Posts tagged ‘open learning’

Stanford teams with edX: Shaking out open learning options

The announcement that Stanford teamed with edX is interesting, but may be less significant than the interpretation that Stanford is nixing Coursera and Udacity.  Rather, Stanford faculty will have options between Coursera, iTunes U, and YouTube.  The report suggests that Class2Go will “publicly merge” with edX, so there will be one fewer options for Stanford faculty.  (Discussed further in the The Chronicle.) This is also the first I’ve heard about MIT faculty feeling that OpenCourseWare is not a useful path to pursue.  The options for open learning are shaking out, with multiple options going forward, but some falling by the wayside.

Mitchell said Stanford faculty members will continue to post material on Apple’s iTunes U, on Google’s YouTube and on Coursera, and to also generally allow faculty to pick among different platforms.“We will work on a case-by-case basis with individual faculty,” Mitchell said.

And, even though it is nonprofit, edX will also eventually need to make money. MIT and Harvard both chipped in $30 million apiece to get edX off the ground.While other open education resources, like MIT’s OpenCourseWare, are perpetually profitless and donor-backed, there may be little appetite to do that again. For instance, MIT faculty and trustees are “convinced that they cannot go down the same path again,” according to a new book about MOOCs by William Bowen, the former president of Princeton University.

via Stanford teams up with edX | Inside Higher Ed.

April 8, 2013 at 1:42 am 3 comments

Feds give nudge to competency-based education: Beyond the Credit Hour

Of all the open learning movement initiatives, this may be the most important.  The credit hour is a poor measure of learning-attained.  It’s too large a grain size to be important as a measure of instruction.  Moving to competencies (whatever that may end up being) is a move in the right direction, in terms of facilitating our ability to measure the amount of learning and the amount of teaching effort involved in an education program.

The U.S. Department of Education has endorsed competency-based education with the release today of a letter that encourages interested colleges to seek federal approval for degree programs that do not rely on the credit hour to measure student learning.

Department officials also said Monday that they will give a green light soon to Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America, which would be the first to attempt the “direct assessment” of learning – meaning no link to the credit hour – and also be eligible for participation in federal financial aid programs.

via Feds give nudge to competency-based education | Inside Higher Ed.

March 28, 2013 at 1:07 am 2 comments

Motivating learning: Is it ever about the badges?

I’m with “Gas Stations without Pumps” in his take on the NYTimes article cited below.  Does anyone have any evidence that anyone does anything because of badges?  I understand badges as a kind of mini-certification, and unlike “Gas Stations,” I do believe that companies may find valuable having certification about smaller-than-degree skills.  We do know that companies are more carefully tuning their job searches these days, and badges may serve as verified skills tags to make it easier to do these searches.  However, I would be interested to see some evidence that people really do the activities that earn them those badges because of the badges.  I think people answer questions on Stack Overflow because they like to do it, and the badges are a certification of that.  I can’t imagine someone studying algebra or US history just to get a badge in those subjects.

In my Prototyping class, we just read the Luis von Ahn and Laura Dabbish paper on the ESPgame.  This was the game that they created where randomly-selected pairs of players are asked to “think like the other person” to come up with text labels to match what the other person writes, when both view a randomly-selected image from the Web.  It was a popular, fun game that resulted in effective labels for thousands of images on the Web.  The sentence that caught my attention was, “However, we put greater emphasis on our method being fun because of the scale of the problem that we want to solve.”  First, they never define “fun” or why the game is fun (maybe ala Malone and Lepper), but I was more taken with the notion that we use “fun” to deal with “scale.”

Fun isn’t the only way to solve problems at scale. It’s not even clear how far fun works for large-scale problems. Millions of people get fed every day on the relatively-agriculturally-barren island of Manhattan because of Adam Smith’s iron hand of capitalism, but not because it’s fun to bring food into Manhattan.  Pay works to scale solutions.  As a parent, I perform a useful purpose to our society, helping to raise the next generation of workers and citizens.  It’s not always fun, and it costs me lots of money. The rewards of being a parent are different than fun or pay, and it scales to millions of people.

