Articles

Selected articles from the world of online education. If you know of one that should be listed here please let us know!


Welcome to the Brave New World of MOOCs

Published in nytimes.com



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What You Need to Know About MOOCs

Published in chronicle.com


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Call it the year of the mega-class.
Colleges and professors have rushed to try a new form of online teaching known as MOOCs—short for "massive open online courses." The courses raise questions about the future of teaching, the value of a degree, and the effect technology will have on how colleges operate. Struggling to make sense of it all? On this page you’ll find highlights from The Chronicle's coverage of MOOCs.

If you'd like to learn more about MOOCs in a condensed format, try reading "Beyond the MOOC Hype: A Guide to Higher Education's High-Tech Disruption," a new e-book by The Chronicle's technology editor. But it on Amazon here.

What are MOOCs?
MOOCs are classes that are taught online to large numbers of students, with minimal involvement by professors. Typically, students watch short video lectures and complete assignments that are graded either by machines or by other students. That way a lone professor can support a class with hundreds of thousands of participants.

Why all the hype?
Advocates of MOOCs have big ambitions, and that makes some college leaders nervous. They're especially worried about having to compete with free courses from some of the world’s most exclusive universities. Of course, we still don't know how much the courses will change the education landscape, and there are plenty of skeptics.

These are like OpenCourseWare projects, right?
Sort of. More than a decade ago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology started a much-touted project called OpenCourseWare, to make all of its course materials available free online. But most of those are text-only: lecture notes and the like. Several colleges now offer a few free courses in this way, but they typically haven't offered assignments or any way for people who follow along to prove that they've mastered the concepts. MOOCs attempt to add those elements.

So if you take tests, do you get credit?
So far there aren't any colleges that offer credit for their MOOCs. But some MOOC participants can buy or receive certificates confirming their understanding of the material.


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Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official

Published in nytimes.com 2 years, 7 months ago.


Three years ago, technology was going to transform higher education. What happened?

Over the course of a few months in early 2012, leading scientists from Harvard, Stanford and M.I.T. started three companies to provide Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. The courses were free. Millions of students signed up. Pundits called it a revolution.

But today, enrollment in traditional colleges remains robust, and undergraduates are paying higher tuition and taking out larger loans than ever before. Universities do not seem poised to join travel agents and video stores on the ash heap of history — at least, not yet.

The failure of MOOCs to disrupt higher education has nothing to do with the quality of the courses themselves, many of which are quite good and getting better. Colleges are holding technology at bay because the only thing MOOCs provide is access to world-class professors at an unbeatable price. What they don’t offer are official college degrees, the kind that can get you a job. And that, it turns out, is mostly what college students are paying for.

Now information technology is poised to transform college degrees. When that happens, the economic foundations beneath the academy will truly begin to tremble.

Traditional college degrees represent several different kinds of information. Elite universities run admissions tournaments as a way of identifying the best and the brightest. That, in itself, is valuable data. It’s why “Harvard dropout” and “Harvard graduate” tell the job market almost exactly the same thing: “This person was good enough to get into Harvard.”

Degrees give meaning and structure to collections of college courses. A bachelor’s degree signifies more than just 120 college credits. To graduate, students need a certain number of upper- and lower-division credits, a major and perhaps a sprinkling of courses in the sciences and humanities.


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How Coursera Is Connecting Its Students to Tech Employers Like Google

Published in wired.com 2 years, 8 months ago.


Free online courses aren’t replacing traditional four-year colleges any time soon. But they are steadily gaining ground with job seekers looking to pick up new skills, which they can parlay into new careers. Now, one online course provider, Coursera, is helping these online learners showcase their work to some of the country’s leading tech companies.

Coursera announced today that it’s teaming up with companies like Google, Instagram, and Shazam to design special projects for students pursuing so-called Specializations on Coursera. Specializations, which Coursera rolled out last year, are like mini-majors for Coursera learners. They comprise several courses within a given subject, such as data science.

