Monthly Archives: July 2012

What do You Think – MOOC’s, Good or Bad for Higher Education?

Good MOOC’s, Bad MOOC’s

July 25, 2012, 4:06 pm

So I just finished a brief radio appearance (CBC) on the subject of Massive Open, Online Courses (MOOCs). The main guest was George Siemens who, with Stephen Downes, helped pioneer these courses in Canada. Even though all of the press coverage has gone to the competing Stanford edu-preneurs behind Coursera and Udacity, Siemens and Downes have done much of the most important work, theoretical and practical, distinguishing between good and bad MOOC’s.

At the heart of the work of Siemens and Downes is connectedness. Both have written importantly about the social character of learning, the way that actual learning means entering a community of persons asking tough questions, with a shared passion, etc. Relatedly, both insist that knowledge is not “a thing to be acquired,” but an activity. As any working researcher knows, academic, professional, medical, industrial, and pharmaceutical knowledge doesn’t stand still–it moves with the community of researchers, with vortices of conflict, ebb tides, and occasional tsunamis of unreason.

Good MOOC’s, in their view, foreground and sustain the social dimension of learning and active practices, i.e., knowledge production rather than knowledge consumption. To a limited extent, certain experiments in MOOC’s that foreground social media participation over “content mastery” realize some of the ideals of Siemen and Downes.

So what’s the rub? Well, the good intentions and featured best practices of Siemens and Downes exist in political and institutional realities. If institutions really wanted to sustain participatory learning, they would already be doing so, for instance, by reducing lectures and high-stakes testing, investing in teaching-intensive faculty and the like. Instead, driven less by cost concerns than a desire to standardize and control both faculty and curriculum, administrations rely more than ever on lectures and tests.

It’s hard to imagine that an education vendor, particularly one driven by profit, will do more than use Siemens’s and Downes’s excellent, sincere efforts as a tissue-paper justification for passing off cheap “social media opportunities” as a substitute for sustained interaction with working professional academics. Like their bricks-and-mortar counterparts, not to mention the community colleges and distance vendors they’re competing with, the heart of Coursera will be in lectures and tests.

Insofar as accumulation is the goal (either in the form of profit or endowment): bad MOOC’s will use all the worst aspects of contemporary “teaching” (lectures, tests, and a division of labor), just on a larger scale that includes less oversight, globalization, and aggressively tiered quality differentiation of subordinated tasks such as tutoring, discussion leadership, and grading.

This will be driven by the business model of operations like Coursera, which unlike its competitors doesn’t generate proprietary content. Its sole contribution is to drive consumers into its partners’ courses in exchange for 85 to 90 percent of the revenue.  (Universities, which have been scorched repeatedly in trying to develop for-profit online course content, find it easy to sign up with Coursera because they aren’t putting up any cash.)

However the venture capitalists who have poured at least $20-million into the 20-person Coursera storefront must be impatient for these revenue streams to get settled. So far they’re considering the following:

a) Charging for certification and testing. The learning might be free–because one virtue of massiveness for capital accumulation is the contribution of many learners to others’ learning. But if you want to be tested for “content mastery” (and not incidentally buy the cultural capital of the elite brand) you have to pay. This revenue stream clearly presses toward the automated lecture/testing/machine-scoring model, with as much crowdsourcing of free peer teaching assistance as the students are willing to donate.

b) Vending of tutorial services, translations, facilitation of small-group discussion and peer learning, etc. This revenue stream turns Coursera into a labor contractor, substituting its labor for the university’s army of graduate students, full-time staff, and certain full-time instructors in certain fields, as well as undergraduate tutors. Coursera would cheaply source the labor from impoverished populations globally, but lose the crucial advantage of graduate students’ and faculty’s self-discounted wage, i.e., teaching for love.

c) Direct tuition for courses or clusters of courses in relation to certification, standard distance-ed practice, just with the new midscale Coursera brand. This may be the ultimate future of Coursera, as a midscale brand to compete with the downscale operations currently making a fortune out of distance ed.

All of the cultural-capital conversations surrounding Coursera’s launch-year associations with prestige brands will eventually run into the realities than any luxury brand run into: exclusivity depends on exclusion. When you massify the Best Western franchise, you have to create tiers such as Best Western Plus and then Best Western Premier to keep your markets straight.

Harvard and MIT, for instance are trying to have their brand cake and dilute it too by branding their Edx courses as the product of “Harvardx” and “MITx.”

d) Miscellaneous revenue sources, like advertising and employment-service revenue from job seekers and potential employers. Probably more revenue in the latter than the former.


