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Multilitteratus Incognitus

Traversing the path of the doctoral degree

MOOC Completion...according to whom?

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The other day I had an interesting (but brief exchange) with Kelvin Bentley on twitter about MOOC completion.  This isn't really a topic that I come back to often, given that completion-rates for MOOCs, as a topic, seems to have kind of died down, but it is fun to come back to it. To my knowledge, no one has come up with some sort of taxonomy of the different degrees of completion of a MOOC†.

But let me rewind for a second.  How did we get to the topic of MOOC completion?  Well, I've been attempting to make my extended CV more accessible (to me).  In the past, I used a WYSIWYG HTML publishing platform to manage my extended CV‡.  The idea was that I could easily export it and just push it on the web.  In practice, I never did this, and when I changed computers it became a hassle to maintain. So, I moved everything over to google docs for cleanup (and easier updates).  In cleaning up my CV sections (I am not done, btw!), I did make a startling self-discovery. In the time-period 2013-2016, I binged on a lot of xMOOCs!😅  The most notable platforms were Coursera, Edx, Udacity, but there were others such as the now-defunct Janux (Oklahoma University) and Open2Study (Australia Open University), as well as overseas platforms like MiriadaX and FutureLearn.  In the time period 2011-2012 I didn't have a lot of MOOCs, mostly because during this period a lot were cMOOCs and xMOOCs hadn't really spread like wildfire.

This realization now begs the question: "How many did you complete?" (and you guessed it, Kelvin asked it...).  My answer comes in the form of a question "based on whose metrics and measures?".  When you sign up for a paid course (e.g., professional development seminar, college course, certification prep course, etc.) I think that there is an unspoken assumption that the goals of the course mirror, to a greater or lesser extent, the goals of the learner♠.  Can this assumption be something that transfers over into the world of a free MOOC?  I personally don't think so.  I've long said that the course completion metric (as measured by completing all assignments with a passing grade) is a poor metric.  One very obvious reason to me was that people simply window-shop; and since there is no disincentive to unenroll, people don't take that extra step to leave the course formally, as they would with a paid course where they could receive a refund. I've been saying this since xMOOC completion rates were touted as an issue, but few people listened. Luckily it seems that people are changing their minds about that (or just don't care 😜). I guess George Siemen's advice to Dave Cormier holds true for my own rantings and ravings: publish those thoughts in a peer-reviewed journal or they don't exist 🤪 (paraphrased from a recent podcast interview with Dave).

Assuming that we exclude window-shoppers from our list of completion categories♣, what remains?  Well, instead of thinking of distinct categories (which might give us a giant list), let's think of completion in terms of whose perspective we are examining.  On the one extreme, we have the learner's perspective.  The extreme learner's perspective is characterized by total control by the learner as to what the goals are. In this perspective, the learner can be in a course and complete a certain percentage of what's there and still consider the course as done. Why?  The learner might have prior knowledge, and what they are looking for is to supplement what they already know without going through the hoops of any or all assessments in the course. They've probably evaluated the materials in the course, but if they already know something, why spent a lot of time on something already known? Or, an item that should be done to obtain 100% completion is only available in the paid version (some FutureLearn courses are like this), and are inaccessible to learners on the free tier.

On the other extreme, we have the perspective of the course designer. This is the perspective that most research studies on completion seem to adopt. The course designer is working with an abstracted learner population, with abstracted goals.  The outcomes of the course might be based on actual research into a learner group, they might be based on the intuition of the course designer, or they might just be whatever the course designer has an interest in preparing (sort of like the Chef's soup of the day, it's there, you can have it, but it doesn't mean that this is what you came into the restaurant for).  In a traditional course (the ones you pay and get credentialed for) it makes sense that a learner could simply go along for the (educational) ride because they are paying and (presumably) they've done some research about the course, and it meets their goals. In a free offering, why would a learner conform to the designer's assumptions as to what the learner needs? Especially when a free offering can (and probably does) gather the interest of not just aspiring professionals, but people in the profession (who presumably have some additional or previous knowledge), as well as hobbyists who are free-range learning?

Given those two extremes of the spectrum, I would say that there is a mid-point.  The mid-point is where the power dynamic between the learner and the designer is at equilibrium.  The educational goals (and what hoops the learner is willing to jump through) 100% coincide with what the designer designed. Both parties are entering the teaching/learning relationship on equal footing.  If you lean over a little to one side (learner side), the designer might consider the course incomplete, and if you lean over to the other side (the designer side) the learner might start to feel a bit annoyed because they have to jump through hoops that they feel are not worth their while. Some might begrudgingly do it, others not, it really depends on what the carrot is at the end of that hoop.  For me, a free certificate or badge did the trick most times. The threat of being marked as a non-completer (or more recently the threat of losing access to the course altogether 😭) however does not motivate me to "complete" the course on the designer's terms.

