Thursday, October 18, 2012

MOOCs: How to Ride the Disruptive Fracture

Introduction: Hundreds of thousands of students worldwide have flocked to enroll and participate in MOOCs, e.g. massive open online courses offered on collaborative networks such as Udacity, Coursera, edX, Udemy, and CourseSites. The courses offered are often generated within universities such Stanford University, the California Institute of Technology, Harvard, Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Duke University, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley and others who combine open-source learning content, video lectures, discussion forums, artificial intelligence, and crowd-sourcing. While the courses often include much of the same content offered in the traditional face-to-face version, the free online courses are neither credit-bearing nor are they recognized to the same degree as traditional courses for which students attend in-person and pay tuition. The concept of a MOOC is not new, it has been around for about ten years, but only recently have MOOCs garnered attention to a wide degree in main-stream media. When elite branded institutions pool resources to generate new platforms as a way to flex their reputations and contribute to an effort to offer free education, the outcome could be disruptive.
At present, the MOOC model is in its early stages as educators reshape the landscape of higher education taking advantage of technology, advances in artificial intelligence and open-source course content. The MOOC model opens learning and college courses to anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world. In fact, enrollments in MOOCs have been especially popular outside of the United States. For example, MIT’s first MOOC is said to have enrolled 154,000 students from 160 countries – where only 15 percent of the learners were from within the United States. Officials at edX concluded that more than 7,000 of the enrolled students passed the course. As another example, during the fall 2012 semester, Coursera was scheduled to be offering 116 MOOCs from 16 universities in diverse disciplines such as medicine, philosophy and artificial intelligence during the fall 2012 semester. Coursera has already partnered with 33 colleges and universities and claims to have enrolled more than 1.3 million students world-wide. That said; opportunities exist to be part of the innovation and part of the disruptive economy.

The emerging landscape is open to innovators to take advantage of the shifting landscape. In a Moody report published in early October, Karen Kedem, VP and senior analyst predicts that regional universities that chiefly attract students from surrounding areas could use MOOCs to broaden their brand recognition if they offer MOOCs while at the same time the report offers a cautionary signal that MOOCs will most hurt the bottom line of low-cost local colleges, primarily commuter campuses, and for-profit colleges. “The real threat is when other institutions are providing credit for MOOCs and really overlapping with the demographics” Ms. Kedem said. Therefore, it is imperative that institutions think strategically to make institutional decisions about teaching, learning, competency, value, market, financials, and need as it related to online education, open source learning, competency-based models, and transfer credit options.
Given the movement of the MOOC arena, the opportunity exists for institutions to position themselves to become part of the paradigm. The Moody report observed that MOOCs are likely to impart at least six major credit effects, one being new revenue opportunities through fee-based services, e.g. licensing, degrees, proctored exams, certificates, or ads. A fee-based opportunity to offer a collegiate value for knowledge gained is transactional. Institutions as such could offer students a proctoring service to demonstrate course competencies in exchange for transfer credit on a fee-for-service model. Proctoring services would need to be secure and limited in scope as not to undermine an institution’s existing business model but expand it. Proctoring for transfer credit in a new and innovative fracture is likely to attract a revenue base while providing a service. In the short-term, institutions that already offer prior learning assessment, are liberal in transfer credit acceptance, and who have proctoring services on-site are most likely to step into the fracture and take advantage of new opportunities that MOOCs bring forward. Some in fact, have already done so in partnerships (See - Chronicle, Colorado State University Global Campus to accept transfer credit for courses on Udacity

Another opportunity for the not so elite institutions are for faculty who are the campus rock stars to offer-up a MOOC as a means to bring attention to their fine scholarship and the institution as a whole. A successful MOOC from a small regional campus could bring much attention to the top-notch scholarship and teaching while at the same time opening the eyes of the MOOC participants to a campus they may not have ever heard of before. The opportunities are unfolding before our eyes – stay tuned and see where we are in one-years’ time!
Kedem, Karen and John Puchalla. 2012. “Shifting Ground: Technology Begins to Alter Centuries-Old Business Model for Universities, Massive Open Online Courses Produce Mixed Credit Effects for the Higher Education Sector.” Moody’s Investor’s Service, September 12.



Monday, October 15, 2012

Start Your Search Right

It's not just students. When starting research, even professors and librarians are known to use Google (or another web search engine). Despite the availability of higher quality sources, the ease and convenience of that simple single search box is very appealing. Results come back (often in millions of hits!), and the searcher quickly starts to become aware of what has been written on that particular topic on a very broad scale.

One big problem, however, is that the resources that a web search returns are not all at the same level in terms of quality. The searcher needs to take time and effort to sift through and weed out what was written by a high school student for a class project from what was published in a reputable online journal with a peer review process. Remember, anyone can publish on the Internet - this is a good thing and a bad thing.

Another problem is that many (most?) of the very best results, in terms of academic work, are completely absent from a search of the open web. They are hidden in proprietary databases that collect millions of journal articles. These databases are generally only available by subscription - with very hefty pricetags that only a huge institution could afford.

