This is the best thing on MOOCs that I have read so far:
That’s not to say that MOOCs could not improve greatly, as I trust they will. But the unfounded hyperbole surrounding MOOCs ignores the real outstanding work professors in all fields have been doing integrating digital and multimedia tools into their courses and the outstanding work being done with online courses that have reasonable, controlled enrollments.
All innovations that have occurred in education over the past thirty years — from multimedia software to distance learning to charter schools — eventually run smack into the reality that education, especially education that effectively reaches a decent percentage of the students enrolled, is difficult and often requires individualized attention and also benefits from on the fly adjustments.
Technology certainly does provide easier ways to create effective educational environments (and as Vaidyanathan notes: that’s what it needs to do — not just simply deliver information). And certainly there are professors, teachers and institutions who are not delivering via the “old” methods. However, techno-utopianism isn’t the answer either.
Meanwhile, all the major issues that are plaguing education are still fully in play (personnel costs, technology cost, college readiness/remedial education, cost of higher education, textbook costs, liberal arts vs. applied/professional training, etc.).
My major worry with MOOCs is not that they will wholly disrupt higher education, but rather that they will end up being yet another costly, time-intensive marketing tool.
Dennis Johnson, co-founder of Melville House, makes two points about Barnes & Noble: first, that it is closing a lot of stores and looks to be on the brink of failure (and thus having to close all of them), and second, that those closings leave huge gaps — gaps that are there because B&N drove independent booksellers out of business.
I would suggest that while that narrative is true, I don’t see a counter-narrative that would get us to a much better place in 2013. Amazon (and the Internet in general) was going to be disruptive to bricks and mortar stores no matter whether they were independent or chain.
A third point Johnson makes is that B&N’s digital efforts are in shambles. Let me provide two anecdotal data points that suggest why:
1. I’ve tested all of the major ebook apps on my iPhone. The Nook app simply is not as good as the Kindle one. And so I find myself using that one. Now, I load a lot of free books so I’m not necessarily the most lucrative customer. But when I do buy an ebook, it always from Amazon because I prefer to read on the Kindle app. And if I had a tablet or ereader, I’d like buy more.
2. I got a B&N gift card for my birthday. I wanted two books that wouldn’t be in stock in a bookstore, but aren’t super obscure. I ordered them from the B&N website. They took what seemed like forever to be shipped.
Totally anecdotal. But the differences I experienced were enough to make me look more towards Amazon even though I’m just as distrustful of Amazon as I am of any other large media/tech company (if not more so). Amazon is not disruptive simply because of its hard-nosed business tactics or because for a long time it got away with not charging sales tax. It also executed better in the customer facing aspects of its business (website, apps, shipping). That’s not old media vs. new media or bricks and mortar vs. web. That’s simply better execution. And execution matters.
I think that this is a brilliant idea. The one worry would be that doing it this way means that the other laptops lose their association with the ThinkPad line, but I think that by now the overall Lenovo line is a strong enough brand that they will still be able to compete.
There currently aren’t any high end PC laptop lines that have any real traction in the market (except perhaps Alienware for gaming PCs). ThinkPads have had a devoted corporate following. It’s time to see if they extend that further into the consumer marketplace.
And the most important thing is that they have the industrial design to be a premium brand. No, it’s not as “sexy” as Apple’s. But the build is as good (if not better). And there is an aesthetic throughline to the product line (unlike all the crappy ultrabook Air ripoffs).
My mom got a new laptop this month. I asked her about it yesterday on the phone. She reported that she was disappointed that she couldn’t get one with Windows 7. I told her that Microsoft isn’t allowing that with sales of new computers.
I asked her about using Windows 8. She said it was okay. I asked about the metro screen. She said, “Oh, I just click the button and go use the other one.”
My mother is not an unsophisticated computer user. She has taken classes in HTML and CSS. She has been using computers since the days of the Apple II with little difficulty. What struck me wasn’t so much that she was confused — she wasn’t. She was dismissive. She sees the metro screen as just a surface thing that you have to put up with in order to get to the place where you do the real computing. Pun intended.
Predictions abound about the future state of U.S. higher education. I will not rehearse the list of issues, challenges, utopionisms and doomsayings.
But as I consider the landscape, it occurs to me that higher education has done a horrible job at branding the various academic disciplines. This holds true for both traditional academic disciplines and professional-oriented ones.
It also seems to me that neither a single-minded focus on career preparation nor a narrow devotion to ivory towerism are going to be enough to both attract and adequately prepare students for modern life.
I’m approaching this with a willful, intentional naivete. Yet I think that embracing the triple goals of career preparation, craftsmanship in the discipline and dilettantism is the wisest course. Disciplines should brand themselves as capable of providing all three goals and colleges should be able to articulate why their approach to those disciplines is the right fit for part particular individuals (and note for others).
I’m less interested in the slam on Grobart than on the ad Gruber links to as a “refutation”.
The iPad shows people in the act of content creation. But it’s rather underwhelming. They aren’t doing a lot of “real” work and based on my reading and people I’ve spoken with, there are some major frustrations with doing that kind of work on the iPad, especially writing for long stretches of time and then manipulating and editing that text (and I’m talking about even with a keyboard accessory). The Surface (if it works as advertised) intrigues me because:
A. I need a killer keyboard
B. A stylus provided more precision than a finger can
Now both the keyboard and the stylus need to be paired with software that works well. And there are way too many unanswered questions (to me as interesting as the hardware was, the fact that the product launch was vague on price and availability is just lame. Stand up there, wow us, and then tell us that it’s available now or next week or in two months. And tell us the price).
But if the Pro version truly could replace (and be cheaper than) an ultrabook, then I’m all ears.
I’m pleased to see the addition of administrator roles. It will make some things easier, especially by opening up Page administration to more content creators since they no longer will have access to some functions.
I’m less excited about the ability to schedule posts. There is some value to it, but it comes with a danger as well: it will be tempting for organizations to use scheduled post to create the illusion activity when, in fact, staff are not actively engaged with the Page. Posting to a Facebook Page, though, isn’t just a broadcast — the whole point is engagement. Typically, most engagement happens within an hour or two of a post going up, which means, the most critical time to have staff checking the page is the time right after a post is made, which sort of defeats one of the key purposes of scheduling.
That doesn’t mean that there’s never any reason to schedule posts. It could be useful in terms of workflow and tracking content scheduling.
But I’d say that if you are scheduling posts to create the illusion of presence, then it’s quite likely that your overall responsiveness to any engagement that happens will be lagging. Just like the auto-pushing of blog posts to Facebook and Twitter, this practice has the potential to come across as cold and disengaged. Be careful with it.
This is the third instance of diplomas or graduation programs with a major misspelling that I’ve run across this commencement season.
I would submit that the diploma cover, diploma and graduation program are the three most importants items that a college (or high school) copyedits in any given year. Because of the compressed turnaround time, there will also be issues with student names, but you gotta make sure that the rest of it is perfect.