MIT’s MOOC-based Micro-Master’s Degree: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

MIT’s decision to grant credit for MOOC courses in their supply-chain management master’s program1 is the long awaited breakthrough to the next step in online education. With this move, they’re distancing themselves from the pack, creating a huge vacuum that’s sure to suck the others in.

This decision of a top-tier university to recognize MOOCs as a viable alternative for delivering college credit courses was inevitable. It was going to happen, sooner or later. Given the fact that colleges in the U.S. and around the world have been offering completely online credit courses for years, the only question is, what took so long?

Hats off to the MIT administration and faculty for extending the promise of traditional online courses to MOOCs. MOOCs will cover the first half of the course work required for the master’s, and those who do well and are accepted into the program will then be required to register for the remaining half in on-campus classes. Despite this blended approach, this is a gutsy move in more ways than one. It spotlights the first “O” in MOOC, which is the most critical feature in massive open online courses. It also opens the door to the inevitable next step, a proliferation of full undergraduate and graduate degree programs delivered completely online via MOOCs at a fraction of the cost of MIT’s proposed blended model.2

Once that credibility door is opened by an institution such as MIT, which is among the handful of defacto higher ed leaders in online education, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the entire wall between online and onground will crumble.

We’re probably going to see leapfrogging in the coming weeks and months, with the rest of the field scrambling to one up MIT. The intriguing question is, what forms will credit MOOCs take?

Considering the formless elasticity of MOOCs, options are wide open, limited only by imagination. The most imaginative and creative institutions will, as a first step, take a long hard look at the wealth of possibilities for innovation inherent in the MOOC structure and design courses that will shake up our ages-old model for college courses.

In this last quarter of 2015, we, the world, can begin to look forward to some massive surprises in online college degree options in spring 2016.
1Jeffrey R. Young, “MIT Master’s Program to Use MOOCs as ‘Admissions Test’” (Chronicle of Higher Education, 7 Oct. 2015).
2This paragraph was expanded on 10/8/15 at 19:13 to clarify the blended nature of the pilot program.

MOOCs: A Toolbox for Course Designers?

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

In a video interview, Jonathan Moules1 asks Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, some tough questions about the current state of MOOCs. Noules’ Moules’ questions caught my attention:

  • “How much of an issue is it that most of the people signed up for FutureLearn and other online education platforms already have a degree?”
  • “What’s more important, is it broadening access to millions of people across the planet to education or is it about making money?”
  • “How do you make money from online education?”
  • “A criticism of online education has been that a lot of people signing up for these courses don’t complete them. Do you see that as a challenge?”Simon Nelson CEO FutureLearn2

And I found Nelson’s responses succinct, clear, practical, and informed.

As much as these questions and responses are enlightening, however, I can’t help but feel that they continue to pigeonhole MOOCs as fascinating but peripheral, impractical and ineffective counterparts to standard college courses. As long as this perception persists, MOOCs will remain outside the circle of serious discussion in higher ed, and this alienation will prolong the wait for the next step in course design.

In my mind, MOOCs are much more than a far-out platform for free courses with almost limitless seating capacity. If we can  get past the idea that they are a specific course type, built in stone, we can begin to explore the endless possibilities that they represent as a tabula rasa for envisioning the shape of courses to come in the 21st century. In other words, MOOCs have expanded our conception of what a course can be, offering us a whole view that takes into account the latest technological breakthroughs. Continue reading

TCC Worldwide Online Conference 2016 Apr 19-21 – Call for Proposals

Aloha everyone,

It’s that time of year again. Hope you are enjoying the start of fall (or spring).

Below is the first announcement of our call for proposals for TCC 2016.

The full description is available online at:

Please share with colleagues, students and interested friends.

Warm regards,
Bert, Curtis & Sharon


21st Annual


April 19-21, 2016
E-Learning: The More We Get Together

Submission deadline: December 15, 2015
Submission form:


Please consider submitting a proposal for a paper or general session relating to all aspects of online learning, networking & collaboration, including but not limited to e-learning, open education, ICT, virtual communities, social media, augmented reality, educational gaming, faculty & student support, Web 2.0 tools, international education, mobile learning and professional development.



Participation in this conference is entirely online. All sessions will be delivered online in real-time. Sessions will also be recorded for later viewing.

Bert Kimura <> or Curtis Ho <>

TCC Hawaii, LearningTimes, and the Learning Design and Technology Department, College of Education, UH-Manoa, collaborate to produce this event. Numerous volunteer faculty and staff worldwide provide additional support.

To join our mailing list, see:

What’s With Our Educators and Police?

Harry Keller 80By Harry Keller
Former ETCJ Science Editor and Frequent Contributor

All right, they aren’t the only ones who might have made this error, but they are in the spotlight since they freaked out over a homemade electronic clock. Yes, that’s the one Ahmed Mohamed brought to school. Somehow one or more teachers and some police thought it looked like a bomb.

Now, what’s the most essential part of any bomb? Is it a clock? Nope. How about a circuit board? Not that either. What about a bunch of colored wires? Those are traditional fodder in TV shows. Not a chance. You can make a bomb with just a fuse, a blasting cap, and some dynamite, plastic explosive, or some mixture of oil and fertilizer.

The essential ingredient here is, you guessed it, explosives.

Without something explosive, no bomb. A circuit board hardly qualifies no matter how much electronics are on it. It only takes a moment to look and see the lack of explosives inside of the satchel that Ahmed carried his clock in, I assume to protect it.