At the end of a Specialization, students complete a capstone project to prove what they’ve learned and can pay to receive a certificate of completion. Now, several of those capstone projects will be designed and judged by some of the country’s most venerated employers.

For a recent pilot program, for instance, Google challenged students in the Mobile Cloud Computing Specialization to design a mobile cloud computing app from scratch. Now, it’s considering some of those apps to be featured in the Google Play store.


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Origins of the Modern MOOC (xMOOC)

Published in cs.stanford.edu 2 years, 9 months ago.


Online education has been around for decades,with many universities offering online courses to a small, limited audience.What changed in 2011 was scale and availability, when Stanford University offered three courses free to the public, each garnering signups of about 100,000 learners or more.The launch of these three courses, taught by Andrew Ng, Peter Norvig, Sebastian Thrun and Jennifer Widom, arguably marked the start of the modern, instructor-­‐directed MOOC (sometimes“xMOOC”). Each of these MOOCs offered learners the opportunity to watch online lectures, do machine-­‐graded homework, and earn a “Statement of Accomplishment” if they passed the class.


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25 Killer Websites that Make You Cleverer

Published in lifehack.org 2 years, 11 months ago.


It’s easy to forget that we have access to a virtually limitless resource of information, i.e. the Internet. For a lot of us, this is even true at our fingertips, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and an ever-increasing push for online greatness by tech engineers all over the world.

As a result, there are countless websites out there that are geared to make you smarter and more brilliant for either a low or no cost. Here are just 25 killer websites that may just make you more clever than ever before.


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Why Free Online Classes Are Still the Future of Education

Published in wired.com 3 years ago.


The MOOC was The Next Big Thing—and then it was written off for dead. But for Anant Agarwal, one of the founding fathers of this online reboot of university education, it’s only just getting started.

Agarwal is an MIT computer science professor and the CEO of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based non-profit, edX, one of several purveyors of so-called “massively open online courses,” or MOOCs, which offer free online classes from elite universities to anyone in the world. After it was buoyed by an enormous wave of hype two years ago, the MOOC has now plummeted in terms of public perception—with even one of its most prominent backers turning his back on the idea—but Agarwal is unbowed.

The way he sees it, effective uses of the MOOC model are only beginning to take shape. Enrollment in edX courses has doubled over last year, and he believes we’re on the verge of an era he calls MOOC 2.0. “We’ve been growing as others are throwing in the towel,” he says of edX Such optimism is to be expected from a man who makes his livelihood from this model. But Agarwal isn’t alone in this opinion. This week, a team of researchers out of MIT, Harvard, and China’s Tsinghua University—all schools that offer MOOCs—released a study showing that students who attended a MIT physics class online learned as effectively as students who took the class in person. What’s more, the results were the same, regardless of how well the online students scored on a pre-test before taking the class.

“It’s an issue that has been very controversial,” said one of the study’s authors, Professor David Pritchard of MIT, in a statement. “A number of well-known educators have said there isn’t going to be much learning in MOOCs, or if there is, it will be for people who are already well-educated.”

The Rise and Fall and Rise

In 2012, The New York Times hailed “the year of the MOOC,” and it seemed that not a day went by that there wasn’t a news story about how edX—and similar companies like Coursera and Udacity–were poised to radically change and democratize education. But then came the inevitable backlash. Critics pointedly accused these companies of overstating their potential. They cited the fact that an eye-poppingly low number of students ever finish the classes as proof that the MOOC model was fundamentally broken.

Even Sebastian Thrun, founder and CEO of Udacity and one of the MOOC’s earliest supporters turned his back on the model, transitioning Udacity into an online vocational school of sorts for tech companies. In an interview with Fast Company last fall, Thrun discussed the shift, saying: “I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product.”