That said, what about my experience?  Well... my own behaviors have changed a bit over the years.  When xMOOCs first hit the scene I was willing to go through and jump through all the hoops for the official completion mark.  I did get a certificate at the end; and even though it didn't really carry much (or any?) weight, it was a nice memento of the learning experience. Badges were custom made (if there were badges), and the certificates were each unique to the MOOC that offered them.   Back in the day, Coursera had certificates of completion (you earned the minimum grade to pass), and certificates of completion with distinction (you basically earned an "A").  It was motivating to strive for that, even though it didn't mean much. It was also encouraging when MOOC content was available beyond the course's official end, so you could go back and review, re-experience, or even start a bit late.  As we know, things in the MOOC world changed over the years.  Certificates became something you had to pay for.  Sometimes even the assessment itself was something you had to pay for - you can see it in the MOOC but you can't access it.  Peer essay grading on coursera wasn't something that I found particularly useful, but I was willing to jump through the hoops if it meant a free moment at the end of the course (achievement, badge, certificate, whatever). Once things started having definitive start- and end- dates♪ , and content disappeared after that when certificates (which still we're worth much to the broader world) started costing money, the jumping through the same silly hoops (AES, CPR, MCEs, etc.) it just didn't feel worthwhile to go above my own learning goals and jump through someone else's hoops.

So, did I complete all those MOOCs?  Yup, but based on my own metrics, needs, and values.

What are your thoughts on MOOC completion?  Do you have a different scale? Or perhaps defined categories?





Marginalia:
† There may be some article there somewhere that I've missed, but in my mission to read all of the MOOC literature that I can get access to, I haven't found anything.

‡ What's an extended CV?  It's something that contains everything and the kitchen sink.  That workshop I did back in 1999 for that defunct software?  Yup, that's there...because I did it, and I need a way to remember it. It's not necessarily about the individual workshops, but about the documenting of the learning journey.  The regular CV is somewhat cleaner.

♠ Maybe this assumption on my part is wrong, but I can't really picture very many reasons (other than "secret shopper") that someone would pay money to sign-up for a course that doesn't meet their goals.

♣ Window-shoppers I define as people who enroll to have a look around, but either have no specific educational goals they are trying to meet (e.g., lookie-loos), or have goals to meet, but they deem the MOOC to not meet them (e.g., "thanks, but not what I am looking for"). Either way, they don't learn anything from the content or peers in the MOOC, but at the same time, they don't unenroll since there is no incentive to do so (e.g., a refund of the course course).

♪ e.g., module tests deactivating after the week was over and you couldn't take them - AT ALL if you missed that window
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MOOC CPD & SpotiMOOCdora

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Last week (or was it two weeks ago?) I did my rounds on coursera, edx, miriadaX, and futurelearn and I signed up for a few new MOOCs.  I had also signed up for a course that a colleague was promoting on Canvas (innovative collaborative learning with ICT), but I've fallen behind on that one, not making the time commitment to participate.  The list of missed assignments (ones that I can no longer contribute to) actually is demotivating, even if my initial approach was not not do many assignments (or rather, play it by ear, and decide on whether I'd like to do some assignments during the MOOC). Maybe this coming week I'll 'catch up' in some fashion ;-).  The interesting thing is that there is a forum in Greek in that MOOC, which is motivational to see what my fellow Greek are doing in the arena of ICT and collaboration. I guess I still have a few more weeks before the MOOC ends...

Anyway,  I digress (probably not good practice for the dissertation).  Today's post was spurred by a recent essay on the MOOC on Inside Higher Education, where the author looked at her prognostications and examined them in the light of information we currently have about MOOCs. It is a little disheartening that the original MOOCs (connectivist MOOCs) are sort of gone (at least I don't really see a ton of connectivist stuff happening these days), and the xMOOC variety seems to be going more and more toward money making.  Even with the MOOCs I've just singed up for, there really isn't an option for a free certificate anymore.  You can still go through the course - which I am to do on my own sweet time (opportunity to explore the classics), but even a basic certificate is not free any longer. Another thing that going into this mix is thinking about continual professional development. In the two departments I am mostly connected with (applied linguistics and instructional design) graduates of these programs often need PD credits in order to maintain a teaching license, or to continue to hone their skills. Usually this is done through free webinars, in-service training, or taking additional graduate courses (depending on your field of course). This got me thinking about two things: MOOCs as CPD (which isn't really a new idea), and the all-you-can-eat MOOC (or SpotiMOOCdora - after services like spotify and Pandora).

