Sunday, June 24, 2012

Digital Badges for Learning < Remarks by Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

Remarks by Secretary Duncan at 4th Annual Launch of the MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Lifelong Learning Competition

SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

Contact:   (202) 401-1576,

I'm excited to be here to celebrate the launch of the 2011 competition, and its potential to propel a quantum leap forward in education reform. We're on the verge of harnessing education's power to unleash the full measure of human potential.


We're excited that, this year, this competition will serve as a catalyst to advance the potential of digital badges. Badges can help engage students in learning, and broaden the avenues for learners of all ages to acquire and demonstrate – as well as document and display – their skills.

Badges can help speed the shift from credentials that simply measure seat time, to ones that more accurately measure competency. We must accelerate that transition. And, badges can help account for formal and informal learning in a variety of settings.

Today's technology-enabled, information-rich, deeply interconnected world means learning not only can – but should – happen anywhere, anytime. We need to recognize these experiences, whether the environments are physical or online, and whether learning takes place in schools, colleges or adult education centers, or in afterschool, workplace, military or community settings.

In short, we must begin to see schools, colleges and classrooms as central points – though still very important ones – in larger networks of learning.

As we recognize multiple ways for students to learn, we need multiple ways to assess and document their performance. Students, teachers and administrators are hungry to move beyond fill-in-the-bubble tests, toward assessments that are more varied, immediate, and data-rich. Digital badges are an important step in this direction.

And, badges offer an important way to recognize non-traditional ways of learning. They're a way to give credence – and ultimately, credit – for the skills learners and teachers acquire in a broader set of learning environments, and a wider range of content.

Badges also empower students and teachers to play an even stronger role in their own learning and development – to seek out the right tools among many resources available, and in their fields of interest – and build a record of what they have mastered.


Since we know the best ideas always come from the field, and not from us in Washington, we've launched competitions like the Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, Promise Neighborhoods, and Early Learning Challenge Grants – to help seed and support change, to scale up what works, to increase student achievement, and to accelerate learning.

And that's why I'm so intrigued by the idea of digital badges. We're already seeing the impact of alternative, industry-recognized credentials ... [snip].

In this context, let's also consider the thousands of servicemen and women who return to civilian life each year, from posts at home and around the world. Many of our veterans bring back employable – and even exceptional – skills, competencies and achievements, gained all over the globe. Yet these talents can be overlooked in the civilian workforce, because they may not appear on traditional resumes and transcripts.

Here, badges can be a game-changing strategy. So today, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative will join this effort with a commitment to award a $25,000 prize for the best badge concept and prototype that serves veterans seeking good-paying jobs in today's economy. [snip].


By promoting badges and the open education infrastructure that supports them, the federal government can contribute to the climate of change that the education, business and foundation sectors are generating. We can build new avenues for entrepreneurship and collaboration, and spark economic development at home and around the world.


With efforts like this competition, we can encourage breakthroughs in the types of free, high-quality online Open Educational Resources that lift educational attainment rates and foster renewed economic growth.


Source and Fulltext Available At 


What Are Open Badges ?

'Digital Badges' Would Represent Students' Skill Acquisition

Katie Ash /  June 13, 2012

Initiatives seek to give students permanent online records for developing specific skills

For many adults, the thought of earning badges evokes childhood memories of sewing Boy Scout or Girl Scout patches onto sashes and vests.

But some educators are hoping that the current generation of children will associate the word with something new: digital badges.

In this vision, electronic images could be earned for a wide variety of reasons in multiple learning spaces, including after-school programs, summer workshops, K-12 classrooms, and universities. And once earned, the badges could follow students throughout their lifetimes, being displayed on websites or blogs and included in college applications and résumés.

The concept originated at the end of 2010 at a conference held by the Mozilla Foundation in Barcelona, Spain. The idea is getting a toehold in higher education and is being tried with some youths at the precollegiate level.

Advocates of this vision for K-12 contend that such badges could help bridge educational experiences that happen in and out of school, as well as provide a way to recognize "soft skills" such as leadership and collaboration. Badges could paint a more granular and meaningful picture of what a student actually knows than a standardized-test score or a letter grade, they say.

But not all educators are convinced of the merits of the idea. Because badges are still being developed and have not yet been introduced into classrooms, how they would fit into the structure of K-12 education and whether they could actually fulfill the goals that proponents have described are still up for debate.

Other skeptics argue that introducing digital badges into informal education settings—where most agree they would have the greatest impact initially—could bring too much structure and hierarchy to the very places students go to seek refuge from formal achievement tracking. And many point to research that suggests rewarding students, with a badge for instance, for activities they would have otherwise completed out of personal interest or intellectual curiosity actually decreases their motivation to do those tasks.


Source and Fulltext Available At


Digital Badges: Catalyst in the Evolution of Higher Education or “Killer App” for Alternatives?

Kyle Peck | Professor of Education, Penn State University

.Higher education is out of sync with its rapidly changing environment. Without quick changes, alternatives will emerge and dominate. The deceptively simple “digital badging movement” can act as a catalyst to accelerate critical changes or can demonstrate to the world that higher education is out of touch and that emerging alternatives are becoming superior.

The “Badging Movement”

We all understand badges (symbols that represent accomplishments), right? They have been with us since the Middle Ages. How can this old concept change education? Well, there are now “digital badges” that expose the weakness of our current assessments.

Education describes learning minimally and badly. “Letter grades” emerged a century or so ago, before computers, when recordkeeping was a real chore. Yet we still use a single letter (A to F) to represent all that has been learned in a course, and a “yes/no” verdict to represent degree attainment (diploma/no diploma). A transcript gives no indication of what was mastered and what remains to be mastered, and grades are influenced by factors such as attendance and punctuality of assignments, preventing grades from accurately representing what the recipient knows or can do.