But studies like the one from MIT are providing new fuel for people like Agarwal. It’s an affirmation of the very thing they’ve been saying all along: that it’s possible to get a quality college education without the hefty price tag. But at the same time, he says the MOOC is capable of much more. What interests Agarwal most these days are all the other, unexpected use cases for the MOOC that he and his colleagues are only beginning to discover. “There’s the side of MOOCs that you see and a whole other side that you don’t see,” he says.


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Online Education Gets Fast-Tracked With Coursera Classes On-Demand

Published in readwrite.com 3 years, 1 month ago.


This is the year massive open online courses (MOOCs) come of age, says Daphne Koller, cofounder and president of Coursera. And the way her company's helping that happen is offering up learning on-demand.

Consumers are accustomed to getting everything as soon as they request it, Koller explained Wednesday at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. So Coursera is testing a way for learners to start classes immediately, right when they sign up, rather than waiting, sometimes months, for the class to begin.

"We find the number of people who enroll for a class and immediately start taking it are twice as likely to complete it as those who enroll a month or two before it begins," Koller explained.

Coursera is currently testing this self-paced model in four classes, and Koller said that the course completion is promising. The company is planning on rolling it out to more courses overtime.


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The MOOC Revolution That Wasn’t

Published in techcrunch.com 3 years, 1 month ago.


Three years ago this week, Sebastian Thrun recorded his Stanford class on Artificial Intelligence, released it online to a staggering 180,000 students, and started a “revolution in higher education.” Soon after, Coursera, Udacity and others promised free access to valuable content, supposedly delivering a disruptive solution that would solve massive student debt and a struggling economy. Since then, over 8 million students have enrolled in their courses. This year, that revolution fizzled. Only half of those who signed up watched even one lecture, and only 4 percent stayed long enough to complete a course. Further, the audience for MOOCs already had college degrees so the promise of disrupting higher education failed to materialize. The MOOC providers argue that completion of free courses is the wrong measure of success, but even a controlled experiment run by San Jose State with paying students found the courses less effective than their old-school counterparts. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Online learning long ago solved the access problem: Between the 8 million people who have signed up for MOOCs, and the more than 1 billion downloads from Apple’s iTunesU (Apple is quietly a larger force in online education than any upstart), we already know people want to take online courses. What we don’t know is whether they can be as effective, or more effective, than sitting in a classroom. It’s time to focus on that harder problem: engagement. As an online learner myself it’s hard to stay engaged: when I get home after a full day at work, the noble goal of learning new skills often is put aside with Netflix only a click away. Online learning needs to pass that test: it needs to be not only good for you, but enjoyable in its own right. Startups, big companies, and universities are finally focused on the true promise of online education: driving substantial learning at an affordable price. There are three areas that have shown promise towards that goal: mentorship, retention marketing, and new forms of learn-by-doing. One-on-one mentorship was long ago found to be dramatically more effective than group instruction. Having the full attention of an instructor accelerates an individual’s learning by focusing them on the right problems at the right times, and having a real relationship with one person provides students with accountability. At Thinkful, we see a spike in learning the day before students have sessions with their mentors. Students want to achieve more because of their relationship, and that motivation translates to more efficient learning. We’re now working to apply that same social pressure throughout the week to bring up overall learning time further. Sometimes you just need someone you respect telling you to eat your vegetables.


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The evolution of Moocs

Published in timeshighereducation.co.uk 3 years, 1 month ago.


Online courses may have been over-hyped, but they will still be a valuable part of the future.

Is it time to move “beyond the silly hype” about massive open online courses?

Ferdinand von Prondzynski, vice-chancellor of Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, thinks so. He took to his website, A University Blog, to make that very point.

“A year or two ago a number of people who wanted to grab a bit of public attention in higher education claimed loudly that MOOCs (‘massive open online courses’) were the future, and that all universities would have to go down this route,” he writes – linking to a Times Higher Education article from last year in which Don Nutbeam, vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton, urged institutions to produce Moocs or face dire consequences. “It’s Mooc or die. More to the point, do it quickly,” Professor Nutbeam said at the time.

