn how to teach even better in other media along the way. And we’ll be pointing out why MOOCs are too immature a technology to use for general higher education.
WE SHOULD FIGHT #2. We should be advocates for broadening participation in computing, for higher-quality education. I don’t believe in technological determinism, and I don’t worship at a Silicon Valley shrine. We can change our fates.
Let’s not go quietly.
We’ve wondered on this blog before: Who completes a MOOC? Who doesn’t? edX has released some data on who completed their Circuits & Electronics course, and it’s pretty interesting. These aren’t newbies. 37% had a bachelors, 28% had a master’s, and 6% had doctorates. This is only one course, and it’s only the completers, but I’m betting that it’s comparable to other MOOCs when considering (for example) all the folks who got perfect scores on the Udacity CS101 final exam.
The findings are limited and have not been formally compiled or analyzed — Agarwal relayed them to Inside Higher Ed after logging into the platform’s back end from his Cambridge, Massachusetts office. But perhaps the most interesting piece of data is that 80 percent of respondents said they had taken a “comparable” course at a traditional university prior to working their way through Circuits & Electronics.
One way to read the finding is to say that although the Circuits & Electronics course was open to anyone, anybody who had not already paid for traditional education would be ill-equipped to succeed in the course.
To some extent, Agarwal expected that would be the case for Circuits & Electronics, which listed certain physics and math courses as prerequisites. The survey findings affirmed that the successful students were well-educated: about 78 percent of the respondents said they had previously taken a course on vectors or differential equations. Only 4 percent said they had never taken calculus.
I’m not sure that this is real — I tried to “get a quote” and couldn’t get the submit form to work right. And the “Read More” page is gobbledy gook. Even if satire, it raises a real point. There’s certainly a market in ‘We Take Your Online College Classes for You and Get You an “A”’
You are struggling with your online classes or homework and you want someone to do it for you. We can handle almost any subject and customer service is a priority. Our company culture revolves around making sure you feel safe and satisfied knowing that your work is being done by an expert within your specified deadline. We are here to serve you around the clock by email, live chat, and phone. For all of your academic needs, WeTakeYourClass wants to be the one you turn to time and time again.
Perhaps the most positive immediate impact of Georgia Tech’s joining Coursera has been the size, extent, and frequency of discussion that it has engendered about education, technology, and the role of the University. While I was on study abroad, it came up in conversation with faculty at least every couple of days. Several of the faculty mailing lists I’m on raise issues about MOOC’s daily.
One of the common themes in these discussions is the Open University UK. Here’s a university that has a proven track record in using technology for educating students at a distance. The Open U. has just released a report on innovating pedagogies which looks really worthwhile. (I’ve downloaded it for review on my way home Sunday, when I saw that it has a whole section on ebooks.) I recommend diving into this material through Seb Schmoller’s blog, linked below, because he links into the additional literature that should have been included in the report. I note that this is “Report #1″ in a series, so I hope to see more instances of such useful reports.
Mike Sharples sent me a link to this pre-release version [PDF] of Innovating Pedagogy 2012, which he has written for the Open University with Patrick McAndrew, Martin Weller, Rachel Ferguson, Elizabeth FitzGerald, Tony Hirst, Yishay Mor, Mark Gaven, and Denise Whitelock.
The report gives an accessible overview of ten new forms of teaching, learning and assessment, and it has been written for non-academics. It looks to have been inspired by the EDUCAUSE Horizon Reports, but with a focus on learning and teaching.
Another piece, this time in the NYTimes, makes the claim that open education will have vast impacts on the global economy, especially in the developing world. Set aside that it’s very hard for any education interventions or reform to have economic impacts, it’s clear that any education effort has to be broad and touch many people to have an economic impact. Daphne Koller makes a comment in the Chronicle about Coursera “changing the lives of millions of people.” Does it? Will it? Do we have any evidence than any on-line site does? Notice that ALISON (an Irish system described in this piece) admits that the bulk of its learners are in the developed world. There are developing-world users of MIT OpenCourseware, but not a large percentage and those users are mostly just getting a piece of information, not doing long-term studying (as best we can tell from the usage statistics). The results on the new MITx course are just out, and they’re mostly serving US, India, and UK, with 7K students finishing.
What kind of usage would lead us to believe that an open education site is having an impact on the global economy? I completely believe that open education has the potential to have a huge impact. The question is: is it? What measure are we hoping to achieve that would indicate that we’re on the right track? If we didn’t achieve that standard, how do we need to change/improve the model so that it did?
I don’t need job stats or improvements in GDP to be convinced that open education is reaching that impact. Let’s consider the statistics given below. We have a worldwide shortage of 40 million college students, the article says, and it’s probably a much greater shortage in the developing world (e.g., if you count available job openings, you’re not going to count jobs that don’t yet exist but might if there was a dramatic improvement in education and entrepreneurship). How about if one of these sites had 1 million students (which still means it’ll take 40 years to address the shortage), in the developing world, each of which visit the site more than four times in a month, spends more than 3 hours on-line, and actually posts something (homework, feedback to peer students) at least once a week? That feels like a minimum to indicate real studying at a scale great enough to potentially have an impact. Can we find those kinds of statistics for any of the sites? Perhaps for all of the open education sites summed together? At 100K students per course, it’s conceivable that we could reach that goal — if the students stuck around.
If we’re not seeing that, is there something wrong with our models? Maybe there are other factors that we’re not yet identifying that prohibiting open education from having the broad reach that could result in an impact on the global economy.
This is good news for everyone, but it is particularly good for the vast number of people around the world whose job prospects are constrained by their skill levels and who lack the resources to upgrade them through conventional training. It’s a problem that a company based in Ireland called ALISON — Advanced Learning Interactive Systems Online — is helping to address with a creative model.
ALISON provides free online interactive education to help people acquire basic workplace skills. It’s not a megasite. It has a million registered learners, the bulk of whom live in the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Nigeria and the Middle East, where ALISON has 200,000 students. It is adding 50,000 learners each month, but the kinds of services it offers are likely to proliferate in the coming years.
To understand why, we only have to think back to last week, when the big news was the release of the June jobs report, which found that the unemployment rate had stalled disappointingly at 8.2 percent. As always, the story behind that number is more noteworthy than the political spin it gets. According to the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for people in “management, business and financial operations” is nowhere near 8.2 percent; it’s only 3.8 percent. For workers in “installation, maintenance and repair,” it’s 5.3 percent. It’s workers in certain occupations — like “transportation and material moving” (10.3 percent unemployment) and “construction and extraction” (13 percent) — who are experiencing the most severe economic pain.
That’s because the skills of many workers are increasingly out of sync with the demands of the job market, and the gap is likely to grow, particularly given that only a minority of companies provide formal training to employees. This isn’t just an American problem, however. There are 200 million unemployed people around the world, 75 million of whom are youths, and many lack rudimentary workplace skills — the ability to use a computer, make a budget, communicate in an office environment. According to a study published last month by the McKinsey Global Institute, by 2020, the world will have a surplus of up to 95 million low-skill workers and a shortage of up to 40 million college graduates.