This entry was posted in Economics, teaching, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


Digital Study Tools for Students


College students today are digital natives, a phrase coined by Marc Prensky, a decade ago in 2001 describing college students, as being “surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age.” The challenge for our education system is to leverage technology to create relevant learning experiences that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures (Bradnsor et al. 2006). With the influence and demand of the “digital natives”, the rise of mobile technology is changing the way we teach and learn

This year in your classes, try one of the following online digital study tools to empower students to create multimedia content and share it with the world, share their knowledge and ideas, and to collaborate and learn new things.


StudyMate is a tool that allows students to create flash-based activities and games.  Students can use the interactive self-assessments and games to master course material.  At Harding University we have access to StudyMate through Moodle and Canvas. 

Study Blue

Teachers you can create free flashcards for your students to access online at  or with either an Android or Apple app. Students can add their own content and share their flash cards with other students. As students’ progress they can track their mastery of key concepts. 


For all of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac users of the world, you can create free text, images, and flashcards on  Then download the app for your iPhones and iPads for $2.99 to study the materials created. 


Leave a comment

Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


Can you tell if students are understanding what you are saying?

The Problem

During lectures, it’s hard for every student to let you know if they understand or if they’re confused. Especially in large classes, many students are reluctant to express their confusion which limits both their learning and their enjoyment.

The Solution

Understoodit addresses this issue by allowing students to anonymously, and in real-time, indicate if they understand or are confused. Understoodit runs on devices that you and your students already own: smartphones, tablets, netbooks and notebooks.

For Teachers

Why wait until evaluations at the end of the term to find out if your students were confused? With understoodit, you get feedback in real-time allowing you to make changes during your lecture to help students understand difficult topics.

For Students

Understoodit allows you to anonymously, and democratically, inform the professor that you’re either confused or you understand. Giving your professors feedback allows them to improve their teaching and your learning.

Maybe someone wants to use this in their class this Fall? Let us know if you do…

Here is the link: Understoodit

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


Google Glasses – What Changes Could this Lead to in Higher Ed?

Computerworld – When one talks of computers today, he or she could be referring to a laptop, a desktop or maybe even a smartphone.


Sergey Brin, CEO and co-founder of Google, wears Google Glasses during a product demonstration at the Google I/O 2012 conference last month. (Image: Stephen Lam / Reuters)

However, if Google’s latest plan stays on track, the definition of a computer could broaden significantly.

At its Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco, the company threw a lot of effort behind the unveiling of a prototype of its so-called Google Glass computerized eyeglasses.

The Android-powered eyeglasses are equipped with a processor, memory, camera, GPS sensors and a display screen.

Google co-founder and CEO Sergey Brin said the Google Glass development effort is all about “doing brand new risky technological things that are really about making science fiction real.”

In that world of science fiction, he said, computers won’t always look like what we now expect from the term. The next generation of computers won’t necessarily sit on one’s desk or lap or in one’s hand. The devices may not have a have a monitor and/or keyboard.

Someday – probably in the near future – computers will be worn, whether incorporated into glasses, or in a piece of jewelry such as a bracelet or something else, analysts say.

“Google Glass changes the way we will look at computers,” said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “It isn’t just research, it’s a workable prototype.”

“Glass serves to stretch the technology ecosystem to even greater lengths, Moorhead said. “I believe that in five years we will see many different form factors and brands of wearable computers. We will have computers embedded in our glasses of course, but also in our jewelry and watches.”

Moorhead noted that the U.S. military, especially the Special Forces units, already use wearable computers to for communications and GPS tasks. That technology hasn’t yet reached consumer or business users, he added.

Google’s research efforts could hasten the mainstream use of the technologies.

“As we see real devices in use that we previously saw only in movies and books, it will expand the possibilities even further,” said Moorhead. “We can go beyond the glasses and visualize computers in our jewelry, in our watches and even inside our bodies.”

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, said such new computing form factors are an extension of the current mobile trend, taking GPS-enabled smartphones, growing compute power and multiple new communications capabilities to the next level.

“It’s the ever smaller and ever more powerful mobile technologies,” he added. “It’s about the things we used to see and think about in relation to sci-fi novels or Star Trek. The idea of highly mobile and highly powerful computers is extremely intriguing.”

King said he expects there will be great demand for what he calls “mobile computing lifestyle choices” in a few years. 

