Posts tagged ‘MOOCs’
Really great news: The Google CS4HS program is again open to face-to-face professional development! Last year, they only offered MOOC-based PD (see blog post here). The new call is backed up with research, so that the CS4HS programs are designed to be more effective. (I suspect that Chris Stephenson’s move to Google had something to do with this…)
Google believes the new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (CSP) course being developed by the National Science Foundation and the College Board is key to engaging a more diverse audience of students in computer science. Adoption and exemplary teaching of this course requires a community-wide effort to prepare teachers. To that end, in 2015 the CS4HS program will be providing grants to universities and educational non-profits interested in helping their local teacher community prepare to teach CSP.
Research (Joyce & Showers, 2002; Wiske, Stone, & Levinson, 1993) shows that peer-to-peer professional development and on-going support improve teachers’ abilities to adopt and implement new content and skills. Based on this research Google’s intention in 2015 is to provide funding support for:
- professional development workshops (face to face and online) focused on CSP
- establishment of or work with existing communities of practice (COP) that will support ongoing professional development and advocacy for CSP on an ongoing basis.
Applicants must satisfy the following criteria in order to be eligible:
You must be affiliated with a college, university, technical college, community college, or an official non-profit organization focused on education.
Your workshop must have a clear focus on the College Board’s new AP Computer Science Principles curriculum.
Your workshop must be followed up with a plan for year-round communities of practice work that supports ongoing PD and advocacy for the Computer Science Principles curriculum.
Online courses must use Google products for content delivery.
Online courses must be massive, open, and online; therefore enrollment cannot be capped.
A nice piece updating what we know about MOOCs, who’s taking them, and what they’re good for. I have decided to offer my first MOOC, as part of an HCI specialization with Coursera. (See the announcement here.) This fits in exactly with what I think a MOOC is good for — it’s professional development for people with background in the field. If students going to learn about HCI, I’d also like them to learn about making technologies for learning and about how people learn. I agreed to do a short four week MOOC on designing learning technologies, development to occur this summer. This isn’t about my research exactly (though, because it’s me, a lot of the examples will probably come from computing education). It’s not about reaching an under-served population, or teaching CS-novices or teachers. Different purpose, different objectives — and objectives for this course and for the GT HCI specialization match for what a MOOC is good for.
The companies that rode to fame on the MOOC wave had visions and still do of offering unfettered elite education to the masses and driving down college tuition. But the sweet spot for MOOCs is far less inspirational and compelling. The courses have become an important supplement to classroom learning and a tool for professional development.
Annie Murphy Paul has a nice article about autodidacts — yes, there are some, but most of us aren’t. MOOCs are mostly for autodidacts. The paper from Educational Psychologist is excellent, and I reading the original as well as Paul’s review.
In a paper published in Educational Psychologist last year, Jeroen J.G. van Merriënboer of Maastricht University and Paul A. Kirschner of the Open University of the Netherlands challenge the popular assumption “that it is the learner who knows best and that she or he should be the controlling force in her or his learning.”
There are three problems with this premise, van Merriënboer and Kirschner write. The first is that novices, by definition, don’t yet know much about the subject they’re learning, and so are ill equipped to make effective choices about what and how to learn next. The second problem is that learners “often choose what they prefer, but what they prefer is not always what is best for them;” that is, they practice tasks that they enjoy or are already proficient at, instead of tackling the more difficult tasks that would actually enhance their expertise. And third, although learners like having some options, unlimited choices quickly become frustrating—as well as mentally taxing, constraining the very learning such freedom was supposed to liberate.
The story below is interesting, but not too surprising. Researchers are having trouble using MOOC data to inform our understanding of student behavior and learning. Lots of data doesn’t necessarily mean lots of insight.
I watched Charlie Rose interview the Freakonomics guys (view here), Dubner and Levitt, and found Levitt’s comments about “big data” intriguing. He’s concerned that we don’t really have the methods for analyzing such large pools of data, and there’s a real chance that Big Data could lead us to Big Mistakes, because we might act in response to our “findings,” when we don’t really have good methods for arriving at (and testing) those “findings.”
Coursera isn’t the only MOOC provider to leave researchers longing for better data collection procedures. When Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week released student data collected by edX, some higher education consultants remarked that the data provided “no insight into learner patterns of behavior over time.”“It’s not as simple as them providing better data,” Whitmer said. “They should have some skin in it, because this is their job. They should be helping us with this.”
