What-the-heck Happened in 2012? Review of the Top Three Events in Education

This was an extraordinary year in the education sector providing bloggers and journalists  with much content to write about: ed-tech start-ups, big data, open courses attracting thousands of students and even some institutional drama  in the mix. Several bloggers I follow have done an excellent job in summarizing the years’ events; my review is on a lighter note, a digest if you will on the three most significant topics [in my opinion] of 2012. Each event includes a synopsis of the topic with links to blog posts and articles summarizing and exploring what-the-heck happened in 2012.

THE MOOC! The movieimage by Guilia Forsthye
THE MOOC! The movie, image by Guilia Forsthye

1) The xMOOC movement caused a certain level of mania, hysteria and irrational decision-making by numerous educators and their institutions in 2012. It also sparked controversy, discussion, change—just what is needed to address the challenges facing education. Audrey Watters of Hack Education wrote a stellar summary, The Year of the MOOC, chronicling developments over the entire year. From another perspective, Tony Bates wrote a thoughtful piece, ‘Why MOOCs?’ in his year-end post Online learning in 2012: a retrospective. 

With the influx of several universities partnering to create massive platforms for MOOCs, [MITx, Coursera and Udemy], co-founder of the original MOOCs, Stephen Downes [with George Siemens] clarified the terminology for MOOCs [which educators are surely grateful] before things started to get really difficult to follow, “I am now referring to the MOOCs offered by Coursera, Udemy and MITx (among others) as xMOOCs, to be compared with cMOOCs, which is what we offer in our connectivist classes.” (Downes, 2012).


2)  Ed tech Start-ups were HOT this year, and fueled by the significant sums of money investors were willing to part with. A few attracted millions of dollars including Udacity, Coursera and Knewton, of which collectively have taken in well over fifty million dollars to date.There are numerous other smaller start-up companies wanting to take advantage of the current quest within the education sector for improved access and quality, and to lower costs.  Edudemic wrote a good review, 25 Start-ups Worth Knowing. The best article I read this year about an ed-tech start-up, was Simplicity and Order for All, about Jack Dorsey founder of Twitter and a new platform ‘Square’. Dorsey is quirky, artistic and brilliant. The article sheds light on the motivation behind an idea—what sparks and drives the innovation in the first place.

EdSurge, a newsletter about ed tech start-ups published a list of the Top Educational Tools of Q2, 2012 based upon web traffic from readers.  Another helpful resource, from Jane Hart founder of Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT), is the Top 100 Tools for Learning, which Jane has published for the past four years. Click here the 2012 edition; it’s a worthwhile read as Jane includes a slide share presentation that describes each tool.

iStock_000008045233XSmall3) Big [Educational] Data, data, data everywhere also sparked much discussion and a quest to find new and novel ways to use the tremendous amount of data that educational institutions are keepers of. Though as more discussions and reports are generated, policies and decisions made, questions began to surface that included, ‘how can we use the data effectively’? And ‘what are the ethics behind big data in the collection and reporting of’?

I wrote several posts within the last few months about learning analytics, a branch of big data, including this one about instructors and students, How instructors can improve student engagement with learning analytics. George Siemens is a leading scholar in this area, has conducted several key notes, written several papers, and in October of 2012 posted content from the Second International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge that he was involved with.

Looking Forward to 2013
The year of 2012 was tumultuous but exciting at the same time. Though I’ve covered only a fraction of the year in this post, the links to the blogs provided will direct you to more comprehensive coverage.

What will 2013 bring?  What are your predictions for next year? I have a few of my own which I’ll share in early January. Thank you to you, my reader, for taking the time to read this blog and, to those of you that have shared your own insights with comments. I wish you Happy Holidays and restful season.  I look forward learning from you, and with you in 2013.