People learn things for all kinds of reasons, including certification, fun, and for economic benefit (e.g., a good job).  I still remember (over 25 years since the last time that I used this knowledge) that hex A9 is “Load A immediate, LDA #” for the 6502 microprocessor, and decimal 32 (hex 20) is “Jump to subroutine, JSR.”  I have also programmed (at the machine and assembler level) the 8800, Z-80, and 6800 microprocessors, and the LSI-11 and IBM 360, too.  Why do I still remember the 6502?  Because I owned one.  Learning assembler languages was always fascinating for me, but I particularly wanted to learn the processor that I owned.  Feeling ownership of some knowledge encourages learning it.  I didn’t learn the 6502 so well because I could get points for it, nor certification, nor economic benefit.  I wanted to own that knowledge.

Bottomline: Motivation is key to learning, and we know a variety of ways to motivate students.  I don’t believe that badges do it in an effective way.

Badges are gaining currency at the same time that a growing number of elite universities have begun offering free or low-cost, noncredit courses to anyone with access to the Internet and a desire to learn. Millions of students have already signed up for massive open online courses, or MOOCs. By developing information-age credentials backed by a wide array of organizations outside the education system, creators of badge programs may be mounting the first serious competition to traditional degrees since college-going became the norm.

via Show Me Your Badge –

November 21, 2012 at 8:42 am 11 comments

Access is not the same as learning: Videos don’t go on the Transcript

In this story, I side with those who consider the “learning” described as “illegitimate.”  Watching a TED lecture doesn’t mean you learned anything.  What does it mean to “take” a course from OCW?  You downloaded the PDF’s?

If a college course means anything, it means that you did something, you demonstrated your learning.  No one should get credit towards a degree for watching the video.

Fast-forward 472 years. You’re a college student. You’ve taken advantage of some amazing opportunities in the online world. You’ve listened to Nobel laureates discuss the Eurozone crisis and explain how current difficulties relate (or not) to classical theories of economics. You’ve worked through the underlying physics and chemistry for nearly every episode of “MythBusters.” You regularly watch the TED lectures. And you’ve even taken courses from the Open Learning Initiative and from OpenCourseWare at MIT. Now you want the academic credit for those forms of learning.

Although you won’t actually be burned at the stake as Cranmer was, you have a very good chance of experiencing the modern version of this torture because it is equally threatening to the elite. It goes something like this.

First, you’ll be asked to produce the sacred document, otherwise known as a transcript, indicating that you officially took the course. No transcript you say? Sorry — your learning is then considered “illegitimate,” and you’re then often cast out into the night where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth as you stumble back to the very beginning of college to start over.

While an exaggeration, today — through such outlets as TED, various open-source course initiatives, and primary sources through digital content providers — we all have access to the knowledge that previously was the province of academia. In the same way that access to the New Testament gave otherwise uneducated English people access to the very heart of Christianity, that access is “dangerous.” It threatens the central notion of what a college or university exists to do, and so, by extension, threatens the very raison d’etre of faculty and staff.

via Cavanaugh essay how accreditation must change in era of open resources | Inside Higher Ed.

September 3, 2012 at 9:44 am 2 comments

Khan Academy offers kind-of-scaffolded computer science learning: Doing away with the teacher

With a bold claim, “Khan Academy Launches the Future of Computer Science Education,” TechCrunch described Khan’s new foray into computer science.  They’ve had CS videos in the past, but now they have a powerful text editor in which students can edit JavaScript, or manipulate variables like in Bret Victor’s cool demo.

The TechCrunch article actually cites research (see below), a paper by Cindy Hmelo.  Cindy’s paper is actually on problem-based learning, but it does describe scaffolding — as defined in a Hmelo & Guzdial paper from 1996! How about that!

