News-of-the-Week: Coursera Professor Quits, Making Degrees Cheaper without MOOCs, and Open Data Day

In this ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series my goal is to share noteworthy stories with readers that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform the traditional model of education.

Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 8.47.14 AM
Screenshot of Coursera’s new interactive tool that shows the global student base, as well as the university partners. From Coursera’s blog. Click on the image to link to the tool on Coursera.

More developments this week in the education news including Coursera’s  press release [and blog post] which announced that its adding 29 schools to its roster, bringing the total to 62 schools under its umbrella, and a UC Irvine Cousera professor drops out of his own course. A new ed-tech venture, Quad Learning Inc, just announced its program which aims to lower costs of a four-year degree with an $11Million initial investment. This post concludes with an overview of the events planned for Open Data Day, which falls on February 23, 2013.

1) Coursera … What Next?
I’ve never been one for soap operas, but apparently it’s the dramas that unfold weekly that keeps its viewers hooked. Look no further than Coursera with new developments happening each week that are enough to keep educational journalist, bloggers and  readers on the edge of their seats. The most recent event is none less than a professor dropping out of his own course. This event is on the heels of the recent fiasco with the Foundations of Online Education course at Coursera, which was suspended within the first week due to technical problems and a barrage of student complaints. The course has yet to re-open.

The Coursera professor that dropped out was from UC Irvine, and he quit the Mircoeconomics for Managers course he was facilitating halfway through over clashes with students. The professor’s statement suggests that he quit due to unresolvable differences on how to teach the course, …”Because of disagreements over how to best conduct this course, I’ve agreed to disengage from it, with regret,” Professor McKenzie. (Kolowich, 2013)

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 2.45.01 PM
Screen shot of the Story from MOOC student, Derek Bruff

According to the dean for distance education at Irvine, McKenzie blamed the students, “In Professor McKenzie’s view, for instance, uninformed or superfluous responses to the questions posed in the discussion forums hobbled the serious students in their learning”  (Kolowich). And from a student’s perspective, you get another version—Derek Bruff MOOC student, Storified the event, which you can read here.

My take: This is yet another example of two paradigms colliding, student-centered versus instructor-centered education. I wrote about these two different approaches in a recent post, and my concluding thoughts, “...what we do know is that instructors involved with massive courses, with thousands of students can’t control the outcomes of course, can’t direct the learning in a given direction, and can’t use an instructional strategy or methods that work for traditional courses.” And with the news that Cousera has just partnered with 29 more schools, adding to the 33 they already have, there’s bound to more clashes and drop-outs. With more than twice as many MOOCs, I see twice as many challenges.

Further reading:

2) A New Model to lower costs of four-year Degrees with Quad Learning
Move over MOOCs at Coursera, and edX, there is new program in town that is aiming to make four-year degrees more accessible with a new Web-based platform. But the courses are not about ‘massive’. Quad Learning just received $11miliion in funding which the start-up partners raised through New Atlantic Adventures. An overview of the program,

With tuition rates and debt loads going up, the idea is that a student could complete two years at a community college and then, with Quad Learning’s “American Honors” program, transfer to a top-200 university to finish the last two years of a bachelor’s degree program…the program is working to strengthen relationships between community colleges and state universities and provide clarity around the classes students need to take to be able to transfer. It’s also working on forging partnerships with universities willing to accept their transfer students (Huessner, 2013)

I’m not sure what I’m missing here, isn’t this what community colleges are supposed to be able to do for interested students already? Though apparently it is the Web-based platform that provides more rigorous learning experiences that includes smaller discussions with peers online, and provides other kinds of personalized and digital content through the web-based platform.

Further Reading

3) Open Data Day: February 23, 2013
It’s Open Data day tomorrow, and I’m participating in the Open Science Course Sprint, which is one of the many events that are happening around the globe. It’s my first education hackathon, and I’ll be a remote participant though there are also live participants at Creative Commons office, in Mountain View, CA. The goal is to create an open, online course that helps people learn about Open Science.  See links below for more information. I’m not sure how it will work, but I’m looking forward to it. My plan is to blog about the experience to share with readers.

Further Reading:

5 thoughts on “News-of-the-Week: Coursera Professor Quits, Making Degrees Cheaper without MOOCs, and Open Data Day

  1. Thanks for the info on Professor McKenzie’s difficulties. Interesting contradictions here for teachers and learners. By taking a course do we agree to accept the professor and the supporting content as “truth” or at least an understanding of the subject from a certain standpoint. In this case, it seems playing along with presentation and the logic behind it is what learning is all about. But what use is simple absorption or blind acceptance of authority? Isn’t there a value above the individual topic in developing an ability to intelligently question and even openly dispute what is presented?

    I wonder if online education needs a new definition of “authority” or a form of agreement? Simply shouting across the learning space seems fruitless.

    Like

    1. Hi Scott, So true, your comment in which you refer to open and online learning, the roles of students and instructors is being challenged now like never before. The model for learning – is it instructor-focused or student-focused? Stephen Downes wrote an excellent article, The Role of The Educator which speaks to this very topic, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/the-role-of-the-educator_b_790937.html

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Scott. Debbie

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s