This system is more effective at sorting learners than supporting learners until they are successful.
Badging, on the other hand, is a form of “micro credentialing” representing important accomplishments that are smaller than courses and assessing them well. And “digital badging,” as it is currently being deployed will embed as meta-data within each badge icon:

  1. A link to the criteria for earning the badge;
  2. A link to a description or actual copies of the assessment tools used to determine whether the criteria were met (if the badge issuer chooses) and the work that the badge holder submitted to earn the badge (if the badge holder allows it).

So… institutions of higher education and private corporations that are serious about assessment and willing to be accountable will publish their criteria and the assessment information as evidence that their badges can be taken seriously.

Organizations that now rank higher education providers based on inputs (external funding, number of faculty, average GRE score, etc.) will be able to examine what students are asked to do and how learning is evaluated, to produce more meaningful assessments of an institution or program’s quality. [snip].

So how will higher education institutions respond to this challenge? Evolution is defined as “a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development.” Well-managed systems (like higher education) are capable of directing their own evolution, but will the evolution be fast enough to preserve higher education’s privileged place in the educational hierarchy?

We can evolve, conducting “business as usual” and taking small steps but becoming irrelevant. OR, we can take a more revolutionary approach, quickly embracing a few reasonable, long-overdue changes and become indispensable.

The Path to Relevance

To become indispensable we need to:

  • Embrace “micro-credentialing” (badging) and adopt a mastery-based approach. Badges will be awarded when the criteria have been met. Multiple attempts to meet the criterion must be expected. [snip].
  • Redesign our courses as opportunities for learners to do things that require interaction with others.
  • During that redesign, courses must present opportunities for learners to earn a set of related badges by demonstrating the identified skills and abilities.
  • Create and support “learning communities” appropriate for different learning domains ... . [snip]


In this era of online information, people expect to be able to determine the quality of the products they buy and the people they trust and or employ. [snip].

Higher education currently provides minimal and bad information about products (skills and knowledge) that are much more important than the products we buy online. This will not be tolerated.

We need to take assessment seriously, embracing the badging movement and setting the bar high or accept the path to irrelevance.

Source and Fulltext Available At 

MOOC Mythbuster – What MOOCs Are and What They Aren’t

Debbie Morrison / Posted on May 29, 2012

“Welcome to the college education revolution. Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary.” Thomas Friedman, Come the Revolution,  NYT

Mr. Friedman is right – and though he doesn’t mention MOOCs directly in the article, the ‘revolution’ he is speaking of is in the near future with the launch of  edX and Coursera by the Ivy Universities. This past week I’ve been following a number of blog posts and articles about MOOCs, Massive Open and Online Courses, of which Coursera’s model is based upon [edX I predict will be something different], yet there’s been much speculation, misconceptions, exaggerations and misinformation. It’s time to clear the air – in this post I’ll define what MOOCs are and are not, what the skeptics are saying, and I’ll conclude the post with an attempt to clarify the differences (and similarities), between MOOCs, online courses for credit, and traditional face-to-face courses.


How MOOCs Work

First, let’s break down what’s really going on before we don the fighting gloves – the traditional model of higher education is being challenged – the ‘course’ where the professor lectures, delivers the content, student uses a textbook, complete assignments and is assessed -  is at the crux of the matter.  Note however, that MOOCs include similar core components of the traditional ‘course’, there are three as outlined by Stephen Downes, [educator, researcher and founder of the MOOCs] in his essay, Introducing my Work (2012, p 35) which are:

1. Open Content
2. Open Instruction
3. Open Assessment

You may notice the similarities between what Downes outlines and traditional education: content, instruction, assessment, yet its the word OPEN that differentiates how a student participating in a Massive Open Online Courses goes about learning. The other fundamental difference is the presupposition on how learning happens, and the pedagogy that goes along with it.

Origins of the MOOC

MOOCs are a vehicle for learning and are based on a theory of open education and how people learn – a theory called connectivism as coined by Stephen Downes.  Downes launched the first MOOC  in 2008 with George Siemens (Downes, 2012) and MOOCs are based upon their extensive research on how people learn, and upon the premise that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks. [snip].

How MOOCs Work

For MOOCs to be successful, certain conditions have to be in place. One fundamental is the motivation of the learner, where the learner actively participates because he or she wants to learn and thus constructs knowledge based upon his or her input and activity/engagement in the course. [snip].

“This type of course is called a connectivist course and is based upon four types of activities.”
  • Aggregate: [students engage with content at this phase - lectures from experts, daily content links provided through course news letter, reading content on Web]
  • Remix: [students are encouraged to dialogue with peers and communicate about content and what they are learning, either through blogs, discussion boards or chat]
  • Re-purpose: [students construct or create knowledge]
  • Feed Forward- [students are encouraged to publish what they learned through blogs, or any other 'open' venue, in other words 'share' their knowledge]

The Myths Debunked…

When reviewing the slew of recent blog posts and articles, it appears that numerous authors are seeing the MOOC as one dimensional, as a mode of delivering the lecture [content] and that’s it, without considering the other components involved in the learning process – the interaction, the communication etc.. We see an example of this in Glader’s article, “He [professor] compares online teaching to hosting a TV show rather than a classroom, which functions more like a play..“,  or this misconception as reported in Inside Higher Ed’s article on the 7 concerns of MOOCs,".  [snip]

See below for the chart I put together which attempts to clarify the differences between MOOCs, Online Course and traditional f2f courses for college credit.

I hope this sheds a small bit of light what MOOC’s are and are not.  More to unfold over the next few weeks and months, stay tuned.


Source and Fulltext Available At 


P2P > In This Online University, Students Do the Teaching as Well as the Learning

Katherine Mangan / June 18, 2012

Two of the founders of Peer 2 Peer U., Jan Philipp Schmidt and Delia Browne. "The expertise lies in the group," he says. "Everyone brings something to the conversation."

A poet with a hankering to learn code recently teamed up with a Web developer who was curious about poetry as part of a new kind of teaching experience.

The lessons took place at Peer 2 Peer University, a three-year-old online institution where students learn together, at no charge, using materials found on the Web. The poet, Vanessa Gennarelli, and the programmer, John Britton, taught each other online, discovering unexpected bridges between their disciplines.

At a time when free online courses are enticing students with the opportunity to learn from star professors at prestigious colleges, P2PU, as it's known, is questioning whether instructors are needed at all.

The unusual institution, where anyone with a passion for a topic can set up a course, is experimenting with ways that students can navigate together through open courseware that's free on the Web.

In the process, the project is stimulating discussion in open-education circles about the evolving roles of peers and professors in the growing number of free online courses.

"The people who come to P2PU are attracted by the opportunity to take learning into their own hands and to create their own university," says Jan Philipp Schmidt, executive director and a founder of the nonprofit university, which is supported by grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the South Africa-based Shuttleworth Foundation, as well as individual donations.


P2PU, which began offering courses in 2009, has about 33,000 registered users, with about 1,700 new users joining each month, Mr. Schmidt says. [snip]

Students can earn badges—informal alternatives to diplomas that some online programs offer—to show what they've learned, although P2PU has no accreditation.

Courses and workshops are offered by facilitators, only some of whom have teaching experience. Some are students who enjoyed their experiences in a course and decided to lead their own. But in all of the courses, the lines between teacher and student are blurred. "The expertise lies in the group," says Mr. Schmidt. "Everyone brings something to the conversation."


Hacking a Poem

The partnership between Mr. Britton and Ms. Gennarelli is an example. Last fall he signed up for a workshop that she moderated on P2PU called "Hack this Poem," in which participants took poems apart and pieced them back together to see what made them work. After stumbling across the poem "This Is Just to Say," by William Carlos Williams, on a game developer's Web site, Mr. Britton recast it as a "rage comic," which he described as "a sort of Internet meme often used to express frustration."


The product they're tweaking, unlike what's offered by MOOC's, comes with no name-brand university affiliation and no professors.

So why would students sign up for P2PU?

"We have a very different model of what we think online education should look like," says Mr. Schmidt, who has also led open-education activities at University of the Western Cape, in South Africa.

P2PU's learning style reflects an approach that many classroom instructors have been taking for years as they've stepped away from the lectern to guide students working in small groups. And it's something that MOOC's, populous as they are, struggle to put into effect.

"People have been talking about the 'guide on the side' versus the 'sage on the stage' for some time," Mr. Schmidt says.

Stephen E. Carson, external-relations director at MIT OpenCourseWare, the free online publication of the university's lectures and other course materials, says peer learning is a natural extension of the first wave of open-course initiatives, which have focused on getting content out to large audiences at little or no cost.


Such student-to-student learning happens in less structured ways in many large online classes, where students might break off into informal study groups using Google or Yahoo e-mail lists, or meet up on social news Web sites like Some MIT classes provide links to a site called OpenStudy.

Kevin Carey, an education-policy analyst at the New America Foundation, says online learning is becoming increasingly social.


'Threatening to Beginners'

To help put people at ease, P2PU's new mentor program lets students who have completed a "challenge" click on a link and agree to help students who are floundering.

"The strongest and most effective way to build the knowledge of everyone in the group is for them to teach each other, so the student who doesn't understand as well can ask questions that the more-advanced students can answer," says Catherine M. Casserly, chief executive officer of Creative Commons, a nonprofit group working to expand free course materials and other online content.

The P2PU structure promotes such active learning and engagement, she says. "As peers become more engaged with each other, the facilitator can fade into the background but should always be there eavesdropping and bringing the topic back if it spins in a different direction."


Wary of slipping into the talking-head role, she says, she considered the opposite extreme—the barely-there facilitator who basically says, "Here are the resources. Everybody go to town, and we'll just sit back and watch."

That didn't go over well. "A lot of people didn't really understand what peer learning was, and when I stepped back from the expert role, they'd say, 'We came here because we wanted you to teach us.'"


Some academics, however, remain skeptical about P2PU's approach. Jonathan Rees, a professor of history at Colorado State University at Pueblo, is one of them.


Mr. Rees, a leader in the Colorado chapter of the American Association of University Professors, expanded on that thought in an e-mail interview with The Chronicle. "I think the Ph.D. means something," he wrote. "It says you know your field at least well enough to determine what needs to be covered in the course." Peer learning, he says, is better suited for a book club than for college.


Mr. Schmidt isn't surprised by the criticism.

"People feel threatened because it feels like they're being replaced," he says. "But I think they should be thrilled by this. For me, the role of the professor isn't to be the guy who stands in front and talks for an hour, but the person who asks interesting questions and helps me discover my interests and passions."


Source and Fulltext Available At 


Saturday, June 23, 2012

CT12 > General Keynote: Meeting the Challenge of Change: Historical Models of Transformation and Lessons for Higher Education

7/18/2012 >  8:30 AM - 9:45 AM

George Siemens  Ph.D
Associate Director, Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute Athabasca University

Higher education leaders and faculty are increasingly aware of dramatic change patterns beginning to surround academia as our organizations meet the untried processes and emerging customs of the digital realm. Most of the agents of these changes are, from our current perspectives, unpredictable and unmanageable as we enter into a new knowledge infrastructure, highly connected learning and work environments, and overhauled business practices.

For many, these changes appear to be a gathering storm, disconcerting as it threatens to erode the important role that universities play in knowledge exploration and preserving a just and fair society. For others, a constellation of change pressures—technological, economic, and social—seem to offer an unprecedented opportunity for universities to embrace a long-predicted, and much needed, transformation.

While the future of universities remains unclear, historical cycles of upheaval and models of transformation can serve as guides. Siemens will connect historical periods of substantial and systemic change—such as major technological advancements, socio-economic transitions, and the electrification of America—to a useful model for higher education, for interpreting and anticipating the trajectory of existing trends and identifying opportunities for true education innovation.



Massive Open Online Courses As New Educative Practice

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

CT > Seeking Systemic Change: Higher Education in a Digital, Networked Age: A Q&A with George Siemens

By Mary Grush > 06/20/12

A widely recognized thought leader, author, and researcher in higher education,  George Siemens ...  is the Associate Director of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University, leading the learning analytics research team. His analyses of the challenges facing higher education and the corresponding changes to higher education practice and to our institutions take a holistic view: They consider core values as well as the complex the interactions of digital environments and emerging trends in learning organizations.

Siemens says, "The changing way we create and share knowledge is at the core of what's driving education. It's not the fact that we have mobiles and the Web that requires education to change, but rather that we are using these technologies to begin circumventing existing knowledge processes. And what we do with knowledge determines the types of institutions we need."

Source and Q&A Available At 


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Gates Foundation Announces $9 Million in Grants to Support Breakthrough Learning Models in Postsecondary Education

June 19, 2012  / SEATTLE – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a $9 million package of grants that aim to significantly boost the number of students who attain a high-quality and affordable postsecondary credential. These grants support a range of innovators from within and outside the postsecondary education system who are creating options that fit with the busy lives of today’s students, enabling them to earn a credential with value in the labor market without incurring significant debt.

“We have to challenge ourselves to rethink our longstanding assumptions about postsecondary education in the United States,” said Josh Jarrett, deputy director of Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Postsecondary education faces very real challenges in helping more students, particularly low-income students and students of color. Seat capacity is tight, tuition is skyrocketing, completion rates are low, and millions are unqualified for highly skilled jobs. We have to do something differently, and that’s what these investments in breakthrough learning models are about.” The Gates Foundation is announcing grants to several postsecondary initiatives that are fundamentally redesigning how students learn, how they are supported in that process, and how the postsecondary business model works to support affordable student success.

The foundation’s investments include the following:
  • $3.3 million to EDUCAUSE for four winners of the Next Generation Learning Challenges' latest RFP. These winners span state systems, four-year and two-year programs, and all have signed up to deliver significant improvements in completion at scale, as well as affordable tuition rates of $5,000/year or less.

  • $3 million to MyCollege Foundation to establish a non-profit college that will blend adaptive online learning solutions with a suite of services to enable students to earn high-quality college degrees at a low cost.

  • $1 million to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop and offer a new, free prototype computer science online course through edX, a joint venture between MIT and Harvard, and partner with a postsecondary institution that targets low-income young adults to experiment with use of the course in a “flipped classroom” where lectures take place outside the classroom and homework is done in class. Lessons learned will be captured and shared to advance understanding of how faculty and students use and benefit from online learning tools, as well as how these courses may be adapted to support on-campus learning and a broader range of learners.

  • $1 million to the Research Foundation of the City University of New York (CUNY) to support the launch of the New Community College (NCC) at CUNY, a bold endeavor to create the first new CUNY college in four decades. The NCC has developed a program based on high impact practices that will lead students along clearly defined educational pathways from a required summer bridge program to the first-year integrated common curriculum and then through structured pathways for a limited number of majors. Upon graduation, students will be ready to transfer to a four-year college and/or enter the job market. NCC’s initial target for its first cohort of 300 students to enter this fall is a three-year graduation rate of 35 percent.

  • $500,000 to University of the People (UoPeople) to support the pursuit of accreditation. UoPeople is the world’s first tuition-free, non-profit, online academic institution dedicated to opening access to higher education globally. Based on the principles of e-learning and peer-to-peer learning, coupled with open-source technology and Open Educational Resources, UoPeople is designed to provide qualified individuals, despite financial, geographic or societal constraints, access to undergraduate degree programs.

  • $450,000 to the League for Innovation in the Community College to develop and pilot a national consortium of leading online two- and four-year colleges that will help increase seat capacity in the community college system and support more low-income young adults in attaining a postsecondary credential—in less time and at lower cost—without leaving their home community. This consortium, entitled Learning First, will initially include Coastline Community College (CA), the University of Massachusetts Online, Pennsylvania State World Campus, and the University of Illinois-Springfield.
Grantees are employing a diverse range of strategies and features, including competency-based learning, online and hybrid formats, open education resources, adaptive assessment and social media. All grantees are focused on quality that can be widely replicated, and will participate in a common evaluation to understand program quality, impact on student outcomes such as time to and cost of completion, and costs of delivery compared to traditional learning models. Each of these grants is part of a larger effort to spread best practices and promising models across the postsecondary sector.


Source and Fulltext Available At 



Gates Foundation Gives $9-Million in Grants to Support ‘Breakthrough’ Education Models


Case Of A Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) At A College Of Education

Monday, June 18, 2012

With Forced Resignation of UVa President, We See the Biggest Impact of MOOCs

Phil Hill / June 11, 2012

"We also believe that higher education is on the brink of a transformation now that online delivery has been legitimized by some of the elite institutions." / Rector Helen Dragas announcing the forced resignation of UVa president

Traditional, new and social media has been awash in articles and discussions about Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), often describing their potential to disrupt or transform higher education. These discussions proliferate despite the lack of revenue plans and the low course completion rates. In fact, early demographic data indicate that the majority of students in MOOCs are professionals in the software industry – hardly the target audience for those seeking a change in how we education degree-seeking postsecondary students.

While these limitations of MOOCs might suggest that the movement is an overhyped fad that will fail to deliver the changes hoped for or feared by observers, I think we just observed the most significant effect of MOOCs this past weekend.

