Need-to-Know-News: An Anti-MOOC Contest, edX & the Future of Higher Ed, New Ed Tech Tools

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

In this post I’ve included key developments that surfaced this week, one which featured Anant Agarwal president of edX sharing his views on the future of higher education, MOOCs and edX in multiple venues. And MOOC news continues but with a twist—a contest announced this week Reclaim Open Learning that appears to be anti-MOOC. I also discovered two novel ed-tech tools that may be of interest to educators, perhaps worthy of testing out this summer.

edx_logo1) Anant Agarwal, president of edX
This past week I’ve read and heard more on Anant Agarwal’s views on higher education than I’ve read about in the past year since the launch of the MOOC platform he founded, edX. But I find his views about higher education somewhat disconcerting. Disconcerting given edX’s role in shaping higher education with MOOCs, as is evident in the licensing partnerships edX is entering in with  numerous universities, public and private, to use edX’s content and platform to supplement courses. Agarwal appears not to be offering a new or revolutionary mode of learning for students that adapts and puts the focus on the 21st century student, but is rehashing the traditional learning in the form of video taped lectures, and introducing a blended model of learning. Blended learning is not new, in fact it has been around for several years. Though Agarwal calls this model, SPOCS, an acronym for small, private, online courses. edX has plans in place to license SPOCS to a dozen California State University campuses from autumn this year. I’ll not review each source of Agarwal’s views in-depth, but provide an overview and link to the original.

  • The TIMES of UK featured Agarwal in MOOCs? They’re a cracking good idea (Parr) where Agarwal discusses his entrepreneurial background and edX, the non-profit venture, focusing specifically on the licensing arrangement with universities for its content.
  • Agarwal participated in MIT’s Learning International Networks Consortium last week which online learning expert Tony Bates also was involved in. Bates’ wrote two blog posts well worth reading that summarize key presentations and themes of the Symposium. But it is Bates post MOOCs, Magic and MIT that was most telling of edX’s direction. His post discusses why MIT ignoring 25 years of research into online learning and 100 years research into how students learn in its design of [edX] online courses.
  • Released this week was the recording of a panel discussion through Innovation Hub, College 2.0, The Future of Higher Ed featuring four educators, one which was Agarwal. I watched the entire panel discussion, which I wrote about in a previous post, though the low-down is that Agarwal seemed the most myopic about the future of higher education of the four panelists—he seems to be looking through the lens of edX.

2) An Anti-MOOC Contest
The Reclaim Open Learning Innovation contest was launched this week— a small contest sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, the Digital Media and Learning Hub, and MIT Media Lab. I was somewhat puzzled when I first read about the idea—I wasn’t aware that open learning had been lost or forgotten. Before MOOCs the majority of people were not even familiar with the open learning, or aware that Open Educational Resources [OER] existed. However, the team has an interesting idea, “to find the five best examples of innovation happening right now in higher ed” that are not MOOCs. The last phrase [that are not MOOCs] is not included in the verbiage on the website but is implied.

“The internet is an amazing place for learning. But recent high-profile forays into online learning for higher education (the MOOCs) seem to replicate a traditional lecture-based, course-based model of campus instruction, instead of embracing the peer-to-peer connected nature of the web. The networked and digital world offers an unprecedented wealth of resources for engaged, interest-driven, lifelong learning. Reclaim Open Learning intervenes in this debate by supporting and showcasing innovation that brings together the best of truly open, online and networked learning in the free wilds of the Internet, with the expertise represented by institutions of higher education”.  Reclaim Open Learning

Winners of the contest will receive a $2000 honorarium and be invited to present at a summit on Reclaiming Open Learning at UC Irvine on September 26-27, 2013. To find out more about the contest click here.

3) Novel Ed Tech Tools

  • Tapestry. Tapestry is an ever-growing collection of short, beautiful, tappable stories. I’ve read about Tapestry before, but it appears to have developed into a highly functioning writing and creative application that could be used as a tool in K-12 and higher ed learning. Tapestry is a mobile application and designed for creating, collaborating and sharing short stories and presentations.
  • VideoAnt. A simple and useful tool for annotating videos and creating dialogue. This tool is getting great reviews. Great potential for sharing and discussing media clips with students, either for flipped classroom learning, where annotation could be part of the assignment before coming to class, or for group projects where groups create, comment and discuss each others created videos.

These are the highlights this week, but for more you can follow keep-up-to-date with other news I come across through my Twitter feed @OnlineLearningI.

4 thoughts on “Need-to-Know-News: An Anti-MOOC Contest, edX & the Future of Higher Ed, New Ed Tech Tools

  1. I had not heard about Tapestry, Debbie – it looks nifty! I will check it out. I hope it also generates a page with the text of the page; that’s the kind of “app trap” that it’s easy to fall into – for teachers, you’d need a text based version in addition to the text-as-graphics. I liked the one about the hawk and the pigeon outside the man’s window (“Lunch”).


    1. Hi Laura, Glad you found Tapestry interesting – thanks for bringing the point forward about the text based version as a need for teachers. I read an interesting on about how to use Linked In for networking which I was surprised that someone would use Tapestry as a vehicle for that type of presentation! Thanks for reading Laura and commenting. 🙂


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