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Jump Off the Coursera Bandwagon - Commentary

By Doug Guthrie Like lemmings, too many American colleges are mindlessly rushing out to find a way to deliver online education, and more and more often they are choosing Coursera. The company, founded this year by two Stanford University computer scientists, has already enrolled more than two million students, has engaged 33 academic institutions as partners, and is offering more than 200 free massive open online courses, or MOOC's. A college's decision to jump on the Coursera bandwagon is aided—and eased—by knowing that academic heavyweights like Harvard, Stanford, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are already on board. As one college president described it to The New York Times, "You're known by your partners, and this is the College of Cardinals." In our haste to join the academic alphas, many of us are forgoing the reflection necessary to enter this new medium. Coursera and its devotees simply have it wrong. The recent history of the newspaper industry is instructive. Related:  MOOC Articles

MOOCs are Marketing Earlier this week, Georgia Tech and eleven other higher education institutions announced their participation in Coursera, a company that hosts online courses. Reactions have been predictably dramatic, as exemplified by Jordan Weissman's panegyric in the Atlantic, titled The Single Most Important Experiment in Higher Education. I'll spare observations on the obvious problems with Weissman's article, like the witless claim that lectures as web video somehow "reinvent" the lecture. Or the fact that Weissman published an article two weeks ago titled Why the Internet Isn't Going to End College As We Know It. Take this excerpt instead: The fundamental challenge for U.S. universities as they struggle to contain their costs is figuring out how to teach more students using fewer resources. This is the biggest and most insidious misconception, the one that pervades every conversation about online education. Here's one: Coursera is marketing.

Rethinking Higher Ed Open Online Learning - US News & World Report Karen Symms Gallagher is dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. With the rush of pronouncements, you'd think Higher Ed 2.0 is here, all online, all the time. Brick-and-mortar and ivy are passé. Not so fast. Much of what's touted as innovation in traditional higher education falls short for students seeking high-quality online degrees that will serve them in a tough job market. It's worth decoding what's out there and what isn't. Professors at MIT, Stanford, and Harvard and many fine academic minds have put thousands of top-notch college courses online. [Read the U.S. Logging on to these lectures is often like watching through a one-way mirror—albeit for free and, say, with 15,000 classmates. I can't help thinking that the massive open online course explosion so far is a bigger, better delivery system of The Great Courses, which my husband and I have enjoyed for years. [See the U.S. But that's not what worries me about open online courses.

Online Degrees Don't Impede Job Searches Rather than go to college after graduating from high school, Scott Marrone opted to join the armed forces. After a three-year stint in the Army that ended in 2001, Marrone was equipped with expertise but no college degree. While in the Army, his facility with computers earned him a position as a network systems administrator, which he thought would serve him well as he transitioned into the "real world." He was able to earn contract positions at computing giants IBM and Microsoft but was told pointedly by superiors that despite his experience and information technology certifications, he would never be hired full time without a college degree. "The job market was very challenging," he says. "I realized that just having experience without a degree wasn't going to cut it." In his mid-20s and supporting himself, Marrone knew he couldn't afford to take time off from work to earn a degree, no matter how badly he needed one. [See our complete coverage of Online Education.]

» Napster, Udacity, and the Academy Clay Shirky Fifteen years ago, a research group called The Fraunhofer Institute announced a new digital format for compressing movie files. This wasn’t a terribly momentous invention, but it did have one interesting side effect: Fraunhofer also had to figure out how to compress the soundtrack. The result was the Motion Picture Experts Group Format 1, Audio Layer III, a format you know and love, though only by its acronym, MP3. The recording industry concluded this new audio format would be no threat, because quality mattered most. Who would listen to an MP3 when they could buy a better-sounding CD at the record store? If Napster had only been about free access, control of legal distribution of music would then have returned the record labels. How did the recording industry win the battle but lose the war? The story the recording industry used to tell us went something like this: “Hey kids, Alanis Morisette just recorded three kickin’ songs! But who faces that choice? But you know what?

