Category Archives: academic

They are changing the face of education globally

I checked out Coursera’s course offerings and I have to admit they have a great lineup of quality courses. I signed up for “Introduction to Logic” from Stanford which begins soon so I could evaluate the process and quality of delivery, plus I am somewhat interested in logic. Then I signed up for “Introduction to Genome Science” from University of Pennsylvania for a fun refresher to my MS in Bioinformatics where my thesis was “Security of Our Personal Genome”. Purely continuing education but what a huge market that could be. You do realize this is wave 2 of open courseware. Coursera’s quote: We are changing the face of education globally, and we invite you to join us. Let’s assume Coursera is able to competently deliver these courses to any number of students. And let’s assume their student assessment techniques allow them to validate that learning took place. They have the prestigious of elite institutions of higher education. What does this mean?

What if a year from now millions of people are successfully completing courses through Coursera, Udacity and probably other copycat competitors. First Coursera is going to be worth billions and second a benchmark will be established that will define what is a quality online course. What will this benchmark mean? It will eliminate the argument that legitimate For-Profit online providers lack in quality. But more important it will validate the other argument that many of the online courses from traditional non-profit institutions are not worth the bandwidth you are wasting on them. So what does this mean for most of us (higher education)? Our online or blended offerings which we realize we must offer will have to be of similar quality to the free offerings from the Coursera’s of the world. We will have a benchmark. And then we just worry about holding on to our control of accreditation for validating what is a college degree and what is it worth. I am thankful that we will still have the value of the campus experience, but again, what will it be worth.

Update July 17, 2012 – More research universities join Coursera

Reason for Learning Analytics

I’m in Austin at the Educause ELI conference. This is an interesting conference, not because I am connecting with my peer CIOs, but instead because I am a CIO minority observing our Higher Education’s world of Tech savvy faculty, Educational Technologists and Instructional Designers. I believe my interest in this area of HE is the reason I was asked to join the ELI Board of Advisors. And I agree, I look at all of this through different eyes, and I believe this community may have to be the change agent that helps Higher Ed deal with the coming disruptional change.

My general observations confirm that Educause’s ELI is putting forth a good effort to support this critical community. The release of NMC’s and ELI’s Horizon Report is a major influence on the conference which is evident from the current trends of Mobility and Pad device utilization. But it is the emergence of Learning Analytics which is moving up the ladder, now expected to be formally adopted within 2-3 years. This topic was also highlighted as the BoA discussed future ELI events. What has caught my attention is that I am seeing a far more varied and complex justification for Learning Analytics then I had previously been aware of. Truth be told, I have avoided Learning Analytics for years. My previous colleague at IUPUI, Ali Jafari, was campaigning for my IT support back in the late 90‘s so that he could develop an E-Portfolio solution. My objection was always that a premiss based on a student’s voluntary submission of coursework would never work. Today we primarily want to mine our LMS data.

I continue to question the justification for investing in Learning Analytics because I still question the validity of the various methods. But I came to this conference with the acceptance that we had to invest in Learning Analytics mostly because of requirements for such data to fulfill various accreditation requirements. I have also noticed that our government appears to be taking a greater interest in some sort of institutional validation that learning is taking place, but I thought that was driven by questions about the quality of the for-profit side of Higher Education.

The ELI conference was kicked off by Adrian Sannier’s talk “If not Now, When?”, Challenges facing American education are formidable and seem to call for change more radical than incremental. Adrian was vintage Adrian with shock and awe. I have heard this talk before but this time I sensed a different undertone of disagreement. Then I took in some sessions focusing on current activity around Learning Analytics and I sensed an elephant in the room. Which was: Learning Analytics was now critical to justify our (Higher Ed) existence. And what was driving that need for justification? I believe it is the emergence of free and massively available access to live open course delivery such as from Stanford, MIT and Harvard. And most importantly the certification that is now available from those courses. If you supplement your education with the Khan Academy and successfully complete some of the advanced courses from these prestigious institutions, you will probably be successful. This can’t really be a concern, can it? It can if you believe that “Disruptive Change” could hit Higher Education and that typically that change comes from where you least expect it. How about the masses of people trying to enter the workforce that are denied an opportunity for a traditional college education?

Higher Education can react to this threat but the first step is admitting that the threat is real.

The iPad will be Successful

I probably should be posting everyday if I wanted to keep everyone up-to-date on the many discussions and issues circulating around our investigation of the iPad as our university’s recommendation for a student educational technology device. But I took 5 days out to celebrate my dad’s 95th birthday and now the SuperBowl will require some attention. Go Colts.

So a quick update – the excitement that the iPad has generated was summed up well by our President who was in Washington DC during the Apple iPad event where he observed that the iPad announcement received more media attention then the State of the Union Address. Many who fear the change that the iPad will bring have argued for what it can’t do. Here is an example: “but it does not do handwriting recognition” or “it does not have a camera”, “it does not multi-task”, etc. So let’s be clear – the iPad is not a Tablet, or Laptop, or iPhone. It is an iPad and it is not intended to be like anything else, it is a NEW and innovative technology.

Many play the skeptical role questioning whether it will be successful and they are content to wait and see. I say the iPad has no risk of failure, worst case it will be successful if nothing more then as a replacement for our love affair with having a morning newspaper. There is a reason why the book publishers are embracing the iPad and this is different from the music industry and the iPod. First, the music industry did not see or understand what hit them. Second, the iPad comes in as the second or third generation eBook reader that solves most of the problems. Third, the business concept has already been defined and Apple is not the enemy, Amazon and Google have been.

So I need to allocate enough time to fulfill my obligation as a die hard Colts fan this weekend and then I have to present a proposal to my university for why I believe the iPad would be a more effective education technology device then the current MacBook that we give to our students. However, the iPad has no chance of winning that role without the support of our faculty to leverage the iPad’s technological advantages in the classroom and on campus.

%d bloggers like this: