Education Today — The Most Important Function of Governments, Part 1 of 2

Judith McDanielBy Judith McDaniel

Education is the foundation of democracy. As a society, we Americans knew that once. A unanimous Supreme Court decision in the 1953 Brown v Board of Education said: “Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities…. It is the very foundation of good citizenship.”

Today, we have lost that recognition, lost our certainty that education is a common good that we can all support. A 2017 Gallup poll found that only 36% of Americans have confidence in our public schools. And that is an increase of 10% since 2014. “Government schools” is what some conservatives, like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s husband and President Trump, call public schools now.

Where has our common understanding of public education as the foundation of democracy gone? Why have we lost it?

Undermining public education has been a deliberate campaign, not an accident. It’s not as though we just didn’t have enough money to educate all of our children for the common good. When money was short, whether because of recession or other economic events, we chose to lower funds for education. And when there was money available again, we did not raise support for education.

It would be one thing if there were a public discussion about curricula for our schools and universities, if choices about educational directions were being openly advertised and discussed and chosen. This is not what is happening.  Continue reading

Stackable Credential Courses Are Not MOOCed

Waves are flat today on the East Coast. According to Jeffrey R. Young, edX, founded by MIT and Harvard, is planning to offer a MicroBachelors program as a logical complement to their MicroMasters.1 Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, got it almost right when he said, “Education in five to ten years will become modular, will become omnichannel, and will become lifelong…. Modular is good because it can create new efficiencies and new scaling.”

Where he falls short is in the “omnichannel,” which boils down to required on-campus, F2F attendance. In this bait ‘n’ switch business model, the fully online options are teasers, the wide open end of a funnel that narrows to a tiny trickle at the campus end. Agarwal says, “The idea behind both MicroMasters and MicroBachelors is that they are ‘about putting stuff that can be done online, online.’” The assumption is that online is still a second-rate channel, incapable of delivering the right stuff.

Anant Agarwal, George Siemens, and Stephen Downes.

Young compares this “‘stackable’ credential” program to Arizona State University’s Global Freshman Academy, a joint venture with edX. He describes it as an “attempt to rebrand a concept that was once known as MOOCs, or massive open online courses.” By their own admission, GFA hasn’t been very successful. From the standpoint of these stackable programs, MOOCs are dead.  Continue reading

Successful Online Programs Require a Paradigm Shift

On the table at the University of Colorado Boulder is a proposal for an online engineering master’s degree program.1 It’s a breakthrough for all the right reasons: It’s being offered as a MOOC, it’s completely online, it’s asynchronous, and it’s unbundling the 3-credit courses and offering them in modules. All four are gold standards for online education, and it’s tough to decide which is the most important. For now, I’d say the unbundling. Breaking traditional semester-length courses into shorter modules is a brilliant move to make the courses doable within the framework of MOOCs. It’s a smaller hill to climb for working nontraditionals, and dropping out means making up only one module instead of an entire semester.

The best wave of the day goes to Richard Koubek, provost of LSU Baton Rouge, who says, “Our vision is LSU, anywhere, anytime, and that physical boundaries would not define the boundaries of this campus.”2 To put some teeth into their vision, LSU recently lured Sasha Thackaberry away from Southern New Hampshire University, where she was assistant vice president for academic technology. SNHU has a hugely successful online program. At LSU, she is associate vice provost for online and distance education. The goal is to grow the online student body from 800 to 30,000 in less than ten years, and Koubek has a radical gameplan. He says, “You’re not going to get there incrementally.” What we’re seeing now in online programs on most college campuses is the stagnation that comes from reliance on the old paradigm of traditional practices that reward blended approaches as the safe bridge to online growth. Koubek understands that continued reliance on F2F practices isn’t going to produce change. He says, “You have to change the paradigm.”  Continue reading

Digital Tools and Adaptive Technology


Zaid Shoorbaje asserts that adaptive learning tools can be effective for ELLs (English Language Leaners) as well as for students with disabilities. In Adaptive learning can help students learn English, but few schools are using it (6 Dec. 2017), he cites a study by McGraw-Hill that shows that while teachers understand this, many schools are not implementing it.

In Making Digital Communications Accessible (11 Dec. 2017), published on Edutopia, Anne Obrien offers support for Shoobaje’s assertion of the effectiveness of accessible and adaptive learning tools and provides practical tips for using digital tools creatively in the classroom. While useful for all learners, they are particularly useful for ELLs and students with disabilities.

