Information technology, gadgets, social media, libraries, design, marketing, higher ed, data visualization, educational technology, mobility, innovation, strategy, trends and futures. . . 

Posts suspended for a bit while I settle into a new job. . . 

Entries in EdTech (12)


Libraries and EdTech

Sorry for the recent brief absence; it's been a busy few days. On Tuesday, it was announced that I've been appointed the inaugural Deputy University Librarian and Chief of Staff at the University of California, Davis. More here and here

My former Penn colleague, Steve Bell, argues in a recent post in his Library Journal column that academic librarians aren't tracking the current emphasis on educational technology at our universities and colleges. His observations strike a cord with me. Academic librarians, it seems to me, used to be among the campus's trend-setters in using information technologies and services to bolster their missions (the library's and the school's). Now, that torch may have passed to the domain of EdTech, and we have an opportunity to stay more current with developments (if not necessarily lead in their use at our schools). 

Left Behind by the EdTech Surge | From The Bell Tower

By Steven Bell on February 19, 2014Library Journal

There’s loads of activity happening in the world of educational technology. New startups. Dozens of websites for managing learning activities. Apps by the dozens. Academic librarians seem out of the loop. A few months ago I subscribed to the weekly email newsletter from an organization called EdSurge. It’s subtitled “a weekly newsletter for innovators in education.” Depending on you how you feel about the phrase “innovators in education,” you may be thinking that’s exactly who you are—or maybe you’ve had your fill of innovation talk. While EdSurge does dedicate about half of each issue to the K-12 startup scene, there’s also reporting on the latest educational technology resources and utilities. Some of these are startup websites that may or may not be here for long. What it reveals is a veritable flood of new educational technologies. It leads me to question if academic librarian educators are managing to keep up with all these new resources. Are we taking time to investigate and explore these new tools or are we falling back on our old familiar standbys? Based on some time I spent listening to an instructional technology discussion at ALA Midwinter, I think it might be the latter rather than the former.



Academic librarian educators can’t underestimate the importance of staying current with what is obviously an explosion of educational technology tools. They add value to what we may accomplish in our interactions with students, particularly when we need to leverage technology for out-of-the-classroom learning and interaction. They are also essential as a bridge to building relationships with faculty colleagues. Faculty have even less time than we do for exploring good educational technology tools. That creates an opportunity for academic librarians to connect with faculty on a level beyond providing help with library resources. We can, along with our educational technology colleagues, introduce faculty to tools that will help them save time, improve student learning, allow them to introduce gaming, or reach whatever goals they’ve established for themselves as educators. The information is out there. We need to grasp it, and then run with it—and share what we learn. That’s where our community really excels. Let’s just push ourselves a little harder. We’ll get there.

Full article at link. 



Trends in 2014: Higher Ed Tech

In Campus Technology, some sensible predictions by experts concerning the direction of higher education technology in 2014. For each of seven trends, several of five experts offer a perspective and a one-to-four-star "hotness" rating. 

The trends are 

  • Mobile platforms and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) (See also here.) 
  • Adaptive learning
  • Big data. (See also here.) 
  • Flipped classroom
  • Badges and gamification. (See also here.)
  • iPads and other tablets 
  • Learning management systems

What's Hot, What's Not 2014

5 IT thought leaders take the temperature of the biggest tech trends in higher education.

By David Raths; 01/23/14

The start of a new year has long been a catalyst for reflection and prognostication, and at Campus Technology it kicks off an annual tradition: taking the temperature of the top tech trends in higher ed. We asked five IT thought leaders to assess the "hotness" of everything from mobile devices and flipped classrooms to adaptive learning, badges and the LMS — and to explain the reasoning behind each rating.

