What’s Wrong with MOOCs: One-Size-Fits-All Syndrome

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

The Malaysian government is taking steps to “make 30 per cent of higher education courses available as massive open online courses (or MOOCs) by 2020” (Financial Review, 2 Oct. 2016). The MOOCs are free, but there’s a fee for assessments that grant credit for courses taken at other universities. From 64 courses in 2015, the number has grown to 300 this year.

The down side, as I see it, is that they’re relying on a single MOOC management system (MMS) — in this case, OpenLearning, which is based in Sydney. This shoehorning of course design and development into a proprietary box is a clear sign that the Malaysian administrators don’t have a clue about MOOCs.

This problem of overreliance on an MMS is endemic in the vast majority of universities that are tiptoeing into MOOCs. It’s the same mindset that tosses all online courses into a single LMS. If this one-size-fits-all approach were applied to F2F courses, professors would be outraged by this brazen violation of academic freedom.

The web is an infinite frontier with limitless resources for creating a wide range of MOOCs. In contrast, boxed platforms being hawked by non- and for-profits such as Coursera, edX, and OpenLearning don’t even begin to scratch the surface of possibilities. Jumping whole hog into one of them is to automatically accept an MMS’s limited views of what a MOOC can be.  Continue reading

80 Percent of K-12 Schools Now Using Digital Content

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

A study by ASCD and Overdrive, Inc.,1 is being released today (1 April 2016). Digital Content Goes to School: Trends in K–12 Classroom E-Learning is available for download here. Here are some of the highlights:

1. More than 80 percent of K-12 schools and districts are now using some form of digital content — including eBooks, audiobooks and digital textbooks — in the classroom.

2. Of the 80 percent of respondents who report using digital content in their schools or districts, four out of 10 are using it as part of their curriculum.

3. Devices used for digital content: laptops (75 percent), tablets (62 percent), personal computers (49 percent), and smartphones (17 percent).

4. Contributors to this growth include recognized benefits such as the ability to deliver individualized instruction, allowing students to practice independently, and greater student attention/engagement.

5. As digital content continues to transform the classroom, the concept of a personalized, individualized model of schooling becomes more feasible, according to the report.

6. “Devices bring more knowledge to students’ fingertips than the teacher can give, so the traditional lecture model is no longer applicable. We want content that will engage students and the ability to introduce flipped classrooms with content that students can access at any time, at any place” (Kahle Charles, executive director of curriculum, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Longmont, Colorado).

7. The two issues cited most often were equity concerns about lack of Internet access at home and the fear of teachers not wanting to go digital, including teachers not comfortable or effective with digital learning.

8. Across the board, teachers most desire English/Language Arts (ELA) content in digital format (74 percent), followed by science (62 percent), math (61 percent) and social studies (56 percent).

9. Survey respondents report that digital content currently occupies about one-third of the instructional materials budget and the use of digital content continues to grow.

10. This report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 administrators at the school or district level in the U.S.

__________
1 Overdrive, Inc., is a provider of eBook and audiobook platforms for schools.

Creating Community: Part 2 – Hard Conversations in an Online Classroom – ‘Othello’

Judith_McDaniel2_80By Judith McDaniel with Tim Fraser-Bumatay, Daniel Herrera, and Ryan Kelly1

The four of us are all teachers in face-to-face classrooms, and we have all needed to have difficult conversations about race with our students in those classes. Some teachers would maintain that it is “better” to have these conversations in person in order to monitor how the students are doing and ease them over the rough spots.

All of us have also been part of an online classroom in which we needed to have those conversations about race and ethnicity as we discussed Shakespeare’s Othello and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Is one format — online or in-person — better than the other? While our response won’t be definitive, we can say that our online discussion did succeed in creating an “immediate and vital community of learning” as we insisted in Part 1 of this series. And for each of us, the learning in this class carried over to the face-to-face classes we teach.

Herrera Kelly Bumatay McDaniel

Daniel Herrera, Ryan Kelly, Tim Fraser-Bumatay, and Judith McDaniel.

Thinking about Othello

In addition to reading Shakespeare’s play, I assigned several critical articles that discussed race in the play. Kim Hall’s “Beauty and the Beast of Whiteness” and James Aubrey’s “Race and the Spectacle of the Monstrous in ‘Othello’” seemed to be the most provocative.

The issue of beauty, virtue, and monstrosity

The discussion prompt for the question about Othello asked whether Hall’s portrait of “beauty and the beast of whiteness” gave the reader a path into considering Othello as an Elizabethan might have seen him. Tim’s immediate response was “[Yes,] an in-depth look at style would tread upon the contextual setting of the play’s conception, for if one were to question why Shakespeare chooses words such as ‘beast,’ ‘horse,’ and ‘ram’ to describe Othello, it would inevitably lead to 17th century cultural opinions of Africans.”

Alongside that view of course is the parallel portrait of Othello as the most noble and honorable man in the Duke’s court. When Shakespeare introduces the “Moor” himself, he presents “an intriguing character who breaks from the stigma; he is calm, courteous, and even noble.”  Continue reading

Creating Community in an Online Classroom: Part 1 – Getting to Know You

Judith_McDaniel2_80By Judith McDaniel with Tim Fraser-Bumatay, Daniel Herrera, and Ryan Kelly1

Is it possible to get a “real education” from an online class? Several years ago a professor from the University of Virginia published an opinion piece about online education in the New York Times and insisted that it was impossible. “You can get knowledge,” he continued, “from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning.”2

I teach literature in a fully online Master’s program. My students enroll from all over the United States and from overseas. Our asynchronous discussion forums give students an opportunity to interact, to be thoughtful in their responses to my discussion prompts and to one another. I find the online classroom to be stimulating, diverse, and creative. It is different from a face-to-face class experience, but it can be different in ways that enhance student learning through the creation of an online community.