What’s really going on here? I see two important issues. The first is the racial profiling that is obvious despite protests from school and law enforcement. The extreme reaction, including handcuffs, would not have happened to a blond kid. His satchel may have been inspected. He may have been questioned. But, it all would have been handled with much more restraint.

Then, there’s the damper that these incidents place on student creativity. Sure, we don’t like students experimenting with anything truly dangerous, especially in schools. This is a case where there was absolutely no danger — no chemicals, no high voltages, nothing explosive, nothing even sharp. The clock was completely benign.

Within reasonable guidelines, students should be encouraged to explore and be creative. Having two grandchildren in elementary school right now, I am very concerned about the future of education. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS, sort of a science Common Core) tell us to add more inquiry to our curricula. This reaction is exactly opposite to that spirit.

Our teachers and school administrators are acting as though they fear their own shadows. In this atmosphere, how can creative talent develop, let alone thrive? Must enlightened parents have ongoing battles with schools merely to ensure that their children have the opportunity to realize their potentials?

Now, imagine if Ahmed were taking an online course in engineering instead of the one in his physical high school. He might video his clock functioning and show its various parts through Instagram or YouTube. He could share his step-by-step construction experience, including mistakes, though Twitter and Facebook. The class could gather on Skype to share in real time. There would be no ignorant administrator or teacher to call the cops and no clueless police to terrorize this young student.

I have always believed that physical schools play an important role in helping our children to develop. Now, I’m not so certain.

Making Literacy More Personal for Kids

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

Research has shown that a key to developing language skills, for the native speaker and for the English language learner, is reading. A home filled with books is a home filled with readers. That was certainly the case in my experience. My first “literacy” memories are the favorite stories that my father, very patiently, told me over and over and over. One of my earliest “reading” memories is going to the library with him and selecting my own book to read, Horton Hears a Who. Of course, I couldn’t read it myself, but it was “my” book. As I became a reader, I started acquiring books, some of them through a children’s book club. I remember how excited I was when “my” book arrived in the mail.

Susan Frey, in “Study Says Reading Aloud to Children, More Than Talking, Builds Literacy” (EdSource, 8 July 2015), focuses on a research project by Dominic Massaro at the University of California. Massaro says that “[r]eading aloud is the best way to help children develop word mastery and grammatical understanding” because the written word tends to follow these conventions more closely than speech. He goes on to say that we tend to be lazy when we speak using simplified forms and vocabulary.

Then, in “Making Reading Your Own” (Language Magazine, Sep. 2015), Todd Brekhus makes the point about the importance of “making literacy more personal to kids.” For the 21st century reader, he encourages the development of a digital library. He points out that one advantage of a digital library is the technological tools that are not available with hard-copy books, including opportunities for collaboration. He supports the use of interactive digital texts with English Language Learners, which can build literacy skills and reader confidence.

How do you use books and digital texts with your students, or even your children?

How GIS Improves the Process of Citizen Science

By Jim Baumann
Esri Writer

Researchers, Artists, and Technologies Engage with Local Groups Using Computer Mapping

Citizen science is an increasingly popular activity among a broad cross section of the population. Because the number and variety of opportunities for participation continue to grow, it is appealing to those in a widening range of age and physical ability. Participants have joined diverse scientific monitoring projects, including migratory bird studies and personal weather station observations, as well as provided their unused computer time for interstellar space exploration. Citizen science has even stimulated growth in the ecotourism industry.

Patrick Rickles at al 2“Regardless of their background or level of skill, citizen science provides people with a powerful platform that allows them to get involved in science and their environment,” says Patrick Rickles, research associate for the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group at University College London (UCL). “However, as valuable as this is, these programs often see the citizen as a passive participant that simply collects information and then hands it over to the researcher. At that point, their involvement in the project is considered complete.”

Recognizing the potential for change provided by greater engagement with citizen scientists, Muki Haklay, UCL professor of geographical information science (GISC), and Jerome Lewis, a UCL lecturer of anthropology, formed ExCiteS. This is an interdisciplinary group composed of researchers, artists, and information and communication technology specialists that work with local groups to better engage them in the process of citizen science through participatory action.  Continue reading

Who Are Your Tech-Sperts?

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

With school starting back in many places, teachers are thinking about what they are going to do in the coming year and who their students will be. It is also a good time to think about how you and your students are going to use technology effectively in the classroom.

One question to consider is how you will identify the the “tech-sperts” in your classes. In many classes the real tech-sperts are the students. I don’t know if Kriscia Cabral (Digital Organization Tips and Tricks) coined this phrase, but it certainly fits, and these tech-sperts are a resource that teachers shouldn’t ignore. In Jim’s article, Zen and the Art of IT, he looks at some of the IT knowledge and skills that teachers need. However, Cabral thinks teachers should give over some of the responsibility to students.

First, recognizing that everyone has something to offer removes the burden from the teacher of having to know everything about technology, a field which can change from one day to the next. In her classes Cabral’s students help one another with devices, apps, websites, or whatever other types of technology they need assistance with. Utilizing students’ expertise has several advantages for the teacher and the students, and she asserts that the greater benefits are for the students.

Because different students are knowledgeable about different aspects of technology, everyone has a chance to be the tech-spert about something. This ability to help and support one another builds confidence in individual students as well as a collaborative environment among all students in the class.

What experiences have you had with using your students’ knowledge and expertise about technology as a classroom resource?


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