R685 – Mid-term Reading Reflection
I am currently taking an online graduate course and Indiana University. The course is R685, Emerging Learning Technologies and is taught by Dr. Curt Bonk. The following blog post is part of my mid-term reading “tidbit” reflection. Before I continue, I would also like to refer to the word-cloud image to the right. I generated the word-cloud by appending all of the text together from my selection of tidbit readings in a single text file. The graphic represents the 89 most common/popular concepts discussed in my selection of tidbit articles (videos were not included in this process). The larger the word, the more often it was used in the article set. You may click on the image thumbnail to view a larger view of the graphic.
The semester began with readings on some of the seminal articles in information science and distance education, namely Charles Wedemeyer and Vannevar Bush. These two early innovators were ahead of their time in thinking about learning, technology and information. As We May Think, by Vannevar Bush was originally published in the July 1945 edition of The Atlantic, and in the article Bush discusses innovative concepts that are applicable today in fields such as information science, human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing and learning. “Bush expresses his concern for the direction of scientific efforts towards destruction, rather than understanding, and explicates a desire for a sort of collective memory machine with his concept of the memex that would make knowledge more accessible, believing that it would help fix these problems” (Wikipedia).
We also read several articles by and about Dr. Charles Wedemeyer, who was a pioneer in the field of distance learning. Very early on he was challenged the status quo and higher education administrators to a world of more open learning. Wedemeyer made major contributions in the advancement of distance education and its research base. Wedemeyer not only provided needed leadership to his university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but also provided direction for the national and international growth of of distance education. He was recognized as leader of the movement throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
The first week provided an excellent beginning to the course on emerging learning technologies. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on the history of the field, the ideas and innovators that came before, and just how relevant their ideas and struggles are in the current discourse in higher education, distance education, and technology. In today’s 24-hour news cycle and micro attention spans, I feel that we fail to, or forget to, understand the basic ideas that came before that helped to establish the trajectory of where things are currently, and potential future directions.
These historical readings helped to set the basis for the arc of my thinking thus far in the course. Through the midpoint of the course, I’ve come to see a few interrelated trends and tensions. It is quite interesting to see how the early innovators (Wedemeyer and Bush) laid the groundwork and even predicted many current innovations we are currently struggling with. For example, Wedemeyer battled with university administrators to fight for more distance education opportunities, and further open access to education. That struggle continues in earnest. I would even argue that given the state of advanced learning technologies and access to the Internet, compared to the available technologies in Wedemeyer’s time, we are possibly farther behind in advancing access to open education and distance education to the main stream. Below is a list of broad trends and tensions that I am currently pondering.
Themes, Trends and Tensions
Overall, I see a theme in the tension between open systems and closed systems. This could be broadly construed in areas such as, open source, public commons, and also open education (OER, OCW). These open systems are at odds with closed systems. A simple example is the difference between an open source learning management system such as, Sakai or Moodle, and the closed system companions such as, Blackboard, and D2L. Another example from our readings came in week 3 and week 6. In those weeks we discussed ebooks and OER/OCW. There are examples of publishers developing delivery systems, Digital Rights Management (DRM) and ebook formats that are not open or widely compatible. These closed systems can potentially stifle innovation and creativity as well as limit access for teaching and learning.
Another tension I see exists between non-profit/open and public education vs. the for-profit ventures. This mirrors the larger theme of open vs. closed systems. This trend has existed in the more traditional online education domain. Many for-profit online universities such as (Kaplan, Unversity of Phoenix, StraigterLine etc.) are at odds with non-profit universities (both public and private) that are offering undergraduate and graduate degrees. This is also being carried into the developing debate on MOOCs, where we have both for-profit and non-profit MOOCs. What is at stake is access to affordable and high quality education. My concern is that the for-profit agenda is often at odds with a sincere focus on students and high quality teaching and learning. Initial concerns about the for-profit education providers has recently been exposed in the media and by a United States Senate investigation on the troubling for-profit education industry.
Finally, I see much confusion on the part of many how to think about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and generally in the future of higher education. Never before have I seen an issue in online education and higher education actually reach the common public discourse in the way that it has in recent months. I do not feel that the MOOC will be able to live up to the massive hype that it has received as the panacea (or destroyer depending on the author) of higher education, and I have developed some initial thoughts on the topic of MOOCs to further expand this blog post.
An essential point I have developed regarding MOOCs is the necessity of having competent instructors teaching and facilitating courses of all types, including MOOCs. Also crucial is the importance of having instructional design professionals involved in course design and development, and instructional technologists thinking about innovative learning technologies. This is particularly important when an instructor is not familiar with teaching online. A MOOC cannot run on hype alone, and we are beginning to see some of the real issues unfold before our eyes [here and here]. Just as with any other course, MOOCs have specific learning design requirements (that are still being formulated), but that can and should be founded in established instructional design and learning science research and best practices.
