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  • PCAST to Release Report on Future of the Research Enterprise.  On Friday, November 30, the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will hold a meeting to discuss IT R&D, STEM Education, and Online Courses (see agenda (PDF)). In addition, it will release a new report entitled Transformation and Opportunity: The Future of the U.S. Research Enterprise. The report will address “specific opportunities for the Federal Government, universities, and industry to strengthen the U.S. research enterprise.”
    • Date: November 30, 2012
    • Time: 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.
    •  Location: Lecture Room of the National Academy of Sciences  Building, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW ,  Washington, D.C.; Register to attend this public event here.
    • View the live webcast here.
  • From Dubai
    • Resetting the bar: comment from a World Economic Forum Council member in Dubai after following some MOOCs and listening to Daphne Koller’s impassioned presentation,

    Now I get it.  This is the death of mediocre teaching.

    • Up for discussion
      • Change
      • Institutional roles
      • The university versus education
      • The impact of technology
      • The changing nature of students
    • Global agreement vs. Disconnect:
      • Agreed: Education has a role
      • Confusion:  Relevance of institutions
    • Scary concept of the day:  “Global Governance” Former PM Gordon Brown hammered this home.  The last thing we need is a European-style bureaucracy to act as a gate-keeper for higher education.
  • Why is social innovation grafted onto the margins of institutions of higher education? (Note: Where are the liberal arts in these discussions?  See my blog post about the not-so-liberal arts)
    • Complex coupling of learning and value in many cultures – there is no American-style consensus about that this means (more about “Social Contracts and the Global Wisconsin Idea” another day — but see my discussion of The New Wisconsin Idea in Abelard to Apple).
    • Service learning
    • Humanitarian technologies
    • What is the global version of the Morill Act?
  • What is the role of access when all content is accessible?
  • Global reactions to MOOCs (discouraging variety)
    • President of a THE top ranked research university.

    That is not a role that my institution is interested in undertaking.  There is a certain class of institution that may be interested, but it is certainly not our class.

    • Another president:

    We would be just as happy with no students at all

    • Faculty member (no institutional affiliation):

    Neither I nor my colleagues have the slightest interest in this [online technology].  If it is not related to my research I am not interested

    • Faculty member (no institutional affiliation):

    There are no rewards for this

    • Expert in emerging technologies:

    This has no relevance to me or my work.” [This is related to the debate over institutional relevance]

  • Global Reactions to MOOCs (encouraging variety) from Ed Lazowska, University of Washington:

The biggest change I see is that everyone on campus is talking about education and teaching.  At a research university that is a big deal.

  • Big Idea of the Day – Privacy Risks from Learning Analytics
    • As more fine-grained data is gathered and stored in the Cloud privacy risks spike.
    • See Knewton’s Jose Ferreira’s excellent video
    • Threats
      • A: Technology
      • B: Surveillance
    • Most legislation in the US predates the internet and GMailWhat are some of the risks?  Learners can be tagged with damaging labels because of their trajectory through online courses: “slow learner” vs “smart” even though the labels have no relationships to learning outcomes.
      • Electronic Communication Act of 1986 – much lower standard for investigators than wiretaps
        • Warrant for unopened email
        • Much weaker standard (e.g., relevance) for
          • Documents stored in the cloud
          • Opened email
          • Archived email whether read or not
        • Role of FERPA
    • What are the unique risks posed by Big Data
      • Information from many sources can be combined by investigators
      • There are incentives for more data and longer retention times
      • Users are not aware of how much data is being collected
      • Information playing field is tilted toward large institutions (e.g., states, corporations)
      • Amplifies advantages and disadvantages
    • “Capricious” use of stored data
      • Insurance
      • Credit worthiness
      • Law enforcement
    • What can analytics reveal that violate reasonable privacy expectations?Without sharing, learning analytics data is not very useful, so we should assume that sharing will occur.
      • Failures
      •  Past Associations
      • Mental Instability
      • Financial History
      • Behavior of acquaintances and family members
      • Personal indiscretions
      • Social Security Number and other protected identifiers
      • Legal proceedings regardless of outcome
    • It is beyond the state of current technology to share private data from learning analytics while simultaneously
      • Limiting disclosure
      • Ensuring data utility

      Jeff Selling writes in CHE: College Presidents Tone Deaf on Value:

      Whatever tools we settle on, the efforts to measure value start at the top of the institution and the groups that represent higher education. And right now, college presidents are either tone deaf to the concerns of the public or they don’t believe in their own product.