Meet the panelists: Phil Hill (@PhilOnEdTech) is an educational technology consultant and analyst who has spent the last 10 years advising in the online education and educational technology markets. He is also an author, blogger at e-Literate and speaker, and he has become recognized in the ed tech community for his insights into the broader education market trends and issues. Rey Junco is an associate professor of library science at Purdue University (IN) and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. His research has focused on informing best practices in using social technologies to enhance learning outcomes. He blogs at Social Media in Higher Education. Malcolm Brown has been director of the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) since 2009. Previously, he was the director of academic computing at Dartmouth College (NH). Adrian Sannier is a professor of practice in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Engineering at Arizona State University. Previously Sannier was senior vice president for product at Pearson. From 2005 to 2010, he served as CIO and a professor in the Division of Computing Studies at ASU. Ellen Wagner is executive director of WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies), a division of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. She is also a partner and founder of Sage Road Solutions, providing advisory oversight for industry intelligence and enablement services and solutions practices. Previously, she was senior director of worldwide e-learning at Adobe and senior director of worldwide education solutions for Macromedia.

See link for full article. 


Whither MOOCs?

[January 17: however you feel about MOOCs, the hype has had the salubrious effect of heightening general interest in applying technology to boost education. That's a good thing.]

(See also here.) 

Remember the early 2000's I think there are multiple parallels between it and the current MOOC vogue. From the above

  • . . . [Fathom] use[d] the emerging World Wide Web as a strategic tool for extending higher education's reach to the public. 
  • . . .  [Fathom was an] online learning community for general audiences who desired the experience of "[. . .] being at a great university or a great museum" without having to attend one in person.
  • . . . [Fathom's] plan called for a) a broad range of multimedia educational content designed specifically for the website, not limited to course syllabi and resources (hence the partnership with archival institutions); and b) interactive features as forums, collaborative learning tools and groups, and expert-led discussions.
  • [Fathom's CEO:]  "Today, most initiatives by educational institutions are focused on courses. Courses are important, and courses for distance learning will be one of the offerings provided by some partners through Fathom. But learning is not limited to the classroom, and the many other types of content provided through Fathom will provide a more complete and accessible context for knowledge. We believe that Fathom will define the transformation of the online learning category into a broader interactive knowledge marketplace."
  • The specific types and styles of academic courses, marketed using the institutions' brands, varied widely. Courses were text-based yet included primary source documents, animations, interactive graphics, audio slide shows, and streaming videos.
  • Columbia University closed the for-profit corporation on March 31, 2003, keeping the web site's free content online until mid-2012. Although Columbia invested $25 million in the venture, and 65,000 people created accounts, Fathom failed to turn a profit, partly because few customers paid for any of the courses.

Gartner's "hype cycle" for technology; click to enlargeThere have been several stories about MOOCs in my feeds the past couple of days. See excerpts below with links to full stories. 

Fast Company  




There's a story going around college campuses--whispered about over coffee in faculty lounges, held up with great fanfare in business-school sections, and debated nervously by chain-smoking teaching assistants.

It begins with a celebrated Stanford University academic who decides that he isn't doing enough to educate his students. The Professor is a star, regularly packing 200 students into lecture halls, and yet he begins to feel empty. What are 200 students in an age when billions of people around the world are connected to the Internet?

So one day in 2011, he sits down in his living room with an inexpensive digital camera and starts teaching, using a stack of napkins instead of a chalkboard. "Welcome to the first unit of Online Introduction to Artificial Intelligence," he begins, his face poorly lit and slightly out of focus. "I'll be teaching you the very basics today." Over the next three months, the Professor offers the same lectures, homework assignments, and exams to the masses as he does to the Stanford students who are paying $52,000 a year for the privilege. A computer handles the grading, and students are steered to web discussion forums if they need extra help.

Some 160,000 people sign up: young men dodging mortar attacks in Afghanistan, single mothers struggling to support their children in the United States, students in more than 190 countries. The youngest kid in the class is 10; the oldest is 70. Most struggle with the material, but a good number thrive. When the Professor ranks the scores from the final exam, he sees something shocking: None of the top 400 students goes to Stanford. They all took the class on the Internet. The experiment starts to look like something more.