Herrera Kelly Bumatay

Daniel Herrera, Ryan Kelly, and Tim Fraser-Bumatay

I am joined in writing this article by three of the students who have just completed their Masters degree in Literature and Writing in this online program. We have created an article that has two parts. In the first we talk about building community and how that happens, how students from very different backgrounds begin to interact, enjoy one another, challenge one another. In the second part of the article, we recreate some of the conversations we had about difficult subjects and difficult texts. We talked about race extensively when we read Othello and Heart of DarknessContinue reading

Free Webinar: ‘Using Technology to Engage Students’ 2/23/15 3pm EST

From Macmillan Higher Education 2/17/15:

Join us on Monday, February 23rd at 3pm EST for a complimentary webinar on “Using Technology to Engage Students” with Solina Lindahl of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo!

The 21st century classroom is getting larger, more tech-laden and full of students weaned on digital devices. How should our teaching change (or NOT change) in light of this? This talk is aimed at showing how iPads, iClickers and more can engage the face-to-face large class. Included are a brief discussion of some of the more innovative (and easy) visual presentation apps, as well as a look at using iPads to do the most old-fashioned of practices: worked problems.

edtech week

To learn more about all of our EdTech Week sessions and our presenters, please visit our EdTech Week website. You can also join our event on Facebook for the latest updates and information! We hope to see you there!

Practical Reasoning – Challenges for Teaching and Assessment

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

In a faculty brown bag lunch, Molly Sutphen, Associate Director of the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence and author of the seminal book Educating Nurses: A Call for Radical Transformation, delivered a talk on Practical Reasoning at the School of Government. The talk was a nice follow-up to the Teaching Palooza that our faculty organized last summer. Since the School’s focus is on teaching adult learners, enhancing practical reasoning skills is an important objective of my instructional design work.

Molly Sutphen, Associate Director of the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence

Molly Sutphen, Associate Director and Teaching and Learning Coordinator, UNC Center for Faculty Excellence

Characteristics of Effective Practical Reasoning

  • To be able to draw on knowledge from different areas, courses, or types of knowledge and use it
  • To develop a sense of salience about a situation
  • To realize the stakes of a situation
  • To put boundaries around a problem or question
  • To be able to envision different outcomes
  • To be able to construct a narrative forward and backward

Assessment and Practical Reasoning

With the pressure of constantly demonstrating impact, assessing the short term learning outcomes of practical reasoning is problematic. “Practitioners may learn, but we don’t know it – what you teach, someone will perhaps not use for another five months – or ten years,” said Dr. Sutphen. She recommends taking “a long view” instead.

Instructional Strategy: Unfolding Cases

Dr. Sutphen introduced unfolding cases as an instructional strategy to teach practical reasoning skills. Unfolding cases are underdetermined (no obvious plan or resolution), scaffolded (controlled amount of information), and orchestrated (prompting specific, relevant questioning). In a plenary exercise, she presented a list of questions to help teachers construct unfolding cases.

  • What is this a case of?
  • Where do you want to start and end?
  • How underdetermined do you want the case to be?
  • Who are the actors? At which point will they be revealed?
  • What is the arc of the narrative?
  • What information will you provide or conceal?
  • Will you give boundaries or expect them to be discovered?

Further Reading

Benner, P., Sutphen, M., Leonard, V., & Day, L. (2009). Educating nurses: A call for radical transformation (Vol. 15). John Wiley & Sons.

Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Sullivan, W. M., & Dolle, J. R. (2011). Rethinking undergraduate business education: Liberal learning for the profession (Vol. 20). John Wiley & Sons.

Schwartz, B., & Sharpe, K. (2010). Practical wisdom: The right way to do the right thing. Penguin.

Gherardi, S. (2012). “Docta ignorantia”: Professional Knowing at the Core and at the Margins of a Practice. Journal of Education and Work, 25(1), 15-38.

Technology Is a Partial Answer to Improving Teacher Quality

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

On October 29, the New York Times published an op-ed by Frank Bruni1 that is based on a new book by Joel Klein (past chancellor of New York City Public Schools) and that has plenty of advice for educators. According to Bruni, Klein tells us that the primary issue in education is teacher quality.

Bruni’s analysis of Klein’s writing is good enough that everyone should read it and read between the lines too. Bruni also had the opportunity to interview Klein and asked some penetrating questions. Here are some bullet points that I have excerpted from the article:

• Stiffen the admission requirements for schools of education.
• Fix education school curricula, including ensuring teachers master their subjects.
• Create a rational incentive system for compensating teachers, a huge problem today.

You can read the article for the details. What does all of this have to do with technology? A great deal, actually, and in two important areas. The first area is teacher training. We can do much in this area, both with simulating teacher classroom experiences and with mastering subject matter. We currently train pilots with simulators before putting them in airplanes. The same thing could be done for teachers to help them more rapidly reach competency with student interaction, discipline, and engagement.

I am only intimately familiar with science education and can say that we have some great tools to advance science teacher understanding of their subjects. Too many science teachers enter classrooms unprepared to teach science for the simple reason that they do not understand the nature of science. It’s sort of like teaching chess without knowing how the pieces move. We can fix that.  Continue reading