Despite the lack of a declared business plan for both universities and Mooc platforms, Professor von Prondzynski continues, “the hype continued to roll and seemed to have the capacity to persuade rational commentators that MOOCs were the future”.

“Not even the really annoying acronym seemed to be able to put people off,” he writes.


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Online learning: the UK’s scepticism is holding it back

Published in theguardian.com 3 years, 1 month ago.


Online learning is still seen as the poor relation in the UK – but it’s time for attitudes to change. As the student cap is lifted, and opportunities for expansion increase, online education offers a way for UK universities to compete internationally without struggling to meet capacity.

It’s a different story in the US. There, online degree courses have turned a corner. No more lurking in the shadows as the lesser option, the fallback. If it wants to make the most of those opportunities for expansion, the UK can learn some useful lessons from the US experience of learning to love online education.

The lifting of the student cap is one driver, but what will matter long-term is taking a decent share of the ballooning numbers of students globally looking for a world-class degree. The OECD estimates the numbers of people with degrees will grow from around 129 million to 204 million by 2020. It’s also one answer to the problem of declining numbers of part-time students and creating the right kind of higher study offer for people in work.

Latest figures from the Babson Survey Research Group suggest that 7.1 million higher education students in the US are taking at least one online course as part of their degree. There’s some wrangling over the figures, with the US education department’s first research into online study putting the total at more like 5.5 million. Forecasts suggest this will mean more than half of US students taking an online course by 2018.

Online tuition is moving into the mainstream

Perhaps more important than the numbers is the underlying sentiment. Talking to academic leaders, the Babson researchers found that those believing online courses provided the same or better learning outcomes had grown to 74%. Online degrees are no longer the preserve of the for-profit online operators, and three-quarters of all US universities and colleges now offer online degree options. The recent move from Stanford to turn Mooc (massive open online courses) offerings into paid-for courses is another indication of how online tuition is moving into the mainstream.


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Why So Few Women Are Studying Computer Science

Published in readwrite.com 3 years, 1 month ago.


University students around the country are packing up their cars and making the annual pilgrimage to dorm rooms or sparsely-decorated apartments to kick off the school year. They’re pounding the concrete in Ikea for last-minute bathroom accessories, and hugging their parents goodbye until fall break.

The university experience prepares young adults for future careers. It teaches them required skills, and introduces them to peers who may one day become coworkers.

For one field in particular, the classes, and for now, the future, look similar to the fraternity houses that line a college town's streets. Computer science is a boys club.

Women earn just 18% of undergraduate degrees awarded for computer science. At top research universities, that number is 14%, according to the Anita Borg Institute.

What is most startling about that number is that it does not represent progress. In 1985, women earned 37% of computer-science undergraduate degrees.

Three decades later, computer science has become a much more vital gateway to high-paying jobs and the chance to influence the software-driven future of society. Yet vastly more men than women are stepping through it.


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Bringing Tech Culture to the Staid College Quad

Published in nytimes.com 3 years, 1 month ago.


COLLEGE has its problems. It’s expensive, it has some outdated traditions and it has a tendency to produce graduates who struggle to find jobs in the rapidly changing economy.

In the parlance of the tech industry, higher education is ripe for disruption. And Silicon Valley loves to talk about the end of college as we know it, whether by turning everyone into a start-up founder or funneling future students through massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

Still, traditional colleges aren’t going away anytime soon and tech entrepreneurs have realized this, too. There are several companies that let students take better advantage of the college education they are getting, instead of the education of the future.

“Learning has been an inefficient market,” said Dan Rosensweig, the chief executive of Chegg, an education services company. “The price of books, the diversity of who you can learn from, the geography of where you can learn. It’s now getting more and more efficient.”