Higher education is an enormous business in the United States--we spend approximately $400 billion annually on universities, a figure greater than the revenues of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter combined--and the Professor has no trouble rounding up a group of Silicon Valley's most prestigious investors to support his new project. The Professor's peers follow suit: Two fellow Stanford faculty members launch a competing service the following spring, with tens of millions of dollars from an equally impressive group of backers, and Harvard and MIT team up to offer their own platform for online courses. By early 2013, nearly every major institution of higher learning--from the University of Colorado to the University of Copenhagen, Wesleyan to West Virginia University--will be offering a course through one of these platforms.

Suddenly, something that had been unthinkable--that the Internet might put a free, Ivy League–caliber education within reach of the world's poor--seems tantalizingly close. "Imagine," an investor in the Professor's company says, "you can hand a kid in Africa a tablet and give him Harvard on a piece of glass!" The wonky term for the Professor's work, massive open online course, goes into such wide use that a New York Times headline declares 2012 the "Year of the MOOC." "Nothing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty," its star columnist Thomas Friedman enthuses, terming the new category "a budding revolution in global online higher education."

It is a good story, as well manicured as a college quad during homecoming weekend. But there's a problem: The man who started this revolution no longer believes the hype.

Continues at link above. 

Chronicle of Higher Education 

November 25, 2013

MOOCs: Usefully Middlebrow

By Jonathan Freedman

I was having lunch with a brilliant, hip colleague in the digital humanities when the question of MOOCs came up. "MOOCs are over," she said. "Administrators haven't figured it out yet, but everyone else knows." My tech-savviest administrator friend agreed. Having taken two or three online courses to check them out, he admitted it: "MOOCs are a sideshow."

The problems endemic to MOOCs are well known: the high dropout rate, the variable quality of the offerings, evaluation methods that make educators roll their eyes, stale lectures, and tests that make you remember why high school was such a bad idea. And with their failures, the way in which they've been sold by credulous columnists like Thomas Friedman and the self-serving entrepreneurs whose arguments he parrots—that is, as a replacement for traditional brick-and-mortar universities—is looking increasingly tenuous. Always one step ahead of the curve, the godfather of the massive open online course, Sebastian Thrun (who notoriously proclaimed that in 50 years, there might be only 10 universities left in the world) has thrown in the towel. He's announced that, following a disastrous trial run at San Jose State University and plagued by ridiculously low completion rates, his start-up, Udacity, would henceforth focus on vocational training.

It is true that MOOCs are useful for learning certain delimited subjects—my administrator friend enjoyed his MOOC on statistics in everyday life, for example—or for brushing up on the latest information in a specific area. MOOCs also satisfy a vast and deserving market: the millions, if not billions, of people in the global South whose access to educational institutions is severely limited. But the dream of a MOOC U. fades with each empirical study showing their ineffectiveness, despite—or perhaps because of—a constant inflow of dollars from governments and universities.

Perhaps the greatest testimony to the aspirations and flaws of the MOOC U. movement is a comment by Bill Gates. In an interview, Gates was asked if, as a Harvard dropout, he'd consider returning to college:

"I don't know. I take a lot of college courses. The online free stuff has gotten very good in these new MOOCs, where Harvard is doing edX and there's Coursera, Udacity, the Learning Company DVDs. ... Meteorology, biology, geology—I highly recommend. I just took oceanography last month. ... It's kind of ironic that I'm a dropout. I love college courses probably as much as anyone around."

Gates's shallowness is impressive: Hey! I took oceanography last month. Next week I'll master phenomenology! But his words also suggest why MOOCs, for all their many and obvious failings, are with us to stay. They speak to the deeply ingrained American concept of learning as practical, manageable, bite-size (hence byte-size). Knowledge becomes a commodity you can buy rather than a product of a process that takes time, effort, and patience to master. Gates's words speak to a view of cultural attainments that we call middlebrow.