My first pondering is this:  given that institutions such as Georgia Tech are offering a $10k MA in the MOOC format, why not consider a smaller leap into CPD (professional development courses)?  I know that maybe doing an entire MA might be a bit of leap for most institutions, heck even a certificate might be a bit of a leap (aka 'micro-masters' in the MOOC world), but CPDs have a different set of expectations and requirements, and they are often not available for graduate credit (some are, but most in my experience are not). I think it would make a ton of sense to develop professional development courses in a MOOC format, that are available for free for a target audience (let's say teachers of high school biology).  The payment can come in the form of assessment, or an in-person fee for a facilitator that brings together the course content of the MOOC (that people have done previously) in an active learning paradigm.

The second pondering is this:  Is there a market for either an all-you-can-eat month-to-month subscription to a MOOC? An example of this would be Amazon Prime video, Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and so on.  If not all you can eat, how about a model that's more like Audible, where you get a book per month and you can spend your unused tokens anyway you want (if you are still working on a book, you can bank the token for another month for example).  If either of these models works, then what would be an appropriate price?  Netflix and Spotify at $10/month; audible is $15/month for example.  The reason I am pondering this had to do with the costs of certification.  I don't know what the secret sauce in certification is, but edx is asking me for $200 to get a certified certificate of completion (this sounds redundant).  What does $200 get me?  I don't get college credit for it, and (for me) the joy of learning is internal, so $200 is better spend elsewhere. For instance $200 gets me lifetime subscription to my favorite MMORPG...when said subscription is on sale (lots of hours of fun and additional content). Comparatively the edx certificate seems like a poor value proposition.

What do you think about these ideas?  Does a monthly subscription MOOC make sense?  What is the value proposition?  And, can we resuscitate the cMOOC?   Thoughts?
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No more blatantly openwashing

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I am a little behind the times in this breakneck-speed of development in the world of MOOCs, but some things (namely EDDE 804) have priority over the comings and goings of xMOOC providers. Close to a month ago IHE had reported in their quick takes section that coursera will remove the option of free for some of their courses.  Blink, and you may have missed it.  I also don't recall seeing much discussion about it in my usual edTech circles.

My original thought was that coursera was just barring access (period) to some courses if you don't pay, however it seems that the actual process is a little more nuanced.  From the coursera blog:

Starting today, when you enroll in certain courses, you’ll be asked to pay a fee (or apply for Coursera’s financial aid program) if you’d like to submit required graded assignments and earn a Course Certificate. You can also choose to explore the course for free, in which case you’ll have full access to videos, discussions, and practice assignments, and view-only access to graded assignments. You’ll see the options for each individual course when you click “enroll” on the course information page; courses that aren’t part of this change will continue to show the options to enroll in the course either with or without a Certificate. Most courses that are part of Specializations will begin offering this new experience this week, and certain other courses will follow later this year.

Now, to anyone who does not know how coursera 'graded' courses work, there is no instructor who grades your assignment.  If payment were required to compensate a human being for their time to grade, and provide feedback, on your assignment it would make sense.  However graded assignments are multiple choice exams - done by computer, and peer-reviewed assignments, done for free by your peers.  To some extent this seems to me like a replication of the peer reviewed journal publication model where a lot of work is done for free by volunteers, and then those same volunteers (or rather their institutions) are asked to subscribe to very costly databases to access those journals articles that were written or reviewed by their members for free.

Coursera, in a sense, if becoming a bit like a temporary-access YouTube for educational videos.  If you want something for free, you can come in and access it when it's available  - or if you're lucky it's "on demand" and hence perpetually accessible...until it isn't - and you can watch videos on (mostly) their schedule, because once the course is over...it's over and you no longer have access to videos.  At least EdX (up to now) still allows you to go back and view your past course videos.  In the past, before the new interface, coursera actually had a little download button for the videos in their courses, and I availed myself of the use of that button to keep some archival copies of those videos.  They've come in handy when I've wanted to view them on my tablet or smartphone and I am offline.  Now that capability is gone.

It seems to me that the trend here is to continue to openwash their products while we uncritically accept them as yet another provider of "open" content.  I do get it.  I have an MBA.  I get the responsibility to turn a profit and returning the initial investment (plus some extra for their faith in you) to the investors that put money into coursera.  However, I think you're going about it wrong, and openwashing isn't a great (or ethical in my book) practice.  If you are more honest about what you are doing and completely shed the "open" adjective then we're cool.  But let me ask you this, from a business perspective, how are you different from self-paced elearning outfits like Lynda.com; and how are you going to avoid the same mistakes as FATHOM?  I am not seeing a plan for you...

Thoughts?
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A way to visualize MOOC students...

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Even though this semester is relatively calm, compared to last semester, I still find myself not writing as much as I think I would like.  I've set aside, temporarily, the book I was meant to have finished reviewing last October, on MOOCs, until the semester ends and I can focus on them a little more.

