Here are some of the articles that caught our eye recently.

George Siemens Gets Connected. “In 2008, Mr. Siemens ran the first MOOC with Stephen Downes, a researcher with the National Research Council of Canada. They were soon joined by David Cormier, an instructional technologist at the University of Prince Edward Island. That course looked a lot different than today’s MOOCs: The Canadian technologists did not teach the course so much as facilitate it. The idea was to supply the students with the basic framework for the course and then lead from behind. The students were not confined to a prescribed online learning platform; they were encouraged to figure out what environment suited them. Some Spanish-speaking students even created places in Second Life, a virtual world, where they could hold discussions in their own language.”

Innovation in 2014: Welcome to the Evolution. “Lost in the debate and hype over MOOCs and other innovative ideas to finance and deliver a college degree, however, is that we are living in an important evolutionary moment, not a revolutionary moment, for the future of higher education. When any sector of the economy undergoes sweeping change—just as colleges and universities are now—every new development feels like a major turning point. But in hindsight, what we think of as big moments at the time often turn out to be just blips in the life cycle of an industry. Change, by its nature, is incremental. Big advances in a given year are few and far between.”

Tech Alone Won’t Cut It. “What is potentially different about products like Course Signals is their ability to connect these course-level warnings to the broader student support services offered by the college. If early warning signals are shared across college personnel, and if those warnings serve to trigger new behaviors on their part, then we are likely to see changed student behavior and success. In other words, sending up a red light isn’t likely to influence retention. But if that red light leads to advisers or tutors reaching out to students and providing targeted support, we might see bigger impacts on student outcomes.”

Seeing the Forest and the Trees. “Vendors are privileged with a unique peek into the industry because they are able to see first hand what administrators and educators are struggling with or excelling at — at all levels — across a great many number of schools. Understanding each school’s individual issues is very important, but when you can overlay that on the entire industry landscape, new ideas become revolutionary. Trends become easier to see and strategic priorities become much more apparent. From this awareness comes an understanding and insight that is truly valuable. It is this knowledge that, properly harnessed, manifests itself in vendor products, services and even informal conversations, to move the industry into the future.”

A National Agenda Bibliography for Digital Asset Sustainability and Preservation Cost Modeling. “The 2014 National Digital Stewardship Agenda, released in July 2013, is still a must-read (have you read it yet?). It integrates the perspective of dozens of experts to provide funders and decision-makers with insight into emerging technological trends, gaps in digital stewardship capacity and key areas for development. The Agenda suggests a number of important research areas for the digital stewardship community to consider, but the need for more coordinated applied research in cost modeling and sustainability is high on the list of areas prime for research and scholarship.”

NDSA National Agenda Digital Content Area: Web and Social Media. “Audiences increasingly desire not only access, but enhanced use options and tools for engaging with digital content. Usability is increasingly a fundamental driver of support for preservation, particularly for ongoing monetary support. Which stakeholders should be involved and represented in these determinations? Of the content that is of interest to stakeholders, what is at risk and must be preserved? What are appropriate deselection policies? What editions/versions, expressions and manifestations (e.g. items in different formats) should be selected?”

Tempered Expectations. “As large, public universities are more likely than smaller and private institutions to offer online courses and degrees, the growing skepticism among academic leaders at smaller institutions about online learning outcome does not yet appear to have affected the growth of the online student body. The report estimates about 412,000 more students enrolled in an online course in fall 2012 than the year before. With the total online enrollment reaching 7.1 million students — an all-time high — the share has for the first time reached one-third of the overall higher education student body.”

A Handy Cheatsheet on MOOCs. “XMOOC, cMOOC, BOOC, DOCC and SPOC–are you up to speed on all the different flavors of MOOCs? Alex Cusack from MOOCs.com has compiled this handy infographic to help you make sense of the alphabet soup along with major MOOC providers, trends, and student demographics.”

Top Issues Facing Higher Education In 2014. “Competency-based education (CBE) is receiving attention from the media as more schools dip a toe into these new waters. There is much to be done here. Few understand exactly what is meant by ‘competency’, know how to measure it, or comprehend what can actually be done with a degree attained through such a process (employers may like it, but what about grad schools). Even the appropriates of the term ‘competency-based education’ is questioned by some as such programs are focused on the assessment of one’s ability to apply learning already acquired rather than the attainment of new learning, Should this be ‘competency-based credentialing’ (CBC)?”

Education Can Take Some Innovation Lessons From the Music Business. “Learning will become bite-sized, on-the-go, continuous – and gradually more exciting: The single most important upgrade is to make education more engaging and adaptive. Just as cable television programming went from unwatchable to must-see when money improved production values and brought in better talent, the same will happen to online courseware, which currently lags in production quality. And courseware should and will be presented so that consumers can learn what, when, how much, and on which platform they want.”

The White House Summit. “One of the topics that administration officials have focused on in planning meetings with college presidents — and have discussed publicly — is the issue of undermatching: a phenomenon education researchers have said occurs when high-achieving low-income students fail to apply to or enroll in the college to which they are best-suited.”

Librarians as Gatekeepers. “Earlier today a friend commented on Twitter that he hates it when librarians are called gatekeepers. But it occurred to me that’s exactly what we are. Our job is to keep gates open. The rise of public libraries across the United States was at least in part about giving everyone a chance to read great literature and educate themselves as they wished. (It was also, in part, an attempt to bring immigrants into line with American cultural norms and give them opportunities to “improve themselves” that didn’t involve strikes or political organizing. Nothing is ever simple.) Today we prop open gates by negotiating licenses to allow interlibrary lending and supporting open access publishing initiatives and helping students learn the confidence and skill to participate in the making of knowledge. But there are any number of ways that we have to fight to keep the gates open.”