On Sunday the University of Virginia forced the resignation of its president Teresa Sullivan – a widely respected executive with only two years in her position. When is the last time a high-profile university president has been removed after such a short period of time? [snip]

While there are different reasons offered for the sudden departure of the UVa president, one of the reasons offered illustrates the real impact of the current generation of MOOCs on traditional higher education institutions. As Rector ...  Helen Dragas explained (emphasis added):

Nevertheless, the Board feels strongly and overwhelmingly that we need bold and proactive leadership on tackling the difficult issues that we face. The pace of change in higher education and in health care has accelerated greatly in the last two years.  We have calls internally for resolution of tough financial issues that require hard decisions on resource allocation. The compensation of our valued faculty and staff has continued to decline in real terms, and we acknowledge the tremendous task ahead of making star hires to fill the many spots that will be vacated over the next few years as our eminent faculty members retire in great numbers. 

These challenges are truly an existential threat to the greatness of UVA.  We see no bright lights on the financial horizon as we face limits on tuition increases, an environment of declining federal support, state support that will be flat at best, and pressures on health care payors.  This means that as an institution, we have to be able to prioritize and reallocate the resources we do have, and that our best avenue for increasing resources will be through passionate articulation of a vision and effective development efforts to support it. We also believe that higher education is on the brink of a transformation now that online delivery has been legitimized by some of the elite institutions. [snip]


The issue to board members was not the existence of MOOCs or other forms of online education (and note that MOOCs are only a part of a changing landscape of educational delivery models); the issue is the legitimacy of online delivery among elite institutions by the very public and financial support of MOOCs and open education in general. [snip]

In a joint discussion of EdX by Harvard and MIT officials, the edX president stated:

“Together, MIT and Harvard are tackling the educational issue of our time: exploring how technology can really improve learning, and at the same time expand access to education around the world. [snip]


Prior to 6 months ago, the biggest and easiest argument against the power of online education was that it would never provide the quality of face-to-face education. This line or argument, self-reinforced by traditional institutions, kept many collegiate presidents and boards from considering whether major changes were necessary or feasible in higher education. Now that the elite of the elite – Stanford, MIT and Harvard – are publicly extolling the value and quality potential of online education, and are willing to invest tens of millions of dollars, this argument has been de-legitimized.  [snip].

Are MOOCs the answer to change in higher education? No, there is no single answer and online education is not appropriate for all situations. But MOOCs have changed the assumptions and discussions at the executive and board level, and complacency or even gradual change is no longer acceptable. That is the real transformative power of the current generation of open education.

Source and Fulltext and Links Available At


Friday, June 15, 2012

How Will MOOCs Make Money?

Steve Kolowich / June 11, 2012 - 3:00am

Massively open online courses, or MOOCs, do not currently lead to any widely recognized credential. Still, with more than 1.5 million people having registered for MOOCs through Coursera, Udacity and edX, the demand for the novel online offerings is undeniable.

But while demand appears to be high, none of these three organizations -- two of which are for-profit companies that will be expected to generate money for investors and the other of which is a nonprofit that will be expected to stand on its own feet eventually -- currently has a business plan.


The MOOC providers are nonetheless in strange territory. They have staked their future on a vision that makes higher education more free than ever before. And yet their task, eventually, will be to figure out how to make money. [snip].

So far the only revenue stream that the major new MOOC providers have said they will pursue is charging a fee for a certificate. [snip].

But the extent to which revenue from certificate fees can support a MOOC business remains unclear. So far only a small fraction of the students who have registered for MOOCs actually made it to the final exam -- generally between 10 and 20 percent. That means the providers would be relying on a slim sliver of their users for revenue.

But Daphne Koller, the co-founder of Coursera, argues that the scale of the courses makes it so that monetizing 20 percent of registrations potentially sustainable. [snip].

Surveys results from Coursera’s first course -- Machine Learning, last fall -- suggest that relatively few registrants, 18 percent, were looking to position themselves for better jobs. But that was before the company had started divvying out (non-credit-bearing) certificates to students who completed the course. The extent to which the credentials students earned from MOOCs end up carrying weight, in the work force or in academe, remains an open question. [snip].

One of the more provocative potential business models for MOOCs is to bypass credentialing altogether. Udacity has suggested that it might double as a headhunter for companies that might like to hire some of its more impressive students. [snip]


But Koller, the Coursera co-founder, and David Stavens, the chief operating officer at Udacity, contend that even a relatively small proportion of successful matchmaking efforts should generate enough money to fortify the companies’ bottom lines. [snip]

And because the MOOC providers not only found the students but in fact educated them, via a data-rich teaching platform, they would be able to offer employers not just résumés but a deeper set of details on the unique skills of potential hires, says Koller. [snip].


But the MOOC providers might also do well to look beyond courses and credentials to other elements of the college “package” that registrants might like purchase à la carte, says Ann Kirschner, dean of the honors college at the City University of New York.


The MOOC providers could wrap their free courses and assessment with “accompanying content and services, so that it’s not all about the courses themselves,” she says. The companies could potentially make money providing -- or outsourcing -- library resources, tutoring services, and other accouterments of collegiate academic life, says Kirschner. [snip].

If they wanted to stay within their current course-and-assessment wheelhouse, the MOOC hosts could “add layers of more robust assessment” to their courses -- a tier of feedback and human interaction that some students might be willing to pay for, says Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University, which has built its own very large national online learning enterprise out of what had been a sleepy private college in New England. This could, in turn, create an additional tier of credibility to the students who succeed in the course under that extra scrutiny ... .[snip].

There are ways MOOC providers could create a premium product around the demand for networking opportunities, says LeBlanc. Once again, they would be taking aim at their more successful, upwardly mobile users. But this time the premium offering would be not be services, but events.


Source and Fulltext Available At


Who Takes MOOCs ?

Steve Kolowich / June 5, 2012 - 3:00am

Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are popular. This much we know.