      Diary 2012 P4

  • Syracuse chancellor Nancy Cantor resigns.  New Wisconsin idea versus perception of  quality at Syracuse.  It is not a mark of quality (per Michael Crow)
  • Big Idea:  Let’s shift attention away from institutions toward students
    • Replacement for credentialling
    • Accreditation value chain: courses –> curricula –> programs –> degrees
      • students can select courses
      • Noodle can suggest a curriculum
      • A transparent matching system can map the curriculum to quality curricula
      • A recommender can create quality clusters
      • In such a world what is the value of degrees and institutions?
    • Overheard:  “Silicon Valley questions whether a degree means anything any more…”
    • Overheard:  “Is the degree more than the sum of its parts?”
  • David Wiley was a pioneer in advocating open accreditation:
    • Accountability
    • Transparency
    • Market forces
  • I think you have to question any activity that does not add value to the degree.  Accreditation might be one of these.
  • Self-perpetuating professions:  professions that have no discernible impact on educational quality

  • Random conversations at the edX institutions:  “There is no strategic discussion on this campus of the future of higher education.”  A speaker proposing massive changes: “We will all disappear.”
  • The very idea that a study exists to contradict experience draws overt hostility:  discussing Academically Adrift a senior faculty member reports: “I find that [referring to the Arum/Rokser finding that 45% of students show no measurable increase in learning after two years of college] very hard to believe. The students I see as Juniors are measurably better than they were as Freshmen.”
  • Big Idea: Daphne Koller seminar at Georgia Tech:  Benjamin Bloom’s  2 Sigma Problem is  a driver of the Koller/Ng approach to MOOCs.  It has been known for 30 years that the mastery classroom moves who populations by one standard deviation.  1-1 tutoring moves it another, hence “2 Sigma” Why have institutions ignored this result?  It would require abandoning normative testing.  Non-normative assessment is widely thought to depress productivity, but the long-term effects of future failure are not  considered in those calculations.  Bottom line is that the technology enables  a solution to 2 Sigma.  Who will sign up to the obvious challenge?
  • Woody Flowers in the MIT Faculty Newsletter writes about MITx and edX:
    • In edX’s MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), I believe we have a product without a strategy. We should design products that help us improve while also helping schools everywhere. MOOCs do neither…
    • I believe MOOCs are a fad. Right now, their purveyors are preoccupied by a race to volume.
    • Collections of inexpensive “course badges” could undermine the value of a diploma and society would realize too late that critical thinking, creativity, and professionalism are not easily adopted or evaluated via a screen. Imagine what state legislatures might do to their state’s college budgets. What would happen to the symbiotic relationship between education and research?
  • Global discussion among higher ed leaders focused on the winner-takes-all aspects of  MOOCs.  There are other possible outcomes because consolidation is not an inevitable consequence of serving new markets.  It seems to me equally likely that there will be a very long tails in which the marginal cost of defining and launching a new, specialized university .
  • How to blend:  the NPR model for online education: 50% highly produced content + 50% local content.
  • As the the Adrift-denying professor mentioned above illustrates it’s a constant struggle between data and how you feel about what’s going on.  How you feel about it has no effect whatsoever.
  • “Education theory is like a toothbrush.  Everybody has one, but nobody wants to use someone else’s.”
  • Merrick Furst in today’s C21U meeting:  “It’s all about value.  If you get that wrong then these discussions [of future scenarios for institutions like Georgia Tech] don’t matter at all.”