One reason for the refocus of energies is EDDE 804. We are focusing on leadership in education, and I am finding myself spending a lot more time pondering the topic.  I was going to be "ruthlessly pragmatic" and just focus on the assessments, but the cohort members provide for some really interesting discussion and points to ponder.  Another thought that crossed my mind was this: am I over MOOCs?  There was a time when I used to check out coursera, edx, futurelearn, and the other not-so-usual suspects for new courses, however these days going to those sites seems more like a chore than anything else.  I've downloaded a whole bunch of videos from previous courses that I signed up for, and they are on my iPad, but I haven't made a (serious) dent in them yet.  I am looking forward to Rhizo16, which is coming later this year in May.  Perhaps I am looking forward to it, more so than any xMOOC offering, because it will be when the semester ends and I have some brainpower to spare.

I've also been thinking that the xMOOC has really evolved into something that I, at the moment, find completely boring: a self-paced course.  The visual queues and user experience that you get from the new and improved coursera reminds me a lot of how self-paced courses are laid out.  Sure, there is a 'discussions' area, however that - the social presence aspect - seems a little adjunct to the straight up content.  I really liked when I used to be able to just download the content (so much for 'open') and view it on a device of my own choosing, whenever I chose, however the new setup has broken the coursera downloaders that have existed thus far. This, to me, shows how much UX matters.



That said, I've also been pondering the question of who comes into MOOCs.  I know, I know! Lots of analytics and published research from the xMOOC providers and their partners seem to indicate that people who join MOOCs are, generally speaking, educated individuals with at least a BA, but I've been thinking of potential visualizations for this data. Ever since I took part in DALMOOC and played a bit with Tableau, I've been thinking that one of the first hurdles to analyzing MOOCs is to see (1) who is coming and (2) who is engaged.  Especially if we want to consider the potential of MOOCs for employment purposes.    On the way to work today I was scribbling down a way to visualize MOOC participants based on work experience, whether or not they were actively looking for new work, and their educational background.  The visualization that I came up was as follows:


The y-axis on the positive side goes from unemployed (but looking) to 12+ years of work. This comes mostly from HR job descriptions and how desired work experience is generally put on job descriptions.  On the y-axis, "negative", you have unemployed but not looking, all the way to people who are retired.

I generally go to MOOCs because I am curious about the topic and want to learn more.  More often than not it has nothing to do with my dayjob.  It's just me being a lifelong learner.  However, if we are to look at MOOCs for employment purposes we really need  to look skills.  Both skills people bring to the table, which helps somewhat with the instructional design process, and skills that people are looking to attain.  While this is a pretty crude picture of who is a learner in MOOCs, I think that it is an important dimension to examine from our past  7-8 years of MOOCs.  I wonder if people have been keeping data.

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What's the usual half-life of an intellectual interest?

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Now that school is over, and grading is almost over for the course I am teaching this semester, I finally have an opportunity to go through and continue my quest to read existing MOOC literature.  I had started this past September reading a collection of articles in an IGI publication titled Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses which I got electronically for a limited time in order to do a book review.  Needless to say that between work, school, and personal priorities this book review (and reading of articles) went in the back, back, back burner.  I also noticed that colleagues Markus Deimann and Sebastien Vogt published a special issue on MOOCs in Europe on IRRODL recently.  It would not be an understatement to say that I could probably take a year off from my EdD program just to read all the MOOC related research that has been published (and retrieved) in the past two years.  I'd say it's been gathering dust, but it's all in two drawers, so it's pretty dust-proof ;-)

That said, even my friends and colleagues have noticed that I don't utter the venerable acromyn as much any longer - despite its promenance on this blog.  So, as I was thining about xMOOCs, cMOOCs, pMOOCs, rMOOCs, and all the other wonderful acronyms, I am wondering what the average half-life of a research interest (or curiosity) is.  I've been thinking about MOOCs since 2011, when I started with LAK11, CCK11, and MobiMOOC. I've worked on a number of fruitiful collaborations with a variety of groups on the subject. I've even been deemed as the MOOC expert on campus (as much as I don't like the title of expert). That said, I've noticed that my interest in coursera, edx, canvas network, and other MOOC providers has really wained.   Maybe it's because I am spending much more time on my PhD.  Or, maybe I've just burned the fuse on the subject of MOOCs and there is a need for academic renewal.  I am not sure.

So, the question is this:  How often do academics change their research interests?  Obviously the answer is probably not something that can be generalizable, however there should be trends that can help shed some light on this.  Do people in the academe pick a topic and stay with it for considerable periods of time, or do most of us act like bees, going from flower to flower based on an ever-changing set of interests?  While I am not aiming for a tenure track position (there are way too few of those around to even bother), I do wonder, if the opportunity ever arises, if a record of going from topic to topic (with no long term commitment to any specific topic) is something that can hurt those prospects for employment in a tenured position.

Thoughts?
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MOOC Cheater! I caught you!