There is a fundamental philosophical difference for those that view the world through a technological frame (techno-centric). For example, many in silicon valley share this view. When they apply their utopian ‘vision’ toward education, it is very techno-centric in nature with less focus on a human element. My experience as an educator, as well as much of the research base, has led me toward a human-centered view of education, and the importance of a social connection (interaction and collaboration between participants).
“Scholars who are skeptical of MOOCs warn that the essence of a college education lies in the subtle interplay between students and teachers that cannot be simulated by machines, no matter how sophisticated the programming.” (The Crisis in Higher Ed)
I see the examples of Edx, SemesterOnline, Carnegie Mellon University, the UW Flexible Degree, and Indiana University’s Information Visualization MOOC as steps in the right direction. Each of these examples illustrate the scenario in which those organizations with the expertise to innovate in education are doing so, with the good intention. Creating innovative partnerships and learning options to innovate, redefine, and re-imagine their own industry. These examples represent a university-based consortium and cooperative, a set of university-created private ventures, and a state university systems re-thinking the notion of ‘seat-time’ to increase access for degree completion based on competencies. I think the most important theme that these examples have in common is a focus on the human element, and a sincerity toward the question “what is the true meaning and value of an educated society”.
My sense is that the public needs to demand a return to public supported and funded higher education. Not necessarily a return to the old models of teaching and learning involving “seat-time” and on-campus only learning, but to a a new evolution in higher education involving an interesting mix of flexible and open learning options. A learning ecosystem that would included all manner of options, from blended, hybrid and online education, to credit-based and quality competency-based learning. This mix of learning options is likely the best way to truly provide a learner-centered solution to meet the needs of most learners.
This has been a perfect type of assessment for this course, in that it has provided me with an opportunity a to actually sit down and read a lot of the blog posts and short articles that I had bookmarked over the past several months, or saved to my “to-read” Evernote list. There were also many great resources to choose from in the monster syllabus. Below are my list of mid-term tidbit readings and a few of my favorite videos watched. The list of tidbit resources is generally ordered by most favorite from top to bottom.
What is a MOOC (Dave Cormier)
(I might call this: ”What is a cMOOC”)
ELI MOOCs on Campus: Experience from the Frontlines (Duke Univ. and UPenn)
ELI EDUCAUSE Webinar: Beyond the MOOC Hype
TEDTalk: What we’re learning from online education (Daphne Koller)
Stanford Seminar – Google’s Peter Norvig on Online Education
List of Tidbits
(favorites articles are ordered from top to bottom)
1) Rivard (Feb-28-2013). The MOOC-Averse Technology U. Inside Higher Ed.
2) Chronicle of Higher Ed: Size isn’t Everything, Think Mash-ups, Not MOOCs
3) History of Distance Education (Wikipedia)
4) Nicholas Carr (2012, September 27). The Crisis in Higher Education, Technology Review
5) Lessons Learned from Teaching a MOOC (Blog post)
6) Best MOOC Article (Critical)
7) Steve Kolowich (2012, June 21). Conflicted: Faculty and Online Education, 2012, Inside Higher Education
8) CNN Op-Ed: Online Courses Need a Human Element
9) 10 Reasons Students Aren’t Actually Using eTextbooks (Jun-2012)
10) USAToday: Technology, costs, lack of appeal slow e-textbook adoption
11) e-Campus News: Free Digital Textbooks Surge in Popularity (Jan-2013)
12) The Shift to Digitizing Classrooms with IU VPIT CoStaff Nik Osborne (Dec-2012)
13) The Isthmus: Remaking the UW: It’s Time for Revolutionary Transformation (Jan-25-2013)
14) UW Flexible Degree, College degree with No Class Time (Wall Street Journal)
15) Measuring the Impact of MOOCs in Corporate Learning (Jan-22-2013)
16) Learning from MOOCS (Andrew Ng)
17) What is Adventure Learning, University of Minnesota
18) Harvard University Libraries Can’t Afford Publisher’s Prices
19) Best eBook Formats or Self Publishing
20) OER and Copyright (Stephen Downes)
21) State Department Open Book Announcement and Video
22) NYTimes: MOOCs Multiplying at Rapid Pace, But Now What? (Nov-2012)
23) The GuardianUK: Higher education: our MP3 is the MOOC (Dec-2012) by Clay Shirky
24) TechCrunch: How California’s New Online Education Pilot Will End College As We Know It (Jan-2013)
25) Mashable: The end of the typical college experience? (Jan-2013)
26) NYTimes Op-Ed Thomas Friedman, Revolution Hits the Universities (Jan-26-2013):
27) InsideHigherEd Response to Op-Ed, Memo to Trustees RE: T.Friedman (Jan-27-2013):
28) Online Learning: Udacity and Coursera Comparison
29) Inside Higher Ed: Learning from MOOCS (Andrew Ng)