What I see in the Khan Academy offering is one of the kinds of scaffolding that Cindy and I talked about.  Scaffolding is an idea (first defined by Wood, Bruner, and Ross) which does involve letting students explore, but under the guidance of a tutor.  A teacher in scaffolding doesn’t “point out novel ways of accomplishing the task.”  Instead, the teacher models the process for the student, coaches the student while they’re doing it, and gets the student to explain what they’re doing.  A key part of scaffolding is that it fades — the student gets different kinds of support at different times, and the support decreases as the student gets more expert.  I built a form of adaptable scaffolding in my 1993 dissertation project, Emile, which supported students building physics simulations in HyperTalk.  Yes, students using Emile could click on variables and fill in their values without directly editing the code, but there was also process guidance (“First, identify your goals; next, find your components in the Library”) and prompts to get students to reflect on what they’re doing.  And the scaffolding could be turned on or off, depending on student expertise.

I wouldn’t really call what Khan Academy has “scaffolding,” at least, not the way that Cindy and I defined it, nor in a way that I find compatible with Wood, Bruner, and Ross’s original definition.  There’s not really a tutor or a teacher.  There are videos as I learned from this blog post, and later found for myself.  The intro video (currently available on the main Khan Academy page) says that students should just “intuit” how the code works.  Really?  There’s a lot more of this belief that students should just teach themselves what code does.  The “scaffolding” in Khan Academy has no kind of process modeling or guidance, nothing to explain to students what they’re doing or why, nothing to encourage them to explain it to themselves.

It is a very cool text editor.  But it’s a text editor.  I don’t see it as a revolution in computer science education — not yet, anyway.  Now, maybe it’s way of supporting “collaborative floundering” which has been suggested to be even more powerful than scaffolding as a learning activity.  Maybe they’re right, and this will be the hook to get thousands of adolescents interested in programming.  (I wonder if they tested with any adolescents before they released?)  Khan has a good track record for attracting attention — I look forward to seeing where this goes.

The heart of the design places a simplified, interactive text editor that sits adjacent to the code’s drawing output, which updates in real time as students explore how different variables and numbers change the size, shapes, and colors of their new creation. An optional video guides students through the lesson, step-by-step, and, most importantly, can be paused at any point so that they can tinker with the drawing as curiosity and confusion arise during the process.

This part is key: learning is contextual and idiosyncratic; students better absorb new material if they can learn at their own pace and see the result of different options in realtime.

The pedagogy fits squarely into what educators called “scaffolded problem-based learning” [PDF]; students solve real-life problems and are encouraged to explore, but are guided by a teacher along the way, who can point out novel ways of accomplishing the task. Scaffolded learning acknowledges that real-life problems always have more than one path to a solution, that students learn best by doing, and that curiosity should drive exploration. This last point is perhaps the most important, since one of the primary barriers to boosting science-related college majors is a lack of interest.

via Khan Academy Launches The Future of Computer Science Education | TechCrunch.

August 15, 2012 at 8:32 am 27 comments

Do free and open learning technologies help the rich more than the poor?

I looked up Justin Reich based on Betsy DiSalvo’s comment last week.  Justin argues that the affluent benefit more from free and open learning technologies (like WikiSpaces) than do lower socioeconomic class students, so free and open learning technologies actually widen the gap, more than shrink it.  His video op-ed, linked below, makes this case with data based on use of WikiSpaces, showing that lower socioeconomic schools have less capacity to pick up and use these technologies.

But what to do?  I liked both of the initiatives that Justin mentions, but I was disappointed that both of them are outside school.  His study is on school use, but his recommendations are for out-of-school use.  Is there nothing we can do in poorer schools to make things better?

April 23, 2012 at 8:57 am 4 comments

Computational thinking, computational values, and academic freedom

Hal Abelson gave the Friday keynote at SIGCSE, as the 2012 winner of the Outstanding Contributions to CS Education award.  He spoke on computational thinking, and how it drives computational values, and should lead us to appropriate actions.  His talk slides are available, as is a transcript of his talk.  LisaK in her interdisciplinary computing blog and Nick Falkner in his blog have both written nice pieces summarizing his talk.  It was a great talk, and one that really got me thinking.  But I didn’t agree with the whole chain of reasoning.

One of Hal’s claims in his talk was that “computational thinking” leads to “computational values.”  He describes computational values like this:

It’s having the values not only that these are cool ideas but that these ideas should be empowering and that people should be able to exercise these great things in thinking about their world and having an impact on the world.