But as investors and higher ed prognosticators squint into their crystal balls for hints of what this popularity could portend for the rest of higher education, two crucial questions remains largely unanswered: Who are these students, and what do they want?

Some early inquiries into this by two major MOOC providers offer a few hints.

Coursera, a company started by two Stanford University professors, originated with a course called Machine Learning, which co-founder Andrew Ng taught last fall to a virtual classroom of 104,000 students. Coursera surveyed a sample of those students to find out, among other things, their education and work backgrounds and why they decided to take the course.

Among 14,045 students in the Machine Learning course who responded to a demographic survey, half were professionals who currently held jobs in the tech industry. The largest chunk, 41 percent, said they were professionals currently working in the software industry; another 9 percent said they were professionals working in non-software areas of the computing and information technology industries.

Many were enrolled in some kind of traditional postsecondary education. Nearly 20 percent were graduate students, and another 11.6 percent were undergraduates. The remaining registrants were either unemployed (3.5 percent), employed somewhere other than the tech industry (2.5 percent), enrolled in a K-12 school (1 percent), or “other” (11.5 percent).


Udacity, another for-profit MOOC provider ...  has also conducted some initial probes into the make-up of its early registrants. While the company did not share any data tables with Inside Higher Ed, chief executive officer David Stavens said more than 75 percent of the students who took the company’s first course, Artificial Intelligence, last fall were looking to “improve their skills relevant for either current or future employment.”


The broadest and most easily comparable data that both companies were able to share had to do with geography. Across all Coursera courses, 74 percent of registrants reside outside the United States. (The biggest foreign markets have been Brazil, Britain, India and Russia, according to Ng.)  [snip].

The preponderance of international students taking MOOCs, if it persists, could have implications for the strategic directions of their providers. [snip].

It may turn out that MOOCs from elite U.S. institutions might pose the greatest disruptive threat to foreign universities, says Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University. “It’s a bigger play, perhaps, in Asia than in the U.S.,” he said.

Source and Fulltext Available At 


Can Free, High-Quality Education Get You A Job?

Katrina Schwartzv/ June 12, 2012 | 11:46 AM

The sudden growth of free, top-shelf online education sites has the potential to democratize high-caliber education that’s long been reserved for only those who could afford it.

But as these new sites begin to blaze a new path to the possibility of a level playing field, it’s still unclear whether taking courses in subjects like artificial intelligence or game theory will eventually lead to employment.

Are certificates of online course completion from venerable institutions viable substitutes for diplomas and degrees from the same brick-and-mortar four-year universities? Though professors who teach these Massive Open Online Courses are well respected in their fields, is their stamp of approval enough to land a job?


[snip]. When contacted about these online education sites — courses taught by professors at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley — many companies directly refused to talk about how their human resources departments would view a non-traditional candidate. Many had never even heard of Coursera, edX, or Udacity.

But recruiters who did agree to go on the record said that, for the most part, companies big and small looking for computer engineers want employees with college degrees from schools known for their computer science programs. [snip].


Still, Wilson said there are anomalies in the Valley — not all great programmers went to the top 25 computer science schools. And although he doesn’t think that getting in the door will be easy without an official degree of some kind, he said the idea that down the road when educational models are less fixed, a hard worker with a free online education that comes with practical skills could make the cut.


It’s possible that these nascent education sites, many of which offer more than computer science and engineering classes, are too new to have gained traction. Instead, they are being confused with for-profit certificate programs that don’t always have a good reputation.

In this anecdotal and limited survey, the current conclusion seems to be that employers don’t trust these new educational sites yet. Regardless of the names behind them — whether the school or the professor — the four-year degree and the on-campus experience are still highly critical.

Source and Fulltext Available At 

Virtual Worlds MOOC Nominated > A Virtual Worlds, Games and Education Tour ... Nominated for Best Educational Event in a Virtual World 2011-12

It was 4 weeks of touring virtual worlds, making Machinima, playing World of Warcraft, peeking in at EVEOnline and pushing our intellect limits during bleeding edge week.

This MOOC or OOC (79 was the final count) was a combination of online/inworld/in game synchronous and asynchronous course at P2PU.

Congratulations to the facilitators (formal and informal) who were nominated by the readers of the Virtual Education Journal.

  • Tours – Aevalle Galicia ( Stasia Weston )
  • Machinima – Tanya “GridJumper” Smedley ( Tanya Martin )
  • World of Warcraft – Kavon Zenovka ( Kae Novak )
  • Bleeding Edge – Abacus Capalini ( Chris Luchs )
  • Social Network Knowledge Construction Strategists – Cat Thexios ( Catherine Flippen )  and BlueBarker Lowtide (Vasili Giannoutsos )

Special thank you to our speakers!

Cynthia Calgone, Beverly MacArthur and John Carter McKnight

and our Colleagues in Cognitive Dissonance Guild, Inevitiable Betrayal Guild and 3D Games Lab


  • Kate, Laura and Mrs. Hagerty aka “The Hagerty Women- “For the Horde”
  • Melody Collier ( Zarr )  and Peggy Sheehy ( Maratsade ) “For the Alliance”


  • A shout to Dr. Lisa Dawley’s Social Network Knowledge Construction Matrix
  • Thank you to Barbara Truman and Francisca Yonekura for the phrase “lurk and learn.”
  • and to Jerry Buchko and Izzylander Karu for doing so much more than lurking and learnin




Massive Open Online Courses & the New Game of Higher Education

Making It Count

Paul Fain / June 15, 2012 - 3:00am

Massively open online courses, or MOOCs, are not credit-bearing. But a pathway to college credit for the courses already exists -- one that experts say many students may soon take.

That scenario combines the courses with prior learning assessment -- a less-hyped potential “disruption” to traditional higher education -- which is the granting of credit for college-level learning gained outside the traditional academic setting.