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This past week the web was abuzz with new research to come out of Harvard and MIT on cheating identification in MOOCs, specifically xMOOCs hosted on the edX platform, but I suspect that any platform that collects appropriate analytics could see this used.  The title of the paper is Detecting and Preventing "Multiple-Account" Cheating in Massive Open Online Courses and it's an interesting read. I find the ways of crunching data collected by web-servers as a way of predicting human behavior fascinating.  While I am more of a qualitative researcher at heart, I do appreciate the ways in which we can use math, data, and analytics to derive patterns.

That said, my main argument with the authors of the article are not the methods they use, but rather the actual utility of such an algorithm.  The authors write that CAMEO (Copying Answers using Multiple Existences Online)† is a potential threat to MOOCs because

  1. CAMEO is highly accessible. Anyone can create additional accounts, harvest answers, and not be dependent on someone else to provide the cheater with the answers.
  2. Anyone can sit down in one sitting and acquire certification for a MOOC
  3. Therefore cheating via CAMEO can really lower the value of MOOC certificates, or just render them valueless.
  4. As an added bonus, CAMEO, it is pointed out, is counter to the ToS of the various xMOOC providers.
While I think that the process is interesting, I think that the authors' cautionary tales are part FUD and part bunk.  Yes, CAMEO is accessible to everyone.  If I had nothing better to do I would most likely create a few more accounts on Coursera and edx so I could ace my tests.  So what? It doesn't mean that I learned anything, and on top of that edx institutions have no (or little) skin in the game.  The reason why cheating is treated so seriously on campuses is because Universities lend their names and reputations to the students who graduate from their schools. Thusthe learners gain credibility by virtue of the credibility of the school.  I have not seen this happen in MOOCs yet.  MOOCs are not treated the same, at least as far as credibility goes, as traditional school environments.  I am not saying that they can't be, but they are not now.  In instances where we come closer to having the same level of skin in the game, we have verified certificates where people are proctored when they take these online exams.

The second issue, of being able to sit down in one sitting and get a certificate, is really a non issue. Some people already know the stuff that is covered in the MOOC, but they don't have a way to show that they already know the stuff.  Going through a MOOC where they can just sit down and take the assessments (if all of them are multiple choice anyway), means that in a relatively small time-span they can get some sort of acknowledgement of their previous knowledge.  There is nothing wrong with this.  This actually happened to me last summer.  I was interested in the Intro to Linux MOOC on edx.  Once the thing started I realized that through my peripheral linux use over the past 15 years I already knew the basics.  The course wasn't directed toward me, but I ended up taking the tests and the exams (which seemed easy) and I passed the course way before the closing date.  I suppose that the course rekindled the linux flame and got me using Ubuntu on a daily basis, but from just a course perspective I could be considered a cheater if concern #2 is one thing that pulls cheaters to the forefront.

Finally, the worry about diminishing he value of the certificate of completion...Well... hate to burst your bubble, but I would argue that certificates of completion for MOOCs are nice little acknowledgements for the learner that the work was done, but in real life they have little meaning to anyone but the learner. A certificate of completion may mean something to a current employer who may have asked you to undertake some sort of course, but it's really just a rubber stamp.  The rubber meets the road when you need to apply what you've learned, and neither a MOOC, not traditional corporate training (for that matter) can ensure that you can perform.  There need to be additional on-the-job support mechanisms available (if needed) to make this happen.  A certificate just means that you spent the requisite amount of time in front of a computer and you got some passing grade on some assessment (well, maybe - some corporate trainings have no assessments!).  At the end I wouldn't worry about the diminished value of a certificate of completion because it has no value.

To be fair, the authors do talk about the limitations of their findings, such as only having suspected cheaters, and not having confirmed their suspected cheaters with reality, but they also talk about the reality of trying to prevent "cheating" in MOOCs.

I would have found this paper much more interesting if it weren't so value-laden and steeped in preventing "cheating" in MOOCs.  Cheating, to me anyway, means that you have something substantive to gain by taking the shortcut.  In learning the only substantive thing to gain is the knowledge itself, and there is no shortcut for that (unless someone has invented a matrix-style knowledge dump machine and I can learn kung fu now).

Your thoughts?


NOTES:
† There is a line in the pilot episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Agent Colson asks Skye if she knows whatStrategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division means and she responds that someone really wanted it to spell SHIELD.  I couldn't help but think about this when CAMEO was spelled out..
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Ready for Campus Technology!

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Well, the count down has begun for Campus Technology (and AAEBL) 2015 :-)  I am looking forward to this conference!  I just got a press release about the keynote speakers of the conference (pasted after this message).  The names are ones that I don't recognize, but the institutions seem pretty interesting.  I bet I will most likely have some snarky tweets, but I'll do my best to take the snarkyness (especially when it comes to MOOCs).


