Need-to-Know News: iVersity’s Contest, Students not-so College Ready & PD for Educators

In this ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series I aim 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 the traditional model of education.

MP900405500Several significant developments transpired this week in the education arena. I’ll highlight the key need-to-know stories here—events that will likely spark discussion and perhaps even debate among educators. iVersity’s MOOC contest has over 250 applications. Each applicant is vying to have his or her course featured on iVersity’s platform in Fall 2013—voting is open! Also, the National Center for Education and the Economy [NCEE] released a report on college readiness for high school students—results are distressing, and is more fodder for the discussion about education reform. And educators have new options for professional development online, courtesy of MOOC provider Coursera.

1) iVersity’s MOOC Fellowship Contest
The MOOC Production Fellowship Contest to date has over 250 MOOC applications from scholars around the world are in for review. The selection committee [called the jury by the fellowship], will choose ten courses, and each winner will receive 250,000 euros to develop and launch his or her course on iVersity’s platform for Fall 2013. Consideration is also given to votes from the Web public. One vote per person, and one must register on the platform to vote. Click here to view the submissions and cast your vote for the course you feel is worthy of winning.

What is the criteria? According to the website, the fellowship is looking for “creative, innovative and sustainable MOOCs”, though it’s not clear what the definition of sustainable is. The contest sponsors, Stifterverband and iVersity hope to “raise awareness for the potential of digital technology in education and seek to activate a process of creative adaptation within the academic community”.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 1.47.40 PM
Screen Shot of one of courses submitted to the MOOC Contest

The MOOC Applicants
The courses submitted to date are impressive. Each submission includes a brief video introducing the course (some are very clever), a course description, objectives and references. I perused the site and reviewed only a handful, and included three of my favorites below. The video clips that accompany each submission give an excellent two-minute [or less] synopsis of the [proposed] course.

2) Community College Faculty Set Bar Low for Students
The National Center for Education and the Economy [NCEE] released a [discouraging] report “What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready?”

NCEE has just released What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready?, a study of the English Literacy and Mathematics required for success in the first year of community college. On May 7th, during a day-long meeting, key education and policy leaders joined NCEE to discuss the results of the study and its implications for community college reform, school reform, teacher education, the common core state standards, and vocational education and the workplace.

Though the skills gap is nothing new, what is new is the research that shows how little community college educators expect from students—the bar is set low, way low. The study also found that assessments used in college classes were lacking, most consisted of multiple-choice questions that demand very little in the way of complex reading skills and no writing.

3) Professional Development for Educators
MOOCs may have found a niche, professional development for educators. Educators can collaborate and develop a network with other educators, which is what many cMOOCs have been doing for quite some time now. Coursera has taken a step in this direction.

Today we are extremely pleased to announce the launch of a teacher professional development category on Coursera. We believe that helping teachers improve their skills is an important contribution that we can make to the education of students everywhere. We are truly excited about the possibilities that having these courses available for free online, to be used independently or in a blended learning capacity, will open up for teachers, schools, and districts. []

Titles include Foundations of Virtual Instruction, Surviving Your Rookie Year of Teaching, and The Dynamic Earth: A Course for Educators. Click here for full list.

4) Saylor’s Updated Platform and New Courses
Saylors’ updates include dividing courses into three sections, 1) Saylor University, the core courses, 2) Saylor K-12, newly unveiled, pre-college courses, and 3) Saylor Professional Development. Visit

Have a good weekend. I will continue with my instructional design blog series on May 13.

Need-to-Know News: A MOOC Contest, the Week of Open, and California’s Bold Move

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.

MP900405500There are three hot topics creating much buzz this week in education around the world including 1) a MOOC contest with a stipend of €25,000 that is open to scholars from around the world that seeks to find the ten most creative and innovative MOOCs, 2) Open Education Week with new courses for learners and webinars for scholars offered around the clock, and 3) California’s bold announcement that’s rocking higher education institutions in California, and perhaps other public higher education institutions across the United States.

1) Calling all Instructors and Professors: A MOOC Contest
There is a contest for building a better MOOC—or at least building one that is sustainable and innovative. The contest is offered by the MOOC Production Fellowship sponsored by the open learning platform iversity and Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft. iversity is a learning management platform created by group of scholars based in Berlin.

The essence of the contest—the organization is looking for creative, yet sustainable courses to be offered in the open format, which means there are no barriers to entry, on the platform iversity, beginning in Fall 2013. My guess is that this contest is in part, an effort to promote iversity, which from what I gather is designed to be everything that traditional platforms aren’t. You can find out more about the contest by visiting the website, and I’ve highlighted the key points below:

  • A €25,000 fellowship will be awarded to 10 groups/teams with the most innovative MOOCs. The selection committee [jury] is a panel of nine that appears to be mostly scholars, though the web page states that there will be consideration of a public voting phase. I would like to have seen one or more students on the voting committee—a mix of individuals without advanced degrees that would be representative of potential MOOC participants.
  • Applications must be in German or English, though courses can be in any language.
  • Fellowship funds can be used for production costs, research and/or student assistants, equipment or a teaching buyout.

Further Reading:

5093053155_515aedf1e82)  Week of Open: March 11 – 15
I realize that Open Education Week is almost over, though there are many resources worthy of review, including the newly launched School of Open which resides on the P2PU platform.  There are also several webinars that cover various topics of related to open, offered on Friday, March 15—check out the schedule link below.

Further Reading:

  • Schedule of Events,  All events are in GMT time, check the time on the top right hand corner of the web page for a link to the time converter.
  • Open Education Week Website
  • The launch of School of Open, on P2PU which features numerous courses on  topics that all deal with openness and sharing on the Web, including Introduction to Open Science, which I was involved in developing with Creative Commons.
  • Resources for learning about and accessing Open content.
  • Check out the Twitter stream, #openeducationwk

3) California on the Move Again
The newswires are hot this week with an announcement made on Wednesday of proposed legislation that will affect three systems in California that provide public higher education which would mandate that public schools give credit for faculty-approved online courses taken by students that can’t register for the needed courses in the face-to-face classes on campus. This is big news, it leaves the door open for many possibilities, and though a step in the right direction, there will be challenges. Thoughts and highlights:

1) Online courses [a list of approximately 50 introductory courses] from a variety of providers may be accepted, not just MOOC providers, but courses offered through online providers such as StraighterLine, and independent colleges that offer online general education courses, of which there are hundreds. The latter format differs significantly from a MOOC—these are closed, online classes which use different pedagogical methods [I touched upon this topic in this post]. Below is a selection of text from the Bill:

(b) For purposes of this article, the following terms have the following meanings:(1) “Online courses of study” means any of the following: (A) Online teaching, learning, and research resources, including, but not necessarily limited to, books, course materials, video materials, interactive lessons, tests, or software, the copyrights of which have expired, or have been released with an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others without the permission of the original authors or creators of the learning materials or resources. [Bill SB 520]

2) There is the possibility that other states will follow, or at least there may be pressure for many to do so.
3) The wording, faculty-approved, is significant, as it could create a laborious and lengthy process in itself to approve courses.

We want to be the first state in the nation to make this promise: No college student in California will be denied the right to move through their education because they couldn’t get a seat in the course they needed,” said Darrell Steinberg, the president pro tem of the Senate, who will introduce the bill. “That’s the motivation for this.” (Lewin, 2013)

Further Reading:

Never a dull moment in the world of higher education. Stay tuned for more developments on Twitter @OnlinelineI

Photo Credits: Newspaper Airplane, iStock, and Open Access, PGRsOnline, Flickr