Here’s how the process could work: A student successfully completes a MOOC, like Coursera’s Social Network Analysis, ... . The student then describes what he or she learned in that course, backing it up with proof, in a portfolio developed with the help of or another service, perhaps offered by a college.

Generally those portfolios contain a broad array of demonstrated learning, like work experience and training, volunteering or even the voracious reading of a history buff. But MOOCs, such as those from Coursera, EdX, Udacity and Udemy, likely will be part of portfolios in the near future.


Building a prior-learning portfolio isn’t easy. But if the final product passes muster with a CAEL-affiliated faculty member with discipline-specific expertise, the student could qualify for a credit recommendation that matches up with an equivalent course from a regionally accredited college. That credit recommendation, say for three credits in a course on social media, would have the backing of the American Council on Education (ACE), which runs the most established credit recommendation service.

With that document in hand, the student could then enroll in one of the many colleges that accept ACE’s recommendations, or the scores of colleges that have agreed to participate in[snip].


Only a handful of institutions have used MOOCs as a direct means of granting college credit. In those cases, the colleges were overseas, like the University of Freiburg, in Germany, where students also had to complete university-proctored examinations. So at this point, prior learning may be a more viable way to earn credit for MOOCs.


Excelsior has identified free, or cheap, online courses that students can use to prepare for the exams, and includes them in study guides. [snip].


Big Classes, Big Potential

Prior learning experts are unruffled about the prospect of a flood of MOOC submissions in student portfolios. That’s because the same process would apply to reviewing them as to any other form of prior learning.


The student must present solid evidence as part of the portfolio. In the case of MOOCs, that would include the certificate or statement of completion, which will probably cost between $30 and $80 for a Coursera MOOC, as well as other citations. [snip].

Boost for Prior Learning?

MOOCs may be just another form of nontraditional education in the context of prior learning. But the potential scale of the courses makes them different, experts said. For example, 104,000 students enrolled in a machine learning course that Ng taught last year. And 1.5 million people have signed up for Coursera, EdX and Udacity courses.

Groups like CAEL are already ramping up to handle increasing demand for prior learning, which is being driven in part by a big uptick in the number of adult students who are returning to college. [snip].

Some observers think the interest in MOOCs could help spur demand for prior learning assessment, building wider acceptance of the practice in the process. Many traditionalists in higher education, particularly at selective colleges, have been skeptical of prior learning assessment. But that may be more difficult when the learning occurs with the tutelage of professors at some of the world's most prestigious universities. And MOOCs might also make contributions to how prior learning is measured.

The explosion of MOOCs and other forms of open learning will increase the need for having strong standards in place on prior learning, said Nan L. Travers, an expert on prior learning and director of the office of collegewide academic review at Empire State College, which is part of the State University of New York. That’s because more students will cobble together their college educations through multiple sources of learning.


Credit recommendations for MOOCs could serve as a "bridge" between the nontraditional and traditional college settings, said Grant, by "helping those students who want to take advantage of MOOCs and still earn a college degree."

But students shouldn't expect to get a leg up on their prior learning portfolio by underlining the name of the elite university that employs their MOOC professor. That's because what you know counts more in prior learning than where you learned it.

"It doesn't matter" which institution is affiliated with a MOOC, Booth said. "It's not more or less prestigious than other forms of prior learning assessment."

Source and Fulltext Available At 


The Future of Undergraduate Education

Nigel Thrift / May 29, 2012, 1:44 pm

Many a university president has felt a frisson on reading the news that various consortia are intent on forging an online teaching presence that will reach out in what might seem to some like a quasi-imperial way (not just MIT and Stanford but also Embanet/Compass, 2tor, Coursera and the Minerva Project). No one I know thinks that these online consortia will have immediate effects in the manner of the raft of books that are direct descendants from the days, with all their corporate techno-hype ... .

So what might happen?

Here is one possible scenario. First, most teaching in the early years of an undergraduate degree will gradually cease to be via lectures and will instead take the form of online presentations produced by professionally trained presenters backed up by teams of academics. This online content will be paralleled by peer tuition (or teaching by questioning) which, when done well, is clearly effective  ... , and the associated growth of so-called learning analytics. [snip].In other words, a new hybrid will take the place of the old, one in which I suspect that face-to-face experience and other forms of direct experience ...  will actually become more valued.

Second, both learning and assessment will increasingly be peer to peer via social networks with academics acting as moderators and sources of advice. [snip].

[Personal Note: I noted this in a chat comment as a possibility during a EDUCAUSE Webinar and was scoffed at by one of the presenters and/or one of the other attendees > IMHO: Too many academics lack vision [:-(]]

Third, the spaces of teaching will multiply. Of course, there will still be lecture rooms and tutorial spaces. But more spaces will become adaptable and more spaces will become possible points of learning. [snip].

Such a scenario might well unbalance the higher-education system. Most older academics, at least, will be more than a little concerned by them. But there is no reason to think that they will become the equivalent of the 19th century hand loom weavers. Certainly they will need to acquire a battery of skills that they may not yet have. [snip].

These events disturb one other delicate balance, too. In the past, there was a very definite compact in U.S. higher education so far as teaching was concerned. The elite ‘one percenter’ universities were well off and populated by staff who lived comfortably.[snip]. The state universities and community colleges taught the bulk of students, often very well indeed but obviously in larger classes on the whole. Now that balance is being disturbed and the elite universities can seem like they want it all. This is going to be a real tension in U.S. higher education ... [snip].

Source and Fulltext Available At 


Thursday, June 14, 2012

A/V Now Available > Free Webinar > A Practical Response to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) > June 26 2012 > 11:00 AM (CT)

June 26 2012 / 11:00 AM - 11:45 AM (CDT)

If you haven’t heard the hype about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), you soon will.