He gave some intriguing examples about “generative platforms,” systems that let you play with ideas and build new ideas in them.  He also gave several examples that he considered contrary to computational values, like closed app stores.  He explained that that’s why he did App Inventor — so that students could build things for their own cell phones, outside of these “walled gardens.”

This was the first part of the talk that I had trouble with.  Computational thinking doesn’t necessarily lead to computational values, in the sense of free and open access.  Despite the beliefs of Steven Levy’s “Hackers,”  it is not the case that information wants to be free.  Information doesn’t want anything.  The people who built the “walled gardens” know a lot about computation — they have computational thinking, but they don’t necessarily share Hal’s values.  People like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates led to the creation of wonderful software, but that doesn’t mean that they will or even want to share it or make it open source.  There is value to “walled gardens.”  Isn’t that how civilization and cities began, by putting up some defenses and setting up rules of behavior?  No, it’s no longer as wild and free, but you can be wild and free outside the walled garden.  The walled gardens have their purpose.

Hal talked a lot about these values and how they are related to academic freedom.  He talked about how important it is that great universities share research work:

We’ve got a policy that says it’s our values, it’s our values as a faculty that we think our work should be disseminated as widely and as openly as possible. The MIT policy says that if you come to MIT, you have granted MIT a nonexclusive license to distribute your works for purposes of open access.

That policy feels like the opposite of academic freedom, to me.  If I’m a professor at MIT, my work will be made public for me by my institution?  What if my work leads to a  book that I’d like to publish?  Does this mean that the professor no longer has control and copyright over his own book?  What if I want to start a company?  Does this mean that MIT takes away from me the ability to control access to my inventions? No, it’s not a company profiting from my work, but it’s the University deciding who gets access and how to my work.

I thought about Rousseau’s Emile, for which I named my dissertation environment.  The book Emile, or On Education isn’t really about education — it’s about the tension between the rights of the individual and the rights of the society.  I completely buy all of Hal’s examples, about how ridiculous it has become that a few publishers control access to so much important research.  But a policy of enforced open access just replaces one bully for another.  Does the professor as an individual own any of his or her own work?  Can the professor choose any of how its used or who publishes or develops it?

Hal is well-deserving of his award, having done wonderful things for CS education.  I greatly admire the work he does for open learning and open access. I found his talk thought-provoking.  I just don’t agree with all his answers.

March 23, 2012 at 8:13 am 3 comments

Do badges get in the way of learning to code?

Badges are the hot idea in open learning these days.  The goal is to provide some kind of certification, different than a degree.  MITx is providing an actual certificate.  The critique of the Codecademy in the below piece is that interest in programming should be intrinsic, and learning should not be motivated by an extrinsic reward like a badge.  At my most idealistic, I agree — intrinsic motivation clearly leads to the best learning.  However, almost every student in higher education today is there for a future job, or for a degree, or for some other kind of extrinsic reward.  I don’t see badges as being more or less extrinsic than a job or degree.

The pursuit of knowledge about programming shouldn’t be conflated with the pursuit of badges. That’s the beauty of this sort of DIY learning tool too — the people who want to learn to code want to learn to code and the reward should be that knowledge, not some virtual item.

via Codecademy and the Future of (Not) Learning to Code.

January 20, 2012 at 10:10 am 5 comments

Thoughts on Code Year, Codecademy, and Learning to Code (with C5 Side Note)

The blog piece below is the most biting criticism I’ve read of Codecademy.  (And of course, I’m always glad to read someone else pushing context as important for computing education!)  The author has a very good point quote below.  I’m not sure that we know how to achieve the goals of Code Year.  It’s amazing that Codecademy has raised $2.5M to support Code Year, but I do wonder if there’s a better use for that money–one that moves us closer to the goal of ubiquitous computing literacy.