Continues at link above. 

Education DIVE precis of the above.

(About Education Dive: "Education Dive is an industry dashboard designed to keep educators connected with information that is critical to their jobs. We monitor news, trending commentary and social insights, stock market updates, jobs, industry research, and more. Our editorial team selects the most important, interesting, and relevant content for our dashboard.  Give us 60 seconds, and we can give you everything you need to know to stay ahead. And since we're optimized for your phone, tablet and desktop computer, you can access Education Dive from anywhere.")

Are MOOCs just watered-down learning for the masses?

By Daniel Shumski Nov. 25, 2013 

Dive Brief:

  • Writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jonathan Freedman argues that MOOCs are here to stay because they appeal to the American view of learning as practical and commoditized.
  • Freedman says MOOCs are just the latest way to bring "watered-down versions" of knowledge and culture to wide audiences, but he's not against them in all cases.
  • He sees MOOCs as having a role in spreading knowledge, but not as a substitute for a genuine university, where human interaction and scholarship are paramount.

Dive Insight:

Freedman's essay is well worth reading for passages like this: "Yes, the vulgarians who run Coursera and Udacity deserve to be swept into the dustbin of history, and the fact that they seem not to have figured out how to profit from their enterprises suggests that they'll soon be hoist by their own capitalist petard. When they are, the real action can begin. As the history professor Jonathan Rees puts it, the fast-­approaching post-corporate-MOOC world 'will almost certainly be a period of real pedagogical innovation conducted by people who are more interested in actual education than they are in becoming famous or just making a quick buck.' "

Education DIVE synopsis of Coursera news 

Coursera gets $20 million in funding

By Daniel Shumski Nov. 25, 2013 

Dive Brief:

  • Coursera has raised $20 million in new funding, bringing their total to $85 million since April 2012.
  • The money comes in large part from three university backers that the company did not reveal.
  • The company also announced two new hires from Netflix.

Dive Insight:

The news of the funding comes as Udacity pivots to focus more on vocational training, a move that Coursera co-CEO Daphne Koller says could have value: "If Udacity [and edX] want to go in another direction, I think it’s useful that people are exploring different areas.” 

Recommended Reading:

The Edtech Curmudgeon -- Michael Berman

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The MOOC is Dead, Long Live the MOOC

The recent "Thrun Pivot" [see above] as well as a study from U. Penn have thrown cold water on some of the stronger claims for MOOCs. Sebastian Thrun explains that MOOCs just don't work for "certain people" -- you know, the kind of people who find it hard to get a college education. There's nothing wrong with MOOCs, you see, they're great -- there's just a lot of people that aren't smart enough to use them. The solution? Give up on "democratizing education" and instead focus on vocational training for high-tech workers. Not only can smart, well-educated tech types (like Thurn perhaps?) build their skills with MOOCs, well-heeled tech companies will pay Udacity to expand the skills of these workers, and to get access to them for recruiting. It's actually a pretty good business model and, if you're someone who wants to have a successful start-up, it's probably a good strategy. It just doesn't have much to do with "Disrupting Education" or the "Education Revolution" and certainly little to do with "Democracy". (For a fine and witty analysis of Thrun and the Fast Company article about him, take a look at Mike Caulfield's blog.)

At the same time, it's become apparent that Coursera, another bold experiment in Democratizing and Disrupting, also disproportionately works to train those who already have a good education, those who happen to be male and in the upper economic brackets. Coursera can show you some heart-warming stories of “poor kids” from distant places who have changed their lives through education, but when you look at the "big data" it's pretty clear that Coursera's elite instructors from elite institutions are mostly teaching more of the world's elite to be more successful.