Textbooks have been a particularly ripe target. In a report last year, the Government Accountability Office said the price of new textbooks rose 82 percent from 2002 to 2012, only slightly less than the 89 percent rise in tuition and fees, and far higher than the 28 percent rise in overall consumer prices.

The average student now spends over $600 a year on textbooks and other course-related material, according to the National Association of College Stores. But savvier shopping can probably cut book costs significantly.

Federal law requires colleges to post lists of their required materials online before students arrive on campus. That allows for price comparisons with online stores, especially if the reading is novels or historical works. “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche was available at the University of California, Berkeley, bookstore for about $19 used, but another version was just $6 new at Amazon or free for the Kindle.


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Programming Apps Teach the Basics of Code

Published in nytimes.com 3 years, 1 month ago.


Kit Eaton reviews three apps that will help you learn the basics of computer programming from your mobile device.

If you have never done any programming, the free Codecademy: Code Hour app for iOS is a great place to begin. The app aims to teach some fundamental principles of computer programming by leading you through pieces of code and explaining how and why they work.

Codecademy’s lessons use a split screen. The top half of the screen contains text explaining an important idea about programming or asking you to complete a task. The bottom half has an example of the program code you are trying to learn, with interactive boxes for typing in information or selecting the right item from a menu.

The lessons include making text appear on a screen and making a calculation work by using the right mathematical symbol. At the end of each code example, pressing a “Run” button will run the program. Then the app either tells you that you have done well, or explains where you went wrong and gives a hint on how to make the code work properly


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MOOCs Are Dead — Long Live the MOOC

Published in wired.com 3 years, 1 month ago.


Do you remember all the way back in 2013? You know, the year North West was born, the Harlem Shake made its debut, and selfies changed phone texting rates. More notably, there was the bombing at the Boston Marathon, our climate proved that abnormal would be the new normal, and our planet lost Nelson Mandela. But for those of you who attend education conferences, you also likely remember 2013 as the year that showed 5-10 MOOC sessions on every program or agenda. Some will say 2012 was the Year of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), but 2013 was where all of the publicity started to catch up to the hype. And as someone who goes to 30 conferences a year, for me it was the year of MOOC overload!

The “e-vangelists” were out in full force with the over-promising and under-delivering of ed tech rhetoric. MOOCs were going to save Higher Education (or destroy it, depending on the session you attended); MOOCs would finally allow tiny State schools or small private colleges the ability to play on the national stage and compete with R-1’s and the Ivy League; and MOOCs would make education a true commodity, thereby creating a financially viable education-for-all system. MOOCs even made popular news media outlets like The New York Times and Time Magazine.

But then, almost as quickly as they took the world by storm, they disappeared. Long gone from the pages of the Posts and Heralds, good luck finding any mention of a “MOOC” in an education journal or website today. Read the course catalogues of most universities today and you won’t find many if any MOOC offerings. Even some of the MOOC start-ups have “changed course” (See Udacity.) And I have now been to more than a dozen conferences in 2014 without a mention of MOOC in the program… But, despite the fact that most people have (prematurely) dismissed MOOCs as an education experiment-gone-awry, like “Base 8 Math” or “No Child Left Behind”, a few people have kept their eye on the MOOC ball.

And, like those who never faltered from the learning analytics conversation, the small but passionate few who learned important lessons from the MOOC fever of the past two years will likely be rewarded. Why? Because the lessons learned were valuable and important for ALL of education…not just eLearning and not just courses trying to reach 100,000 students.

Pragmatic education matters. I get the argument for liberal arts, well-rounded, holistic education. I’ve heard passionate educators make fantastic arguments about the dangers of technical-only degrees. Likewise, I get the argument for more pages in our textbooks leading to more freedom and creativity for teachers but also more options and possibilities for students. After all, one might argue that despite being a top tier PISA or TIMMS scoring country typically through a laser-focused approach (such as studying 1/3 as many math, language, and science topics in school compared to the USA) has not resulted in much creativity or entrepreneurialism.