Learning anything without context is hardly learning. I wish that Code Year was 2013 and 2012 was “some smart people with good ideas and a lot of money built took the time to build great pedagogically-driven tool to really solve an existing problem for folks who want and need training in this area.”

via Thoughts on Code Year, Codecademy, and Learning to Code |

Side note: I should be visiting with Alan Kay in 4 or 5 hours.  He’s introducing my keynote at the C5 Conference (, which I’m excited about.  Two of the C’s of C5 is “creating” and “computing,” and my talk is going to be about the challenges of supporting everyone in creating (for me, including “programming”) with computing.  I’m going to tell the MediaComp story, talk about Brian Dorn’s work with graphics designers, and with Klara Benda’s and Lijun Ni’s work that tells us about teachers’ needs to learn computer science.

January 18, 2012 at 7:06 am 8 comments

Teaching the On-Line Stanford class at UMass Lowell: Guest Post from Fred Martin

160,000 Enroll Stanford’s Online AI Course—Is the University Obsolete?

@aiclass: “Amazing we can probably offer a Master’s degree of Stanford quality for FREE. HOW COOL IS THAT?”—September 23, 2011

Mark blogged about Stanford’s online Artificial Intelligence course in August. I’ve been leading a group of UMass Lowell students, who are following the course and will receive regular course credit under my supervision.

Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig’s online course, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, was announced via email to a AAAI list early last summer. The idea went viral. Articles were published in the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and many media outlets.

The course was advertised as equivalent to the Stanford University undergraduate AI course. As Thrun posted on Twitter:

@aiclass: “Advanced students will complete the same homeworks and exams as Stanford students. So the courses will be equal in rigor.”—September 28, 2011

The course launched the first week of October. 160,000 students had signed up.

At UMass Lowell

I had taught my department’s AI course in Fall 2010. Students started asking me if they could take the Stanford course as a directed study. In August, I decided to open two full course sections (grad and undergrad, meeting jointly). I wanted to experience this first-hand.

I told students they would be responsible for a final project on top of the Stanford requirements.

I ended up with 16 students—12 grad and 4 undergrad. We meet once weekly for 75-minutes, seminar-style, and talk about the Stanford material after each week’s assignment is already due.

How It Works

The Stanford course consists of weekly lectures—two or three 45-minute topics that are broken up into 15 or 20 short videos. Many of the individual videos have embedded questions (multiple-choice or fill-in-the-value). Thrun’s colleague at the Stanford AI Lab, Prof. Daphne Koller, is a pioneer of this approach, and discussed it in a recent NYT essay.

At the end of these mini-lessons, the video image transforms web form where you fill in the answers. You’ve already logged into the class server, and it grades you immediately. After you submit, you are presented with a link for an explanation video.

The lectures themselves are inspired by Khan Academy’s approach. Occasionally, Thrun and Norvig will train the camera at themselves, but the core content is with the camera on a piece of paper, with Thrun or Norvig talking and writing in real time. Some people don’t like this format, but I find it relaxing and engaging. I like seeing equations written out with verbal narration in perfect sync.

There are weekly problem set “homeworks” with the same format. The homeworks track the lecture material very closely. If you paid attention and did the problems embedded in the lectures, the problem sets are usually easy.

There has been a midterm with the same format as the homeworks. It had 15 questions. There will be a final, and I expect the same format.

The homeworks, midterm, and final have hard deadlines and are only viewable to pre-registered, logged-in students who chose the “Advanced” track. The lectures are openly viewable by anyone. The server backend keeps track your scores on the homeworks, midterm, and final, which will count to your “grade”—a ranking within the active student cohort. There is a “Basic” track which consists only of the lectures.

Of the 160,000 people who initially registered, it was reported in early December that 34,000 students from the Advanced cohort are still actively participating.

On the Course

Thrun and Norvig are great teachers. Thrun is always visibly excited about teaching the material. Norvig is not as effusive, but you still know he really cares about the ideas. They’ve thought through excellent ways of explaining the ideas and quizzing the in-lecture comprehension checks. They often bring fun props or show research projects in the videos recordings.

Thrun and Norvig are only a week or so ahead of the course delivery, and they’re paying close attention their students’ progress. There is a lot of activity on the web forums. Students are completing assignments.