  • Big idea of the day: Data analytics comes to higher education.  A few things seem to have changed.
    • Scale.  The major players are focused on big data analytics. Beyond mere search.
    • Personalization. RT delivery of an educational experience tailored to learning styles, needs, learning objectives at the level of the individual learner
    • Granularity. Candace Thille (http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/ote/WhoWeAre/index.html) calls it Nano-Scale data collection. Knewton’s Jose Ferreira talks about Atomic Concepts.
    • Cannot allow data monopolies.  Stovepipes are unacceptable.  Open sharing and interchange standards are essential.
    • Jose Ferreira: Knewton’s capturing in the hundreds of thousands of data per user per day. We’re capturing what you’re getting right, what you’re getting wrong, what answers you’re falling for if you get something wrong, what concepts are in that answer choice that you’re falling for. We’re also capturing when you log into the system; how much you do; what tasks you do; what you don’t do; what was recommended that you do that you didn’t do, and vice versa. Your time on task for every little task, whether it’s reading something or doing a practice question or watching something. Your click rate—how fast you’re clicking on stuff. You can imagine one student accessing different material. If her click rate increases between math and verbal—maybe she’s going through the verbal a little faster—maybe it’s a little easier for her. (http://chronicle.com/article/A-Conversation-With-2/132953/)
  • Shifting from an institution-centered view to a student-centered view. How will we shift processes, assessments, credentials, identities to track learners through out their lives? Sebastian Thrun observes that learners’ lives have changed.
    • Old: short period of education followed by long period of work
    • New: learning, reinvention, work intertwined
  • Along the lines of big data:  Noodle is a cradle-to-grave education recommendation engine. “We’ve created a dynamic recommendation engine that will deliver highly compatible and personalized search for ‘best-fit’ education solutions,” (http://edtechdigest.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/interview-using-your-noodle-with-joe-morgan/) 2Tor’s John Katzman is Chairman.

  • Online debate raging at Georgia Tech regarding “Why we should rule MOOCs, and how” — email thread among CS faculty is now a week old and involves nearly 30 faculty members on all sides of the issue.
  • Education Sec. Arne Duncan kicks off invited symposium of leaders in higher ed innovation at meeting designed to drive productivity in postsecondary education
    • Duncan will ask for commitments in areas like creating sustainable faculty buy-in, MOOCs, and predictive analytics
    • 175 attendees selected by Dept of Ed and WH OSTP who are jointly sponsoring the event
    • Represented — Coursera, Udacity, eDx.  Also @openstudy, @C21U and others.
    • Call to action will result –stay tuned.
    • Move from islands of excellence to systems.
    • Duncan acknowledged pros and cons for MOOCs but also said classes with tens of thousands of students are something new and you can’t ignore new things.  At the very least this kind of scale was not happening five years ago.
    • Watch #higheredinn
  • Essential reading:  Ithaka report (barriers-to-adoption-of-online-learning-systems-in-us-higher-education) co-authored by former Princeton President Bill Bowen: Barriers to Adoption of Online Learning in US Higher Education
  • Deadline for Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation proposals aimed at bending the cost curve in the first two years of college using MOOCs. 20 courses account for most of the cost and there may be more efficient, more effective delivery models.
  • When will accreditors take another look at online delivery? Online universities like WGU have been at it for awhile, but open courseware presents new challenges.  There will be announcements over the next few weeks.
  • Online universities teach down to their students. Overheard at one of the prominent online universities: Let’s select a degree name and then see if we can fit it into the envelope that we think represents our students. Too much math? No problem, we can just get rid of it because our students will never be able to handle it.
  • Big idea of the day:  Everyone is talking about about bending the cost curves by getting 80% of education for 50% of the cost.  Question — can we get 120% of education (measure the outcomes however you wish) for 80% of the current cost?  This is a different kind of challenge and it cannot even be framed without fundamentally rethinking how we structure and deliver educational experiences.  It almost surely requires technology to mediate it. Hal Plotkin (#higheredinno) made the point earlier today.  With technology the “you can’ts are different.”