An FTC commissioner (see article) just pointed out the possibility of big data to lead to discriminatory practices. How much more is education at risk?
During a conference held yesterday in Washington, DC, called “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” FTC Commissioner Julie Brill declared that regulatory agencies should shift their critical lens to what she described as the “unregulated world of data brokers.” According to Brill, there is a “clear potential” for the profiles of low-income and racialized consumers built with personal data “to harm low-income and other vulnerable consumers.”
An interesting development in the MOOC degree space. Udacity and AT&T, the partners with Georgia Tech on our OMS degree, are now teaming up around a new “NanoDegree” program — without any higher education institution involved.
AT&T is the only company that has committed to hire graduates of its NanoDegree program, and only 100 at that. No higher education accrediting body has recognized the new coursework. But Udacity founder Sebastian Thrum, who appeared last week at the New York Times Next New World Conference, says the company has more planned.“The intent is that this becomes an industry-wide platform,” said Thrun in an email, pointing out that while AT&T is the only company that Udacity has asked to commit jobs, others that include Cloudera, Autodesk and Salesforce.com have endorsed the degree.
Perhaps we succeeded in preventing the MOOCopalypse, despite the claims that “Computer Science MOOCS march forward!” Since the MOOC phenomenon was mostly fed by the media, the decline of interest from the media may be a good sign.
The news media’s appetite for MOOC stories has been insatiable. So when the University of Pennsylvania sent an email inviting several hundred education reporters to a seminar on massive open online courses, it anticipated a healthy turnout.
But as the catering deadline approached at the National Press Club, in Washington, organizers realized that they had barely enough registered attendees to justify a platter of finger food.
“We didn’t have a set thing in mind as to how many would attend, but what we were thinking was 15 to 20 from, let’s call them, ‘established’ media outlets,” said Ron Ozio, director of media relations at Penn. “And we got four.”
The university canceled the event.
Last year, Peter Denning approached me about contributing a post to an on-line Symposium that he was going to hold in the ACM Ubiquity magazine. The opening statement was written by Candace Thille — I am a big fan of Candace’s work, and I really liked her statement. I agreed to provide a response for the symposium.
Back in May, when I originally wrote the ending, I was concerned that so many Computer Scientists were working in MOOCs. MOOCs don’t address the critical needs of CS education, which are broadening participation and preparing more teachers. The real worry I had was that MOOCs would suck all the air out of the room. When all the attention is going to MOOCs, not enough attention is going to meeting our real needs. MOOCs are a solution in search of a problem, when we already have big problems with too few solutions.
My original ending took off from Cameron Wilson’s (then director of public policy for ACM, now COO of Code.org) call for “All Hands on Deck” to address issues of broadening participation and teacher professional development. Extending the metaphor, I suggested that the computer scientists working on MOOCs had gone “AWOL.” They were deserters from the main front for CS education.
This was the first article that I’ve ever written where the editor sent it back saying (paraphrased), “Lighten up, man.” I agreed. I wrote the new conclusion (below). MOOCs are worth exploring, and are clearly attractive for computer scientists to work on. Researchers should explore the avenues that they think are most interesting and most promising.
I’m still worried that we need more attention on challenges in computing education, and I still think that MOOCs won’t get us there. Critiquing MOOC proponents for not working on CS ed issues will not get us to solutions any faster. But I do plan to keep prodding and cajoling folks to turn attention to computing education.
Here’s the new ending to the paper:
MOOCs may be bringing the American university to an end—a tsunami wiping out higher education. Given that MOOCs are least effective for our most at-risk students, replacing existing courses and degrees with MOOCs is the wrong direction. We would be tailoring higher education only to those who already succeed well at the current models, where we ought to be broadening our offerings to support more students.
Computer science owns the MOOC movement. MOOC companies were started by faculty from computing, and the first MOOC courses were in computer science. One might expect that our educational advances should address our educational problems. In computing education, our most significant educational challenges are to educate a diverse audience, and to educate non-IT professionals, such as teachers. MOOCs are unlikely to help with either of these right now—and that’s surprising.
The allure of MOOCs for computer scientists is obvious. It’s a bright, shiny new technology. Computer scientists are expert at exploring the potential of new computing technology. However, we should be careful not to let “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot.” As we develop MOOC technology, let’s aim to address our educational problems. And if we can’t address the problems with MOOC technology, let’s look for other answers. Computing education is too important for our community and for our society.