Thrun and Norvig have recorded several “office hours,” where students submit questions and vote on their favorite ones, and then they pick questions and answer them on camera.

In this way, the course is like a usual class—it’s not “canned.” Thrun’s and Norvig’s enthusiasm is infectious.

This is the old-fashioned emotional connection between teachers and their students.

These things make it seem more like a conventional course than you would expect.

My Role as a Teacher

I don’t have to lecture the material. When we meet, my students have (largely) worked through the lectures and homeworks.

So I don’t have to explain things to students for the first time. Instead, we use in-class time to have an interesting conversation about the parts of the material that people found confusing or disagreed upon. We’ve had some great arguments this semester.

This is a lot like the approach suggested in 2006 by Day and Foley in their HCI course at Georgia Tech. They recorded web lectures, and then used classroom time for hands-on learning activities.

Koller calls this “the flipped classroom.” She reports higher-than-usual attendance in her Stanford courses that are taught this way: “We can focus precious classroom time on more interactive problem-solving activities that achieve deeper understanding—and foster creativity.”

One fun thing for me is that Thrun and Norvig are really in charge, and I get to dig into a role as a learning coach. If something is confusing, I get to really be on the side of my students in helping figure it out. I personally really enjoy this. Others might not.

Overall—this is an exciting experiment. Thrun and Norvig have created a fantastic set of interactive lectures and some good quiz problems. They’ve put in a lot of work, and it shows.

What Does It Mean?

I don’t think this threatens the university in any profound way.

Thrun and Norvig are renowned scientists, and charismatic and thoughtful teachers. But if in some future semester, they, or others comparable, are not participating in real time, I wonder how many the 34,000 remaining students would be carrying forward with the determination that they now are.

Furthermore, in order to learn how to “do AI”—and not just learn “about AI”—students need to do significant implementation and research projects. They need individual, time-intensive guidance from a faculty member who can encourage them and help them sharpen their focus.

In Koller’s essay, she extols the new, deeper value of in-class time.

So, the flipped classroom doesn’t put us out of business. It makes us more valuable—but only if we take advantage of the opportunity.

December 16, 2011 at 6:58 am 13 comments

Open Education: “The whole model hinges on excellent assessment”

I agree with this claim.  That’s the real trick: How do you know that the students learned what they were supposed to learn?  We know that self-assessment is a bad way of judging that learning.  That’s the contribution that I see the Stanford AI class making — doing assessment, at least in the form of quizzes.

And the education could be far cheaper, because there would be no expensive instructor and students could rely on free, open educational resources rather than expensive textbooks. Costs to the student might include the assessment and the credits.“The whole model hinges on excellent assessment, a rock-solid confidence that the student has mastered the student-learning outcomes,” the memo says. “If we know with certainty that they have, we should no longer care if they raced through the course or took 18 months, or if they worked on their courses with the support of a local church organization or community center or on their own.  The game-changing idea here is that when we have assessment right, we should not care how a student achieves learning. We can blow up the delivery models and be free to try anything that shows itself to work.”

via Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

September 26, 2011 at 9:58 am 5 comments

Online-alone isn’t as good as online plus face-to-face

I found the article below in this summer’s Harvard Education Letter, then had to hunt to find the reference US Department of Education report.  It’s a meta-analysis that came out in October 2010.  They do find that online plus face-to-face seems to be the best combination for student learning:  The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. The difference between student outcomes for online and face-to-face classes…was larger in those studies contrasting conditions that blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with conditions taught entirely face-to-face. The Harvard piece is pointing out that that’s changing the online schools’ practice.  In times of rising higher-education costs, that probably should be changing brick-and-mortar institutions’ practice, too.

Fast forward to 2011. Connections Academy operates in more than 20 states and serves more than 30,000 students. And it’s not alone. In just one decade, virtual learning has exploded, with two massive statewide full-time virtual schools in Florida and North Carolina, and more on the way.

But just as online learning is taking off, new research is finding that it may not be the most effective way to teach children, and virtual companies have begun to see that a purely virtual approach has its limits.