These free classes are only offered online and they’re wide open to anyone who wants to sign up. Some of the biggest brands in academia have announced impressive MOOC plans, and a few superstar instructors have jumped in with both feet. Skeptics call MOOCs outliers, but most people agree that whatever happens, MOOCs will make an impact on the way we teach both students and adult learners in the future.

So what does this trend mean for you, your faculty and your campus?

Join our live webinar, hosted by Casey Green of The Campus Computing Project, to participate in a lively discussion on how to take advantage of the MOOC buzz to get your own courses online, right now.

Our panel will discuss:

  • Where do MOOCs fit in the larger online learning ecosystem?
  • What impact will MOOCs, flipped and hybrid classes have on traditional, synchronous face to face education?
  • Can the MOOC model help unlock the online teaching potential for every instructor on your campus right now?
  • How does online instruction and video knowledge fit into the personal learning environment of your existing students? And how will it be captured, distributed and delivered in a post-MOOC world.

Source and Link To A/V Available At 


A/V Duration: ~ 60 Minutes

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

7 Things You Should Know About ... Badges

1. What is it?

Badges are digital tokens that appear as icons or logos on a  web page or other online venue. Awarded by institutions, organizations, groups, or individuals,  badges signify accomplishments such as completion of a project, mastery of a skill, or marks of  experience. [snip] As records of achievement, badges can recognize the  completion of projects within a traditional college program or acknowledge experience gained through community efforts, online learning venues, or work-related projects.

2. How does it work?

Details vary from one grantor to the next, but one path for badges is provided by the Mozilla Open Badge Infrastructure  (OBI) specification. Using this model, a learner fulfills the issuer specific criteria to earn the badge by attending classes, passing an exam or review, or completing other activities. A grantor verifies that the specifications have been met and awards the badge, maintaining a record of it with attendant metadata. [snip]. The earner pushes the badge into a “backpack,” a portfolio-style server account, where this award is stored alongside badges from other grantors. This badge repository might be the Mozilla-hosted  Badge Backpack, or it might be a backpack hosted by any provider using the OBI specifications. [snip].

3. Who’s doing it?

Numerous groups, organizations, community projects, and web entities currently issue badges. The Khan Academy,  for example, off ers a lengthy web page of them, such as an “Atomic Clockwork” badge, which requires a student to watch videos or hone a skill for each of 30 consecutive days. On the web at large, badges often provide participants with an opportunity to prove themselves, as with the Google News program. [snip].

Badges in higher education have gained currency among early adopters. One such eff ort is the award-winning badge system developed at the University of California, Davis. [snip]. Badges also play a part in  edX, an online learning eff ort sponsored jointly by MIT and Harvard University. Both institutions will off er online courses free via edX with “certificates” (badges) available for a modest fee to those who complete the coursework. [snip] Institutions of higher education interested in a turnkey badge system can turn to companies like BadgeStack, which offers a standards-based custom badge structure that can interoperate with an LMS and is compliant with the Mozilla Open Badge standard. [snip].

4. Why is it significant?

Badges represent a di fferent approach to credentials, one that places the focus on individual students and their learning accomplishments. Individuals can control their badges by choosing where to earn them ... ..  [snip]. A collection of badges can function as a distributed portfolio that may eventually be accessible from a variety of social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google Plus. [snip].

5.  What are the downsides?

Many details remain for badges to be broadly accepted as legitimate indicators of education, skill, or experience, and it is too early to say whether employers will come to view them as trusted credentials. Acceptance depends, at least in part, on the level of quality control for these awards. [snip]. The reputation and the accreditation of colleges and universities give value to the degrees they confer and the records they hold in trust. By contrast, it can be di fficult to establish the value of a badge awarded by an unknown or unaccredited source. Moreover, the rate at which online entities appear, disappear, and are purchased by others creates a fragile structure upon which  to build trust.

6. Where is it going?

As badge systems become more broadly adopted, a host  of issuers and endorsers will emerge. Ongoing work will be done to validate badges to ensure those who earned, issued, and endorsed them are who they claim to be. [snip].

7. What are the implications for teaching and  learning?

Badges could represent an opportunity for higher education to rethink what is of value and recognize achievements that could be codified but currently are not. As an adjunct to institutionally supported learning, badges might provide a new avenue for continuing education. They support lifelong learning, not just through traditional academic or formalized learning pathways but also the kind of knowledge that comes from personal initiative and investigation. [snip]. Whatever the future holds for these awards, it is clear badges o ffer an opportunity to reevaluate credentials, expanding their role by making otherwise hidden accomplishments visible.

Source and Fulltext Available At


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Stanford President John Hennessy and Khan Academy’s Salman Khan Talk Education at D10

Arik Hesseldahl  / May 31 2012

We all probably have an opinion on the state of education, but a few in the trenches are coping with its problems and actually trying to fix them. Stanford University President John Hennessy and Salman Khan are two of those people.

The pair took to the stage with Walt Mossberg at D: All Things Digital for a critical session on education. [snip].

Appearing with him was Khan, whose efforts at tutoring his cousin in math led to the video tutorials that, once they went viral on YouTube, led to the creation of the eponymous Khan Academy, which is being used to teach thousands of people in math, science and other subjects everyday. So far, it has been used to deliver 150 million Web lessons, and has evolved into the most-used library of videos on the Web.

Khan discussed a feature that is coming to the site this summer which will have students tutoring other students and earning badge rewards — similar, perhaps, to the badges on Foursquare — for helping each other. [snip].

Hennessy talked about Stanford’s experiments with “flipping the classroom.” It first involved shrinking the size of classes and putting interactive versions of classes online. “Lectures on video are just as boring as traditional lectures,” he said. So, every 15 minutes or so during online lectures, a pop-up quiz is injected as an online check to see how well students are paying attention. The experiments also included adding social media elements to allow students to ask questions of each other. [snip].

Source and Fulltext Available At 

Video Highlights Available At