It is the mission of libraries to collect these expensive but vital resources and to provide access to them for their authorized patrons. At UDC, this means current faculty, students, and staff (and on-site users regardless of affiliation). There are hundreds of such collections that can be found in our A-Z Resource List. But where to start? Which to choose? Searching in one generally means ignoring all the others, and to find books (not just articles) that cover your topic, you would need to search the library catalog too. And each of those databases has its own interface, each with just enough differences to confuse you. Ugh. That single Google search box is looking better and better.

But wait! A new service provides UDC patrons with a simple single search box that checks both the library catalog (for books) and an index of millions of articles, dissertations, conference proceedings, and more. It is not 100% complete and never will be, but to start your academic research, there is no better place. Why? Because it weeds out those low quality sites from the open web and includes the high quality hidden subscription-only content, and it returns relevant books side by side with journal articles. Just what your professor asked for!

We are now talking about web-scale discovery - just like with Google, you will probably get too many results, but those results are much higher quality, coming from those expensive subscription databases and the catalog of books that the library has collected. And it is easy to use the refinement facets on the left-hand side of the search results to pare down your results until you are finding only what you want. Try it and see!

Michael Fitzgerald, Electronic Services Librarian

Next time: how to collect and organize all those results

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Best Practices: Deep Learning in Web 2.0 Digital Storytelling

Have you ever wondered how to you might use storytelling in the online or hybrid classroom? It’s a great pedagogical tool to facilitate deep learning while creating connections among students through the use of technology. Consider this:

Instead of asking students to post superficial comments about a topic or to one another, you might consider using digital storytelling to generate deep and authentic learning through reflective practice. Digital storytelling usually contains some blend of computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music. Digital stories vary in length, but like podcasting or audio discussions, should typically last between two and ten minutes.

Think about a more complex and effective way to get students engaged and reflective. By asking students to think about their own experiences and to use them in a constructive way to discuss their learning, you put the ownership of learning in their hands. As students reflect and generate their own story, making connections to content and their path toward knowledge, they become excited. This excitement grows after  their story is posted and others read it and make constructive comments.

The University of Houston has a rich Digital Storytelling web presence worth exploring. The have examples in math, ArtReligion, as well as several other examples.

Other rich resources for Digital Storytelling include the Urban School of San Francisco,  and The Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) in Berkeley, California. CDS has compiled rich resources as well as its Seven Elements of Digital Storytelling, which are often cited as a useful starting point as you begin working with digital stories.

CDS' Seven Elements of Digital Storytelling

1. Point of View: What is the main point of the story and what is the perspective of the author?

2. A Dramatic Question: A key question that keeps the viewer's attention and will be answered by the end of the story.

3. Emotional Content: Serious issues that come alive in a personal and powerful way and connects the story to the audience.

4. The Gift of Your Voice: A way to personalize the story to help the audience understand the context.

5. The Power of the Soundtrack: Music or other sounds that support and embellish the storyline.

6. Economy: Using just enough content to tell the story without overloading the viewer.

7. Pacing: The rhythm of the story and how slowly or quickly it progresses.

Educause which also has its Seven Things You Should Know Series on Digital Storytelling ( Educause concludes that:

Digital storytelling can serve as a bridge between these groups, encouraging a historian, for example, to delve into multimedia applications while exposing a computer scientist to the ideas of narrative through family lore. Creating and watching digital stories has the potential to increase the information literacy of a wide range of students. Moreover, digital stories are a natural fit for e-portfolios, allowing students not only to select representative artifacts from their academic careers but also to create compelling resources that demonstrate the student’s learning and growth.”

If you are up for something new, give it a try and check out these examples to help stimulate your development of digital storytelling assignments to help students learn deeply.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Collaborize Classroom Your Course

Blackboard, the UDC learning management system (LMS), provides a supportive discussion generation option that integrates properly with well-developed, online or hybrid courses. However, there are other discussion generation resources available that also compliment a variety of face-to-face, hybrid or online learning environments. Collaborize Classroom is one such resource you may wish to give a try.

Collaborize Classroom is a free, online stage for instructors and students to create structured discussions in a private online community. Collaborize classroom is different from the discussion feature in Blackboard because it allows users an ability to create different question types and/or display questions in an innovative manner.

One example is the “Vote or Suggest” style question in which instructors may ask students to comment on a particular topic. Other learners then have the option of voting for the answers they think are the most relevant and/or posting their own separate responses. This participation option is important because it provides students greater control over their learning process and makes them accountable for determining what constitutes valid knowledge.

Collaborize also provides a well-stocked topic library with hundreds of topics in the category “Higher Education” along with useful suggestions for discussion organization and facilitation.

Once a class discussion is completed, faculty can publish the results of the discussion to a results page. On the results page, the outcomes of student participation are published in an easy to read graphical format. There instructors can also add concluding remarks about the result of the discussion. Those results can then be fed back into other class activities that are face-to-face or online.


Collaborize classroom is not intended to replace Blackboard, but rather complement its functionality. The tool is free, private and secure. To learn more about Collaborize Classroom, go to: