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.