Size Isn't Everything - The Chronicle Review By Cathy N. Davidson James Yang for The Chronicle Review My reading material to and from London recently for the annual open-source programming event known as Mozfest, or the Mozilla Festival, included two glossy magazines focusing on the future of education: the November 19 cover story in Forbes and the entire November issue of Wired UK, an offshoot of the American magazine. Should educators be delighted by this unexpected attention—or very, very worried? A little of both. Let's look at Wired UK first. Featured are both Negroponte 1.0, the editorial that launched Wired in 1993, and the new Negroponte 2.0. Given that such 20/20 foresight is rare, it is worth paying attention to Negroponte 2.0. He also still maintains a position he stated long ago: "Computers are not about computing, but everyday life." If you are a traditional educator, you should be scared. So what's different in 2.0? "Educational reform" is also on the lips of many college presidents and policy makers these days.

The University’s Dilemma By one, and only one, measure, the institutions of higher education around the world are remarkably successful: They reach far more people today than ever before. About a third of Americans over the age of 18 have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher — up from less than 20 percent 30 years ago. In the rest of the world, far more people than in the past are seeking higher education, especially in emerging economies, where immense numbers of young people yearn for professional careers. First, they fail to help students fulfill their goals. Second, the cost of a college or university degree is out of control. Third, institutions of higher education fail to meet the needs of another critical constituency: employers. In the business world, such poor performance typically leads to industry restructuring fueled by new entrants, as well as innovation by a subset of incumbents. For years, experts have predicted that online learning would change the basic operating model of higher education.

Open Online Courses: Higher Education of the Future? - Techonomy By Eric Rabkin One instructor’s firsthand look behind the scenes of the movement offering online education to the masses. I am “teaching” a MOOC, one of those massive, open, online courses through which Coursera and, more recently, edX offer people around the globe challenging learning experiences through a simple internet connection: video mini-lectures, machine-graded problem sets in some courses, peer-evaluated essays in others, discussion boards, and more. There’s no cost or credit for the “students” yet, but could this point the way to the “schools” of the future? I would guess that in forty-two years of on-campus teaching at the University of Michigan I have worked with between 12,000 and 20,000 students. As soon as most humanities colleagues hear about this course, their first response is, “Good luck grading all those essays.” These people also educate me. I feel a genuine connection with these people as, it seems, some feel with me, just as one does in a traditional classroom.

The MOOC movement is not an indicator of educational evolution Somehow, recently, a lot of people have taken an interest in the broadcast of canned educational materials, and this practice — under a term that proponents and detractors have settled on, massive open online course (MOOC) — is getting a publicity surge. I know that the series of online classes offered by Stanford proved to be extraordinarily popular, leading to the foundation of Udacity and a number of other companies. But I wish people would stop getting so excited over this transitional technology. The attention drowns out two truly significant trends in progressive education: do-it-yourself labs and peer-to-peer exchanges. In the current opinion torrent, Clay Shirky treats MOOCs in a recent article, and Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University, writes (in a Boston Globe subscription-only article) that traditional colleges will have to deal with the MOOC challenge. Two more appealing trends are already big. “I believe in everything never yet said.”

Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Education - Eric Hellweg - Our Editors by Eric Hellweg | 12:12 PM January 29, 2013 The advent of massively open online classes (MOOCs) is the single most important technological development of the millennium so far. I say this for two main reasons. While at Davos, I was fortunate to attend an amazing panel — my favorite of the conference — with a murderer’s row of speakers. Why this disruption is happening: Peter Thiel, partner, Founders Fund “In the United States, students don’t get their money’s worth. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What is the nature of education as a good?’ Where we are in the evolution of this change: Larry Summers, former President of Harvard “It’s important to remember this really wise quote when thinking about the transition to online education: ‘Things take longer to happen than you think they will and then they happen faster than you think they could.’ Daphne Koller, founder of Coursera “We’re at 2.4 million students now. Raphael Reif, president of MIT “We manage this transition very carefully.