“It would not surprise me if we see a lot of this in, say, five years,” he noted. “As the technology becomes more sophisticated and cheaper, it becomes something everybody can afford.”

“Some years ago, a smartphone like the Blackberry was considered something that only business professionals needed. It doesn’t seem farfetched to think we could see Google Glass widely adopted in five years,” King added.

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, pointed out that Google Glass or other wearable computers could be very useful in many workplaces — not just the next big thing to help users look cool or geeky.

“They could be used regularly for things like taking inventory in warehouses, and for tasks on factory floors and other places where folks need to use computers and their hands at the same time,” Enderle said.

At the Google I/O conference, the company said it is offering prototype versions of Google Glass, dubbed the Google Glass Explorer Edition, to developers for $1,500. Brin said he expects the glasses to be generally available in 2014 — at a lower price.

“If the developer community can come up with interesting solutions, the sky’s the limit,”
said King.

Enderle said that wearable computers could be a big step toward a new generation of compute form factors that can be embedded inside the human body.

Putting aside visions of Star Trek’s Borg initiative, Moorhead and Enderle agreed that wearable computers are a bridge to the first such computer implants.

“It’s an interim step toward imbedding computers into people and creating some kind of biomechanical interface that bypasses the eyes,” Enderle said, adding that he believes that computer generation is some 25 to 50 years away.

“The change we are working toward … is one of the big changes we will see in computing this century. It will redefine personal computing by the time it has fully matured,” he added.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at  @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon’s RSS feed . Her e-mail address is

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


ISTE 2012: Conference Highlights and Best of Show

ISTE 2012: Conference Highlights and Best of Show    

Some of you are probably wondering what ISTE is and whyI am blogging about it. ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education. The association’s goal is to improve learning and teaching by advancing the effective use of technology.  Last week was the yearly conference, which the Center for Learning with Technology attended. The conference was incredible and overwhelming, with over one hundred different types of presentations taking place simultaneously. So what I have tried to do is present to you the conference highlights and what I call “the best of show.”

Conference Highlights

From poster sessions, vendors (over 500 in vendors and 5 football fields in length), fellow educators, and lecture sessions, the top themes of the conference were bring your own devices (BYOD) otherwise interpreted as bring your own iPad, flipped or inverted classrooms, and creativity.

Bring Your Own Device without fail in most sessions pertained to an iPad. Session leaders were encouraged by anecdotal evidence of student engagement and productivity. Other sessions focused more on students as content creators and less as consumers.  With apps like Photoshop Touch for IOS, student created materials are more likely to be developed.

Flipped or Inverted Classroom is s universal movement in class rooms across the United States and Canada, where students listen to lectures outside of the classroom to acquire content. While in class students have time for collaboration, skills development, project development, group study and personalized instruction.

Creativity as a mandatory focus in the classroom, was a spotlight at almost every keynote address. Sir Ken Robinson and Dr Young Zhao stressed the importance of creativity in curriculum and instruction.  Dr. Zhao spoke of how China and other Asian countries lead the world in test scores but fail to produce creative entrepreneurs and innovators like Steve Jobs.  Zhao, cited the lack of creativity in in Asian schools as the culprit for producing fewer innovators like the United Sates.  Sir Robinson speech invited the attendees to be a part of creating a “systemic shift that focuses on student engagement, “ 

Best of Show

There were so many fantastic web tools presented at the ISTE conference that I want to share, so I thought I would start with a few that vary in their function and use.  Be watching for upcoming blogs for other web based tools. 

  1. Swivl  –  Swivl is like having your own personal cameraman to record your lectures or student presentations.  The Swivl is a motion tracking mount for your iPhone.
  2. Present Me   Present me captures your computer screen allowing you to upload  PowerPoint, word docs,  Google docs,  and PDF files. You can either leave an audio or video narration to accompany your slides or documents.  There is nothing to download, you simply upload your presentation, record narrative, and share your video. 
  3. TuebChop –  Have you ever found a YouTube video that you only wanted about a 30 second section of the video?  With TubeChop you can edit a YouTube video leaving you with the section you want. A separate URL  and embed code are provided for the newly edited section of the YouTube video. .
  4. TikiToki  – TikiToki is a web based multimedia timeline creator that has integration with YouTube and Vimeo.
  5. Mentimeter is an audience response system that is a free and easy way to interact with your audience. No instillation or downloading is required.  Voting is easy and most mobile devices are supported.










Leave a comment

Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Uncategorized