Higher-Ed Conference Attendees to Connect with Nationally Acclaimed Tech Leaders

BOSTON – Higher education technology leaders will gather at Campus Technology (CT) 2015 in Boston July 27-30 to share their experiences and strategies for innovating colleges and universities across the country. Throughout the four-day conference, these five keynote speakers will equip attendees with the tools they need to lead their campus innovation and vision: Beth PorterPaul LeBlancShawn NasonJordan Brehove and William Perry.         

The annual CT conference invites CIOs, instructional designers, campus IT administrators and faculty members from private, public, community and online colleges and universities across the country to listen to and engage with industry experts as they discuss the latest technology trends.
“Every year we work to assemble the leaders who are driving the industry because we want attendees to know the future of collegiate IT,” said Mike Eason, CT General Manager. “This year’s keynote speakers provide everything from profound experiences to next-generation ingenuity.”

Porter, edX Vice President, will discuss the edX evolution and impact. Porter leads the strategy, development and implementation of edX’s product roadmap and has spent her career envisioning and developing computer-enabled and online teaching and learning experiences.

LeBlanc, Southern New Hampshire University President, will offer a broad look at the dramatic changes in higher education and outline an approach to innovation and institutional reinvention. LeBlanc is innovating higher education with College for America, a new program that replaces the three-credit course system with self-paced exams and 120 core competences.

Nason, Xavier University CIO, and Brehove, MakerBot Vice President of Professional Services, will discuss the emergent role of 3D printing in higher education. Nason and Brehove will reference the use of 3D printing at Xavier University with the deployment of a MakerBot Innovation Center as a means to address some of higher education’s biggest questions.

Perry, California State University Chief Information Security Officer, will discuss the history of cyber-attacks, how they occur and what IT leaders can do to manage incidents and decrease their risk to organizations. As Chief Information Security Officer, Perry manages the system for the largest public higher education institution in the world. 

For more information regarding conference keynote speakers, registration packages, sessions, speakers, workshops and general conference details, visitcampustechnology.com/summer15. Join the conversation by following the conference on Twitter (@CT_Events) and using and searching the hashtag#CampusTech. For even more CT updates, “like” Campus Technology Events on Facebook and join the Campus Technology Events LinkedIn group. View CT 2014 session videos on the Campus Technology Events YouTube channel.
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I dream of dissertation...

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Week 1 of 15, of semester 2 of 8, of doctoral work is about to end!  The course that my cohort is focusing on this semester is a research methods course. Luckily neither I, nor it seems many of my classmates, are that new to research methods.  It's nice to have the group (or at least quite a few members of the group) exposed to the basics so that we can spend some time in critiquing and going deeper (and that's something we did on our cohort's facebook group this week anyway).  I also appreciate the fact the course isn't setup to only allow for one path through the course.  There are certainly foundational materials that we are expected to read and know, but for presentations it seems like we have a ton of choices in terms of what research methods we choose to present.

I've been thinking about the assignments and I think I will spend some time exploring research methods that I haven't had a ton of exposure in, or methods that I've been meaning to go much deeper into.  I think I will spend some time with Discourse Analysis - I've got a few books on my bookshelf that need  some reading on the topic, and I think I will focus on autoethnography.  Some members of the #rhizo14 community(and I) are working together on an autoethnographic paper (aka the un-paper) for a special issue of a journal and for an OLC conference presentation.  Autoethnography is new to me, so I guess I'm trying to kill two birds with one stone - both the paper for the journal and something for this course.  The whole aspect of autoethnography is making me think of the dissertation.  I've gone through many potential ideas for a dissertation topic including using design-based-research to convert the course that I teach (INSDSG 684) from a closed, institutional, course to an open course.  Seeing that the course was cancelled last fall (for low enrollment) and that this semester I don't even have the minimum amount of student to run the course, I am not sure that banking on this approach is wise. I may find myself with a re-designed course, fully open, but without learners.  No learners means no data, and no data means that there is little to write about.

In doing some initial work on autoethnography (and this is really preliminary at this point), I was thinking of using my own experiences as a MOOC learner (going 4 years strong in 2015) to write a dissertation about my MOOC experiences.  I am not sure if I will draw upon the previous 4 years, or if I will spend 18-24 months MOOCing in xMOOCs, cMOOCs, pMOOCs, rMOOCs,  and so on and do much more data gathering than I have done in the previous years.  While I have quite a lot of materials on this blog for MOOCs (over 200 blog posts...and counting) the current collection of data I have might be considered haphazard in its collection.