A key report put out by the U.S. Department of Education in September 2010 demonstrated that a blend of face-to-face instruction and online learning produced the greatest academic gains. Now, not only are traditional schools looking for more online options, but virtual schools in turn are adding bits of brick and mortar to their offerings.

via Harvard Education Letter.

September 6, 2011 at 10:56 am 8 comments

Stanford on-line AI course draws 58,000 — but is it real?

58,000 people is a huge demand for an on-line AI course offered at Stanford.  That really argues for the demand for on-line education.  But what kind of a course is it?

From the description in the NYTimes piece, there will be video lectures, and interactive “quizzes and grading.”  I suspect that the traditional, face-to-face Stanford AI course is more demanding. Our AI courses at Georgia Tech have a significant programming requirement, and have a long pre-requisite chain, including courses in software engineering and data structures.  The AI course at Stanford will be joined by a database course and one on machine learning.  Our database course requires using SQL to generate queries, and our machine learning course has a significant math requirement.

A challenge in open-learning is doing significant assessment on authentic tasks (like grading programs) and to respond to the variable background knowledge in the cohort.  What will students do who lack the appropriate math for the Stanford machine learning course?  How will they know that they lack the math background?  Where will the teacher send them?

Is this really a Stanford-quality AI course?  Or is it more like outreach, community education, or adult ed?  The latter is fine, and it’s great to include graded quizzes in an open course.  It’s a step forward. But it’s not really a Stanford AI course, then. It’s an experiment in educational technology and distance education.

It’s an important distinction, between an experiment and a class.  The NYTimes piece quotes Dr. Ng saying, “I personally would like to see the equivalent of a Stanford computer science degree on the Web.”  I’d like to see that, too.  My guess is that Stanford wouldn’t actually count any of these courses toward any degree.  They’re not really undergraduate classes yet.

The Stanford scientists said they were focused on going beyond early Internet education efforts, which frequently involved uploading online videos of lectures given by professors and did little to motivate students to do the coursework required to master subjects.

The three online courses, which will employ both streaming Internet video and interactive technologies for quizzes and grading, have in the past been taught to smaller groups of Stanford students in campus lecture halls. Last year, for example, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence drew 177 students.

The two additional courses will be an introductory course on database software, taught by Jennifer Widom, chairwoman of the computer science department, and an introduction to machine learning, taught by Andrew Ng.

via Virtual and Artificial, but 58,000 Want Course –

August 18, 2011 at 10:34 am 15 comments

Yale U. Complains That Chinese University Press Plagiarized Free Course Materials

What an interesting problem!  The Chinese University Press has published a bunch of material which Yale made available for free.  I don’t think the publication is a problem, but charging for it is a violation of the copyright restrictions that Yale made.  However, the University Press claims that the author gave them permission.  Who tracks what is really owned by whom in open learning environments, and who can give permission to change the conditions under which material is used?

An official from Shaanxi Normal University told Global Times that it secured permission from the author but not from Yale, and added that it is now investigating the matter.

via Yale U. Complains That Chinese University Press Plagiarized Free Course Materials – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

July 13, 2011 at 10:37 am Leave a comment

The Internet is a playground for the affluent: Not a democratic classroom

This is exactly the problem that Alan Collins was describing in his AERA talk this last Spring. The Internet is deeply divided along economic lines. His concern was that open learning created opportunities for the rich but not the poor, and removed the “compulsory” subjects that created a sense of civic duty.

A study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests the social Web is becoming more of a playground for the affluent and the well-educated than a true digital democracy.

Despite the proliferation of social media — and recent focus on sites like Twitter and Facebook playing pivotal roles in such pro-democracy movements as the Arab Spring — most blogs, Web sites and video-sharing sites represent the perspectives of college-educated, Web 2.0-savvy affluent users, a UC Berkeley release said Tuesday.

“Having Internet access is not enough. Even among people online, those who are digital producers are much more likely to have higher incomes and educational levels,” said Jen Schradie, a doctoral candidate in sociology at UC Berkeley and author of the study.

via Study: Internet use not ‘democratic’ –

June 29, 2011 at 12:41 am 1 comment

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