Need-to-Know News: edX Reveals Surprising Results from MOOC Study & New online model “Skillfeed”

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.

Of the numerous developments last week, edX the MOOC consortium revealed startling data in a research paper that details behaviour patterns of students in the Circuits and Electronics (6.002x) MOOC. Educators involved in MOOC instruction or development will find this research insightful. Shutterstock, a company that provides digital images for a fee, launched a platform for tech courses under a subscription model, which may be a direction online learning providers will follow. Finally, I’ve included two new, and quite unique ed tech tools that may be of interest to K-12 and/or higher education instructors.

1) edX’s Surprising Results Reported in First Research Paper on MOOCs

edx_logo
edX.org

When edX first formed, its president Anant Agarwal emphasized that one of the core reasons driving the consortium’s initiative was research— the platform would be used to analyze and share results of new educational methods afforded by technology. Up until this point there has been little discussion about courses and/or results from the edX platform, Coursera and Udacity have dominated the headlines. Yet edX should be taking a different path given its not-for-profit premise. And this week we did [finally] get a glimpse into what appears to be extensive research going on behind the scenes. The Open Access journal, Research & Practice in Assessment released the paper Studying Learning in the Worldwide Classroom Research into edX’s First MOOC.

Abstract
“Circuits and Electronics” (6.002x), which began in March 2012, was the first MOOC developed by edX. Over 155,000 students initially registered for 6.002x, which was composed of video lectures, interactive problems, online laboratories, and a discussion forum. As the course ended in June 2012, researchers began to analyze the rich sources of data it generated. This article describes both the first stage of this research, which examined the students’ use of resources by time spent on each, and a second stage that is producing an in-depth picture of who the 6.002x students were …. [and the] pedagogical components [that] contributed to their level of success in the course.” (Breslow, Pritchard, DeBoer, Stump, Ho & Seaton, 2013)

Insights:

  • Over 90% of the activity on discussion forums resulted from students just viewing /reading what others students had written—these students did not post, or comment or contribute in any way to discussions threads. Perhaps we need to change our way of thinking about how students use discussion forums, since students that do contribute can enhance and deepen learning and comprehension for students that don’t/or are unable to contribute. Though these silent students may be considered passive, this may not be the case, nor should they be considered lurkers. These students may very well be learning and making sense of course material on their own terms.
  • The demographics of the student body are notable. Over 155,000 students enrolled from over 194 countries, yet the the country that provided the largest percentage of students was the U.S. with 17% of the 155,000, followed by India at 8% of the total, the UK at just over 5%, followed by Columbia (4%) and Spain (2%). Only 622 students from China enrolled (less than 1%). These numbers suggest that language and culture are potential barriers to MOOC participation. The paper provides further details and data.

2) New Online Platform for Tech Skills: Skillfeed

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 12.58.24 PM
Screen shot of skillfeed.com home page.

Shutterstock Inc. announced the launch of an online learning marketplace [platform] featuring online instruction via videos for amateurs and professionals working with digital images and media. Skillfeed is similar to Khan Academy, but is for people looking to learn just-in-time skills needed for working with digital media. But, rather than a free platform, or pay-by-course model, it is a subscription based [and quite affordable] model.

[Skillfeed is] “Designed for brushing up on existing skills or developing extensive new ones, Skillfeed offers two types of courses: 1) Comprehensive Courses – Videos of 20 minutes or more, designed to develop in-depth professional skills, such as HTMLor Adobe InDesign, 2) Skill Snacks – Short videos you can watch on your lunch break to pick up new tips and techniques on a range of topics from Photoshop to video editing.”  Press Release, June 4, 2013

Insights:

  • An appealing format that is easy to use for the busy professional or amateur that wants specific and high quality instruction, and is willing to pay for it.
  • This subscription format has great potential—I can see a market for such platforms as professionals look to simplify the search process for quality instructional videos in specific skill areas, and as a source for ongoing professional development.  Skillfeed.com

3) Ed Tech Tools

  • Storybird: “Storybird lets anyone make visual stories in seconds. We curate artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspire writers of any age to turn those images into fresh stories.”
  • Text2MindMap: “The simple way to create mind maps online. Text 2 Mind Map has provided a free and simple mind mapping tool online since 2008.”

Have a great week.