With the explosion of MOOC platforms, and the languages available, I am thinking that I could really sit down and learn in the various languages I know (including French, Italian, Greek, and so on).  It has been a really long time since I've considered myself an xLL (x = insert language of your choice) Language Learner.  One of the areas of research in linguistics is in ELLs (English Language Learners) and how students who have another native language are learning academic materials in a language that is not their own.  When I returned from Greece in 1994 and I started High School in the US I was, in earnest, an ELL.  While the seeds for English were in my head (I was born here and spent some years here before I moved to Greece), my language development wasn't the same as fellow classmates who were English speaking-only and had their schooling in English all of their lives.  It's obvious, at this point, that English is a language that I am no longer considered an ELL in. However, how about French, and Italian, and even German (my German isn't that great). I could pick up new knowledge in MOOCs, interact with classmates (in dreaded discussion forums), and not only pick up something new, but improve my language capacity in those languages (in theory). I think this might make an interesting dissertation.

The only trepidation I have is the method: autoethography.  While I do acknowledge the importance of critical theory in education and in research, and the validity of the researcher's and their experiences as the object of research, part of me is uncomfortable with this. Is studying and researching one's self just a tad bit narcissistic? Also, what about validity and applicability of the research findings - from a scientific point of view.  From a humanistic point of view what I write will be valid, as my own lived experience, however what would my dissertation committee think of this approach?  Something to ponder.  What do you think?



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DALMOOC, episode 2: Of tools and definitions

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My Twitter Analytics, 10/2014
Another day, another #dalmooc post :)  Don't worry, I won't spam my blog with DALMOOC posts (even if you want me to), I don't have that much time.  I think over the next few days I'll be posting more than usual in order to catch up a bit.   This post reflects a bit of the week 1 (last week's) course content and prodding questions. I am still exploring ProSolo, so no news there (except that I was surprised that my twitter feed comes into ProSolo.  I hope others don't mind seeing non-DALMOOC posts on my ProSolo profile.

Week 1 seemed to be all about on-boarding, of tools and definitions.  So what is learning analytics?  According to the SOLAR definition, "Learning Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs." It's a nice, succint, definition - which I had honestly forgotten about since I was in LAK11.

Analytics has interesting potential for assisting in learning and teaching. Data collected from social interactions in the various learning spaces (the LMS comes to mind as the main one, but that's not necessarily the only one, external-to-the-LMS and internal-to-the-LMS spaces can also count as learning spaces in their own right), learning content (learner-content interaction for instance), and the data on the effects of various interventions and course changes can potentially yield useful insights.

These insights might be about the learning that might be happening, participant's patterns of interaction, their feeling and attitudes toward people and non-animate resources, how people learn, and what they might be doing next based on what they've already done (predictive analytics?).  My main issue with learning analytics is that those with whom I've interacted about analytics seem to feel like this is a magic bullet, that analytics will be some sort of panacea that will help us teach better and help our learners learn.  A similar thing which we've seen with the MOOC-hype mind you. 

The truth is certain this cannot be quantified yet, and things that are quantified can't always tell us what's going on.  As an example, I had a conversation with a colleague recently who came to me because of my background in applied linguistics and educational technology. The query was about text response length (presumably in discussion forums?) and student achievement; were there any studies around this topic?  The answer (at least according to my knowledge of the field) was no, there aren't studies like that (that I know of).  That said, even if someone wanted to do a study around this, I think that the study is flawed if you only look at textual comments in a discussion forum from a quantitative perspective.  Length doesn't really tell you much about the quality and relevance of the posted text, other dimensions, qualitative ones, need to be examined in order to come to better conclusions (good ol' Grice comes to mind as another possible analysis dimension). Don't get me wrong, I think there probably is some positive correlation between text length in a goldilocks zone for response length, but response length isn't the end-all-be-all determinant of student achievement. If the only rubric for me getting an "A" is an essay of 4000 words, I'll just give you Lorem Ipsum text :-)

Another thing pointed out in week 1 was that there are Ethical implications and privacy issues around the use of analytics.  I think that this is a much larger topic.  If it comes up in a future week I'll write about it (or if you really want me to write about my thoughts on this earlier, just leave a note).

So, those were the definitions. Now for some tools! There were a number of tools discussed such as
NodeXL (free, Social Network Analysis tool), Pentaho (30 day trial, integrated suite), IBM Analytics suite (integrated suite, definitely not free), SAS (integrated suite - also not free), R Language (free), Weka (free, java based).  R is something that we use in Corpus Linguistics analysis.  I haven't delved too much into that field, but I am considering it since there are analytics related corpus projects that might be of interest.  One of my colleagues might be teaching this course in the spring semester so I'll see if I can sit in (if I have time.  Not sure how much time EDDE 802 will take). SNAPP (free) was another tool mentioned, and this is something I remember from LAK11.  I've tried to get this installed on our Blackboard server over the last few years, but I've been unsuccessful at convincing the powers that be.  I'd love to run SNAPP in my courses to see how connections are formed and maintained amongst the learners in my classes.  This is one of the issues when you don't run your own servers, you're waiting for someone else to approve the installation of a Bb extension.  Oh well... Maybe in 2015. 

