When is a MOOC not a MOOC?

Coincidentally, the last three courses I reviewed in the weekly Degree of Freedom News … all elicited similar commentary regarding whether a course felt like a college class vs. something else.mCanvas.net’s Cheating in Online Courses, for example, seemed more like a symposium than a course, while Udacity’s Introduction to Statistics reminded me of one of the many computer-based training programs I’ve taken over the years, ,Degree of Freedom reports.  And a 58-part Art History Survey course from Udemy was similar to the educational experience I had watching Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting on PBS (albeit without the wimple). This is not to say that I didn’t learn a great deal from all three programs (as I have from most if not all of the 20+ courses I’ve either completed or am currently taking).  And given that we still lack a formal definition of what a MOOC consists of, who am I to say which classes are inside or outside the club? I suppose we could say that only courses delivered via edX, Coursera and Udacity get to “count” as MOOCs, but this strikes me as far too narrow and artificial a definition.

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Vanderbilt University creates institute devoted to digital learning, MOOCs

Vanderbilt University has created a new institute that will study MOOCs and other forms of online learning.

As the conversation surrounding massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other means of online learning gets louder, many universities are still trying to sort through the noise and find the most effective ways to implement the evolving MOOC technology.

Now Vanderbilt University has created a new institute that it hopes will begin to cut through the MOOC hype.

The Vanderbilt Institute for Digital Learning will focus on creating a strategy for how to best use the online courses offered through the university and through MOOCs, according to an announcement. It will manage Vanderbilt’s partnership with MOOC provider Coursera and the content it creates for the MOOC platform.…Read More

Companies create MOOCs to fill skills gaps

We don’t know whether massive online open courses (MOOCs) will be more than a fad in higher education — but they’re inspiring other kinds of organizations to create MOOCs of their own, InformationWeek reports. Aquent, a staffing firm that links companies with contractors, is opening its own MOOC, the Aquent Gymnasium, in June. Aquent mainly serves marketing, creative and digital firms, which see frequent changes in staffing needs as new technologies such as mobile platforms emerge. Last year Aquent found that clients were requesting workers with HTML 5 skills and “not a ton of people had them at that point,” said Alison Farmer, Aquent’s VP of learning and development. The company decided to see whether it could meet this skills gap by training, “manufacturing a workforce qualified for these jobs we are getting,” Farmer said.

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New MOOC ‘Instreamia’ offers language learning with a twist

Scott Rapp and Ryan Rapp are purveyors of a new twist in the MOOC trend, what I’m calling ‘’mini-MOOCs.’’ That is, a startup or professor launching an open online course intended for the masses on their own, without the help of a large university or consortium of universities, Edudemic reports. Scott, a former Spanish teacher turned computer data systems specialist, is teaching a free Spanish language MOOC course that started in January 2013. It’s a way to test the concept of their Instreamia language-learning startup. The Rapp brothers are a team to watch in the ed tech space. In the Wild West of MOOCs, their experiment shows how some teachers and entrepreneurs see the trend as a way to either make a buck, test an idea, build an audience, market their product or all of the above. In addition to powerhouse MOOC providers out there such as Coursera, edX and Udacity, we are seeing superstar economics professors Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok launched a MOOC course in development economics at their Marginal Revolution University via their popular blog Marginal Revolution. Similarly, the Rapp brothers are programmers and consultants turned startup entrepreneurs who are launching a MOOC Spanish course to boost their startup, Instreamia.

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Do students take MOOCs to earn certificates?

Only 2 percent reported being completely dissatisfied with the course in which they enrolled.

A new report released by the University of Edinburgh shows that a majority of students who take the university’s six Coursera massive open online courses (MOOCs) do so simply to learn and have little interest in gaining a certificate.

The report, “MOOCs @ Edinburgh 2013,” is based on data collected over 10 months and answers to entry and exit surveys that were conducted before and after participants took the MOOC courses. The six MOOC courses covered philosophy, critical thinking, eLearning and digital cultures, astrobiology, artificial intelligence planning and equine nutrition.

The survey found that 95 percent of the 45,182 respondents enrolled in MOOCs to “learn new things,” while 33 percent were taking them to “get a certificate.”…Read More

A MOOC backlash?

Last summer, when I was creating a course on critical thinking (tied to the 2012 Presidential election), I did segments on Media Literacy and Information Literacy, which ended with an analysis of a specific issue that taught me to avoid confusing momentum a particular storyline was getting in the news with an actual trend, The Huffington Post reports. And in the case of MOOCs, the negative stories that have been appearing lately no more spell doom than all those positive stories we saw last year meant a new educational era was in the offing. For, as everyone involved with them will tell you, MOOCs are a work in progress — usually referred to as an “experiment.” But unlike a scientific experiment that can keep controls and treated samples isolated in separate test tubes, the MOOC experiment is playing out in one of the messier corners of the already messy real world: academia. To highlight just one example of how much we’re talking about a moving target, twelve months ago there were not enough MOOC courses to threaten many departments, nor were the licensing deals in place that allowed schools to use courses from companies like edX or Coursera as classroom resources. But now that such content and deals are in place, it’s only natural that faculties start debating what they want to do (if anything) with all this new stuff.

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EdX doubles its size with 15 new universities

EdX will expand its Ivy League course offerings.

The not-for-profit massive open online course (MOOC) platform EdX roped in its first Asian institutions, along with more Ivy League universities, as the number of participating schools doubled May 21.

Bringing online courses from Berklee College of Music, Boston University, Davidson College, and University of Washington, along with Peking University in China, The University of Hong Kong, and other Asian institutions brings the number of EdX online schools to 27 just one year after the Cambridge-based outfit launched.

There are now more than 900,000 students taking EdX courses, some for college credit.…Read More

Professors’ open letter: MOOCs a ‘compromise of quality education’

SJSU professors said they wouldn’t oppose blended courses.

The latest professorial backlash against massive open online courses (MOOCs) comes from San Jose State University (SJSU), where just last month edX officials and MOOC advocates trumpeted the expansion of the online courses that have proven controversial in many circles of higher education.

Professors from SJSU’s philosophy department penned an open letter to Michael Sandel, a Harvard professor and the creator of a MOOC on Justice, saying that they wouldn’t adopt his MOOC because “having a scholar teach and engage with his or her own students is far superior to having those students watch a video of another scholar engaging his or her students.”

SJSU’s battle with some of its faculty members comes just days after Duke University faculty voted against an initiative that would have granted college credits to Duke students who took classes in online classes using 2U, which, unlike MOOCs, only hosts hundreds of students rather than tens or hundreds of thousands.…Read More