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MOOCs Are Dead - Long Live the MOOC

Published in wired.com 3 years, 1 month ago.


Do you remember all the way back in 2013? You know, the year North West was born, the Harlem Shake made its debut, and selfies changed phone texting rates. More notably, there was the bombing at the Boston Marathon, our climate proved that abnormal would be the new normal, and our planet lost Nelson Mandela. But for those of you who attend education conferences, you also likely remember 2013 as the year that showed 5-10 MOOC sessions on every program or agenda. Some will say 2012 was the Year of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), but 2013 was where all of the publicity started to catch up to the hype. And as someone who goes to 30 conferences a year, for me it was the year of MOOC overload!

The “e-vangelists” were out in full force with the over-promising and under-delivering of ed tech rhetoric. MOOCs were going to save Higher Education (or destroy it, depending on the session you attended); MOOCs would finally allow tiny State schools or small private colleges the ability to play on the national stage and compete with R-1’s and the Ivy League; and MOOCs would make education a true commodity, thereby creating a financially viable education-for-all system. MOOCs even made popular news media outlets like The New York Times and Time Magazine.

But then, almost as quickly as they took the world by storm, they disappeared. Long gone from the pages of the Posts and Heralds, good luck finding any mention of a “MOOC” in an education journal or website today. Read the course catalogues of most universities today and you won’t find many if any MOOC offerings. Even some of the MOOC start-ups have “changed course” (See Udacity.) And I have now been to more than a dozen conferences in 2014 without a mention of MOOC in the program… But, despite the fact that most people have (prematurely) dismissed MOOCs as an education experiment-gone-awry, like “Base 8 Math” or “No Child Left Behind”, a few people have kept their eye on the MOOC ball.

And, like those who never faltered from the learning analytics conversation, the small but passionate few who learned important lessons from the MOOC fever of the past two years will likely be rewarded. Why? Because the lessons learned were valuable and important for ALL of education…not just eLearning and not just courses trying to reach 100,000 students.

Pragmatic education matters. I get the argument for liberal arts, well-rounded, holistic education. I’ve heard passionate educators make fantastic arguments about the dangers of technical-only degrees. Likewise, I get the argument for more pages in our textbooks leading to more freedom and creativity for teachers but also more options and possibilities for students. After all, one might argue that despite being a top tier PISA or TIMMS scoring country typically through a laser-focused approach (such as studying 1/3 as many math, language, and science topics in school compared to the USA) has not resulted in much creativity or entrepreneurialism.


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The MOOC Completion Conundrum: Can ‘Born Digital’ Fix Online Education?

Published in wired.com 3 years, 1 month ago.


One of the great ironies of online learning is that a tool created to foster personalized learning is actually quite impersonal, in practice. It doesn’t have to be that way.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) are based on a simple premise: deliver free content from the world’s greatest professors to the masses, and a global community of students could take the same courses as students attending elite colleges and universities. The hope was that broad-based access to higher education would enable unprecedented numbers of learners to fulfill the democratic promise of higher education, social mobility and professional attainment.

It is now clear that the hype surrounding MOOCs has outpaced the model’s ability to deliver on the promise of a revolution in higher education. Initial data demonstrates that MOOCs have lived up to their name in terms of generating massive enrollments; however, completion rates — including introductory, lecture courses — hover in the low single digits.

These findings should not be surprising. MOOCs combine a set of existing tools that can be useful instructional supports, such as online lectures, social networks, and quizzes. But few professors would consider these technologies, together, as a substitute for the course experience.

Last month, Columbia Teachers College released a MOOC progress report, which took a close look at implementation challenges and barriers to success. The report stated that “while the potential for MOOCs to contribute significantly to the development of personalized and adaptive learning is high, the reality is far from being achieved.” To get there, “a great deal of coordination and collaboration among content experts, instructors, researchers, instructional designers, and programmers will be necessary.”


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