Brian Fleming makes a case for using adaptive technology in higher education in his article, Adaptive Learning Technology: What It Is, Why It Matters (1 Apr. 2014). He asserts that this type of technology can be useful for all students, but especially in remedial classes.

Zach Posner, in What is adaptive learning anyway? (5 Jan. 2017), explains it as giving “every learner their own personalized course, made specifically for their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and engagement patterns…. a course that [adapts] in real-time to their activity and [adjusts] moment by moment to their performance and interest level.”

Digital Storytelling and Authenticity

Whether creating lessons for social studies or science, designing activities for developing library skills or planning lessons with ELLs (English Language Learners) in mind, authenticity and relevance are key to effective learning. The purpose of authenticity and relevance in learning is that learners are engaging in “real world activities which apply directly to a student’s experience” (Finch & Jefferson. 2013).

According to Ozverir, Vanci and Herrington (2017), “[a]uthentic learning is an instructional approach that provides learners with opportunities to develop knowledge ‘embedded in the social and physical context within which it will be used’ (Herrington et al., 2010, p. 15)” (p. 262).

With this in mind, Stansbury presents her case for using digital storytelling to provide authentic opportunities for ELLs to use English in relevant and meaningful communication in Video of the Week: Amplify Your ELLs’ Voices with Digital Storytelling. Although aimed at teachers working with ELLs, the idea of building on learners’ strengths through digital tools is relevant to any subject area. Be sure to click on the resources link.


Finch. J. & Jefferson, R. (2013). Designing authentic learning tasks for online library instructionThe Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39 (2), 181-188.

Ozverir, I., Osam, U. V., & Herrington, J. (2017). Investigating the effects of authentic activities on foreign language learning: A design-based research approach. Educational Technology & Society, 20 (4), 261–274.

Stansbury, M. (2018). Video of the Week: Amplify your ELLs’ voices with digital storytellingeSchool News.

TCC Worldwide Online Conference 2018: Call for Proposals

By Bert Kimura

The theme for the 23rd Annual TCC Worldwide Online Conference, April 17-19, 2018, is “Navigating the Digital Landscape.” Participation in this event is entirely online. All sessions are delivered online in real-time. Sessions are recorded for later viewing.

Please consider submitting a proposal for a paper or general session related to all aspects of learning, design, and technology, including but not limited to e-learning, online learning communities, collaborative learning, social media, mobile learning, emerging technologies, international education, and professional development.

The proposal submission deadline is December 15, 2017. The submission form is available at

For a list of suggested topics and more information, see Call for Proposals.

TCC Hawaii, LearningTimes, & 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.

Contact: Bert Kimura ( or Curtis Ho (

Hashtag: #tcc23rd

To subscribe to the TCCOHANA-L mailing list, see:


St. George’s University MOOC Has 60% Completion Rate

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

Completion rates for MOOCs are notoriously poor, with a median rate of 12.6%. But there are exceptions. Dr. Satesh Bidaisee’s MOOC, One Health, One Medicine, had a 60% completion rate. Bidaisee is a professor at St. George’s University, Grenada, West Indies. The following is a transcript of our interview from Aug. 7 through Oct. 3, 2017.

ETC: What made you decide to offer this course as a MOOC?

Bidaisee: Chancellor Charles Modica’s vision is to provide access to an SGU education to as many students as possible. Chancellor Modica is the founder of St. George’s University and has spent his life working towards educating a global community of students and alumni. The advent of online technology provides another avenue for SGU to provide educational access to a wider audience.

I am also passionate towards education. A background as a survivor of a motor vehicle accident, a ruptured aneurysm, and testicular cancer have provided sufficient experience to motivate me to contribute to the learning development of others as a purpose in life.

ETC: One of your course objectives is “To demonstrate effective oral skills for communicating with different audiences in the context of human, animal and environmental health.” How do students “demonstrate oral skills”?

Bidaisee: Through live seminar sessions, recorded presentations.

ETC: Can you give us an example?

Bidaisee: Students prepared, presented and recorded oral presentations, which were shared with the course community and peer assessed by colleagues. Diseases such as Lyme Diseases, West Nile Virus, Ebola, etc. were discussed in the context of having applications for human health, animal health and environmental considerations.   Continue reading