Anyway, those are all the tools that we won't be using directly in DALMOOC.  These are the tools that we will be using: Tableau (paid, but free for us until January 2015), Gephi (free), RapidMiner (has a free version) and, LightSide (free).  Gephi I already downloaded and installed because I was auditing the Coursera Social Network Analysis course that they are currently running.  I'll be going back to those videos in January (or next summer, it all depends on EDDE 802) and messing around more with it then. I know we'll be using it here, but I am no sure to what extent.  Tableau I already downloaded and installed last week on my work machine.  I'll be messing around with Week 2 data when I get back in the office on Monday.  This looks pretty interesting!

Finally (for this post anyway), DALMOOC has a bazaar assignment each week. Here is the description:
In this collaborative activity, we will reflect on what you have learned about the field of learning analytics. We would like you to do this portion of the assignment online with a partner student we will assign to you. You will use the Bazaar Collaborative Chat tool. To access the chat tool, click on the link below. You will log in using your EdX ID. When you log in, you will enter a lobby program that will assign you to a partner. If it turns out that a partner student is not available, after 5 minutes it will suggest that you try again later.  

For experimentation purposes I know I should give this a try, but I probably won't do these bazaar assignments. I have an affinity for asynchronous learning (as Maha Bali put it in one of her posts) :)



SIDENOTES:
1) Great to put a face to a name.  Realized that Carolyn Rose and Matt Crosslin are part of this MOOC. Carolyn is writing a piece of the upcoming special issue of CIEE (this used to be the Great Big MOOC Book), and Matt and co-authoring a piece of the special issue  of CIEE journal for summer 2015 on the Instructional Design of MOOCs

2) Carolyn mentioned in one of the videos that statistics are pretty cool.  I've been lukewarm on them since I was a college undergraduate, mostly because I mess up the math and my numbers don't make sense ;-)
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DALMOOC, episode 1: In the beginning

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Alright, I guess it's time to start really committing some braincells (and time) to DALMOOC, the Data, Analytics, and Learning MOOC that started last week on EdX.  I wasn't going to attend this MOOC, to be honest about it, but seeing that George Siemens was behind this, I knew that there was an experimental aspect to it. Learning analytics is not new to me, my first MOOC (cMOOC) in fact was LAK11 (Learning Analytics and Knowledge) which I jumped into right after I finished my Applied Linguistics studies.

So, now that I have cleared my plate of a number of coursera MOOCs (decided to give myself the "audit" status and just download the videos for later viewing - maybe in January or something), and that most of my assignments are done for EDDE 801, I can devote a little more time to writing in the open web about academic stuff and ponderings about academic stuff.

So, what brought me to DALMOOC? The first thing that brought me to it is this xMOOC/cMOOC structure that I've written about before.  A pure xMOOC, for me, is like TED talks.  I see little incentive to do assignments for xMOOCs (although I must admit that my track record on edx is a little better than on coursera). A cMOOC can be overwhelming for some, but the chaotic structure is appealing to me.  I like getting content from peers.  Videos don't always provoke me to think outside the box, peer's postings sometimes do, and that's where the spark of thought occurs and provokes me to think about things that I haven't thought about before, and to elaborate on things that I have thought about for both my benefit and hopefully other's benefit (the whole "being the teacher helps you make headway in your own learning" theory).

Once I signed up I discovered other great aspects, beyond learning analytics, about this MOOC.  The opportunity to mess around with software like Tableau for example is great, and getting to try out ProSolo. I had tried out Degreed.com and Accredible.com last summer but they seemed lacking that social aspect.  ProSolo (from the 15 minutes I've spent in it thus far) seems like a social network infused with learning.  Maybe I am reading into this, but from the recommendations I get, it reminds me a lot of the Recommender System that I had proposed for MOOCs two summers ago :-).  Anyway, I am looking forward to exploring ProSolo more (and probably reporting back here).

In any case, what's my game plan here? Explore the software for visualization of data, like Tableu, probably view a few videos each week, but I guess the core will be spend on ProSolo and on blogging.  Like other cMOOCs I've been part of I plan on picking up on what others write in their blogs and go from there.  The chaotic nature of cMOOCs does not scare me (I come armed with Pocket for later reading!) I will most likely not be part of the forums because they are usually a time-sink and there is no way to save posts for later reading.  This is one thing I liked about the forums of MobiMOOC, things came in the mail, I read the forum post, and if I had something to say I could respond right from my phone.  Perhaps this is the next user-interface innovation needed in xMOOCs, but I digress.

OK, I'm off to see where the daily digests are going for DALMOOC and watch this space for more sparks of thought on this MOOC.
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