For those of us in the more traditional and less-elite higher-education trenches it's hard to suppress our glee. Many of us expressed doubts about the impact and the effectiveness of the MOOC as an pedagogical format. We felt resentment and, if we're honest, some envy as new-comers to the field were feted by everyone from Bill Gates to Barak Obama, and hailed by the New York Times as the great innovators come to show us that everything we thought we knew was wrong. From journalists like Thomas "the revolution is here" Friedman to the chortles of Clayton Christiansen ("50% of higher ed institutions will be in bankruptcy in 15 years") we were told that we had failed, we were obsolete buggy whip makers and we should get out of the way and let the savants of Silicon Valley wash over our ancient, overpriced, privileged institutions and replace them with gleaming virtual castles of technological goodness.

So it's reassuring to see doubts emerge about MOOCs. 

Continues at link above. 


Libraries and MOOCs

MOOCs are a current emphasis in higher education; what is the potential nature of libraries' involvement? 

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). Wikipedia (a little adulatory, but a good start for information.)

In EDUCAUSE Review (November 4), Curtis Kendrick and Irene Gashurov write a concise, very serviceable introduction to the issues and practicalities facing libraries as their institutions initiate MOOCs. 

Libraries in the Time of MOOCs

A wave of disruptive technological changes has hit higher education, forcing us to rethink the way we teach, learn, and provide educational resources. For libraries, the growing reach and sheer numbers of massive open online courses (MOOCs) raise unprecedented challenges and opportunities. As we try to see our role within this new market, it might be worth reflecting on our readiness to operate in the increasingly complex online landscape. Soon, librarians might be asked to provide access to copyrighted, licensed electronic resources for MOOC students around the world. Will we be equipped with the technology to accommodate unprecedented numbers of students inside and outside the university? We will also have to deal with legal issues related to MOOCs, such as intellectual property rights, privacy issues, and state regulations. After exhausting the many ways of saying no to difficult change, perhaps we can find a way to work with all the stakeholders and help shape the rapidly changing MOOC model in concert with our own needs while we still can. the link for the full article; the authors go on to address the emergence of MOOCs and the issues and controversies they themselves generate, as well as implications for libraries in the area of provision of library information resources. 


Undergraduate Students and IT

What, really, are current students' (undergraduates) experiences with and expectations concerning information technology? 

Here is a must-read for anyone in the business of higher education -- educators, librarians, information technologists, leaderships. 

The EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR; EDUCAUSE is the association for higher ed computing) has, since 2004, tracked the technologies that matter most to students by exploring technology ownership (who has what), use patters, and perceptions of technology among undergrads.



Authors: Eden Dahlstrom, J.D. Walker, Charles Dziuban, with a foreword by Glenda Morgan

Published: September 16, 2013

Key Findings

  • Students recognize the value of technology but still need guidance when it comes to better using it for academics.
  • Students prefer blended learning environments while beginning to experiment with MOOCs.
  • Students are ready to use their mobile devices more for academics, and they look to institutions and instructors for opportunities and encouragement to do so.
  • Students value their privacy, and using technology to connect with them has its limits.

ECAR Recommends

  • Students expect their instructors—not others—to train them to effectively use the technology required for coursework (e.g., use of the CMS, hardware, and software—including specialty software and common productivity software). Instructors need support, encouragement, and possibly incentives to do so.
  • Educate your students about MOOCs; most students are unaware of them. Institutions have a fleeting opportunity to contextualize MOOCs for students in a way that will mesh with the institution’s own MOOC strategy.
  • Create (or update) a strategy for incorporating mobile device use into the classroom. Address the IT infrastructure barriers (such as a lack of convenient charging outlets and/or charging stations and insufficient network access) that keep students from using their devices effectively while on campus.
  • Approach learner analytics purposefully and thoughtfully by adhering to information privacy principles. Collect data for a stated and transparent purpose in order to build students’ confidence in learner analytics activities.

See here for the study website, including links to the full report, survey instrument, and infographic (below).