Monday, August 13, 2012

What in the world is a MOOC and what does it mean to higher education?

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course."A massive open online course (MOOC) is a category of online course where the participants are distributed and course materials also are dispersed across the web. MOOCs are a very recent variant of online education, which itself is a form of distance education." Wikipedia . MOOC's are free courses offered by some of the best schools in the world and by the best professors. If you have an internet connection, you can take a course. The technology used is available at reasonable prices to any college, not just the elite. Some are already using tools like learning management systems and class video technology with their own students, in regular courses. This content is most often strongly protected behind a userid and password.

This has been a topic of interest to those who think about the future of education and teaching, and the growth of advanced learning around the world. Stanford, Princeton, MIT, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania are some of the early players. They are providing free on-line courses to the world. Coursera, MITx and a few other organizations are the delivery systems.

You can Google and get lots of information about MOOC's. I visited the Coursera site last night and found that they offer 117 courses in 16 content areas, for free. This is a limited number of courses and it does not look like the courses lead towards a degree -- yet, but what an opportunity. When you look at this list of courses and the schools that are offering them you have to come back to other questions that are abuzz in higherd education these days:

Does a degree mean anything anymore?
What are college students learning in college?
Is a college degree worth all of that money?
Is the four year residential college seeing its last days?
Will this greatly empower those living in remote areas of the world and what does that mean?
Will the 3rd world leap over the west?
Will this find its way to K-12 and make home schooling the preferred method for many more families? (See the Kahn Academy, if you think this is far off.)
Will college students assemble a group of MOOC classes, a few regular on-line classes, and in person classes and earn a degree?

I might revisit these questions over the next few months, but more importantly I think all colleges and universities need to consider them themselves. We are always developing or refining strategic plans, planning for regional accreditation, or trying to think of how our campus can be "distinctive". With all due respect to my colleagues, most have their head in the sand over this topic. Many consider it to be just another game for the rich schools. I am pleased that the term "blended courses" has almost become mainstream on many campuses, but this is just the start. The cost of education and the market place will decide whether the product we have been providing for decades is still going to hold up. I am a great advocate of the traditonal baccalaureate experience, but its day may have come and gone. I urge every college president to learn what MOOC is and to start a discussion on their campus.

Will a degree from Western Governors University, the University of Phoenix, or the University of Maryland University College be as valuable as those from other schools? They already are!

BTW, last night I signed up for a course entitled "Information Security and Risk Management in Context" offered by the University of Washington.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fall 2012 Technology for the College Student

Its time to start another year on college campuses. Colleges have become so rich with technology over the past few years that you would think that students have everything they need. Of course, enough is never quite enough. There are still some basics that most students seem to want , or need, for their very own. I am from the hot pot, telephone, and refrigerator generation. Colleges don't allow hot pots anymore. The fridge and the microwave are still staples. I thought the need for a TV might die off, but not yet. Most students still have a TV in their rooms. Many campuses are moving to all digital TV services with HD channels. At my last post we offered 100 channels, including 15 HD channels. Of course Netflix and Hulu on the laptop are gaining fast.

Here is my list of digital staples for the fall of 2012:

Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse. Who wants to write a paper on a laptop keyboard when you can turn your laptop into a desktop for less that $50.

Audio speaker system. I have talked about these before, but now there are so many choices and price points. Why not turn your laptop into a powerful sound system for moveies or music. Here is a comparision of a few products that run from the fairly cheap to the pricey. You have to decide how far you need to go. If you like the more traditional three speaker option (pretty good, for cheap) check this one.

Decent ear buds or headphones. Here again beauty is in the ears of the beholder. There are choices to be made, but even the cheap ear buds or headphones would probably be adequate. there are plenty of places on campus (the gym, library, dining hall, computer labs...) where you have to keep your music to yourself. Keep in mind that these are often lost or misplaced, so I would not invest too much. Update: I just bought some nice sounding ear buds at Five Below for $4.99!

Small LED TV. As noted above, TV is still alive and well and most campuses are going digital to offer many channels and HD services. Most students still bring a TV to campus. I think the 24" or 32" are generally adequate, but sports intense students might disagree. I have seen 50" LCDs on campus. Yes the rooms are still pretty small, so imagine the dominance of the big units. I like the new LED models for a sharper picture and lighter weight. The prices on these have come way down.

IPhone apps for free. In the past few years we have seen the number of Smart phones jump on campuses. The numbers stand at 70% on most campues now. The Smart phone is the new laptop. Well sort of. IPhone has the dominant position in the space at the moment, so I found this list of free apps for the iPhone connected college student. Most of these are not toys or games. They are cool useful tools and they are FREE.

So this is my short list for this fall. If you can think of more, please comment.