George Siemens: A New Lab for Research on Technology and Digital Networks. “These institutions realize that the future is going to be in knowledge development processes. In the past, most institutions have served just one segment of that process: the early adult stage of our learning. In the future, the university will become much better integrated into all aspects of society. We will have life-long, rather than 4-year relationships with our universities. I think universities are aware of and paying attention to these trends. It’s actually quite a hopeful time.”

Are We Seizing Our EdTech Moment? “The real benefit to campus initiatives around blended and online learning have been all the teaching and learning conversations that these initiatives help catalyze. The past 3 years have also witnessed some real improvements in the efficacy of technology-enabled education. We have seen some real improvements in learning management platforms, synchronous learning tools, mobile learning, rapid authoring, and the ability to leverage analytics to improve learning environments. The technologies are catching up to our understanding of how people learn. All of this churn in educational models (online/blended learning, flipped classrooms, MOOCs) and technology improvements have taken place within the context of a growing awareness for the need to address issues around costs and access.”

Creating Competent Students. “As an associate dean at a college that has been offering competence-based bachelor’s degrees for more than 40 years—and someone who has spent substantial time researching and evaluating results—I strongly disagree. Different does not mean diminished. To the contrary, by any number of measures, competence-based programs have proven that they can support effective learning as well as, and often better than, traditional programs. While evaluation of competence-based education across institutions remains to be done, individual school results back my conclusion.”

Feds Call on Universities for Ideas for ‘Experimental Sites,’ New Learning Technologies. “According to information published by the administration today, OSTP is looking to expand the incentive mechanism used on challenge.gov with an emphasis specifically on learning technologies. The office sent a request for information to a number of organizations, including state and local education agencies, asking them ‘what roles they would be willing to play in the design, funding, and implementation of pull mechanisms for learning technology.’”

Exactly How Many Students Take Online Courses? “But Mr. Seaman says the biggest factor is probably that some colleges are ‘not properly accounting for the multiple counting of students taking more than one online course’ in the figures they provide to the Babson survey. Since the Education Department started requiring colleges to report distance-education enrollments, he says, those institutions have probably become more exacting in their tracking of those numbers. The reporting requirements for the department ‘are such that I would always trust their numbers over ours,’ he wrote. ‘However, I still believe that the trends we have reported for the past 11 years are very much real.’”

U. of Texas Unveils a New Tool for Judging a Degree’s Worth. “The seekUT website has data on 68,000 alumni who graduated from 2007 to 2011 and remained in Texas. It includes how much they were earning one and five years after receiving their bachelor’s degrees and how much they owed. It also gives students a glimpse of which fields are growing, and where. The website, which the university hopes will become a national model, evolved from recommendations of a student task force looking at ways to reduce loan debt. It responds to a crescendo of calls for proof that higher education delivers a strong return on investment. Groups such as College Measures have also studied how different majors affect earnings in several states.”

Do You Really Want to Use a Commercial Learning-Management System? “Certainly, online education has exploded in recent years. When an entire class is being delivered online, it’s very difficult for one professor to create the infrastructure she needs all by herself. Yet in my observation, the LMS—every LMS—is always the bane of the online instructor’s existence. I can’t tell you how many complaints I’ve read over the years about the specifics of one LMS over another. Unfortunately, to teach online is to give up more than a little bit of the freedom to interact with one’s students in whatever way one sees fit. Why then would any face-to-face professor want to interact with her students online through a commercially-mediated space? Certainly, there are features of an LMS that are useful to many professors when managing physical classrooms: message boards, video delivery, dropboxes for papers, etc. Luckily, though, there are free or nearly free alternatives to all these functions: blogging software (like WordPress), YouTube, and, of course, Dropbox.”

The Promise of EdTech: Customization, Motivation, & Equalization. “There was a lot of chatter about learning styles in the last decade that hasn’t yielded much, but I think comprehensive learner records will unlock motivational profiles that will build persistence and performance. Imagine customized playlists that are not only at the right level but in the best learning modality for each student.”

Clarification: No, there aren’t 7.1 million students in the US taking at least one online class. “I certainly agree that the differences between the Babson Survey and IPEDS data points out the challenge we have had with inconsistent definitions (what data should trigger course to be classified as online versus face-to-face or hybrid) as well as the inconsistent data collection by colleges and universities. Jeff makes a great point that the new IPEDS data will force institutions to be officially track the data in student systems (rather than shadow systems) and to use a consistent definition. I think that Babson Survey Research Group should have acknowledged these differences publicly along with the release of the report, as we need to have more confidence in the impartiality of our data collection. Even with the IPEDS data, the Babson survey is for the attitudinal data and the consistent trend data they provide.”

To Use or Reuse? That is the Open Question. “Finally we have Open Education Resources (OERs). This is a term that was first defined more than 10 years ago at a Hewlett foundation-supported UNESCO conference, and it concerns online learning materials, sometimes called learning objects. Hewlett defines OERs as: ‘OER (sic) are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.’”

Critics Say White House Summit Sidelined Community Colleges. “Critics contended that the meeting’s guest list, which included more than 100 colleges as well as 40 nonprofit organizations, foundations, and other groups, was dominated by elite institutions. That gave short shrift, some observers said, to the contributions that community colleges and many small, lesser-known private institutions are already making. The community-college sector serves nearly half of the nation’s students and the overwhelming majority of those from low-income backgrounds.”

Tracking Alternative Credentials. “The federal government for the first time has data on the 50 million U.S. adults who hold some form of educational credential that isn’t a college degree. The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released a report on the numbers and characteristics of people who hold certificates, professional certification and licenses. It also includes wage information. Experts said the new data could help shift policy makers’ view of postsecondary education as well as the debate over college completion.”

Spending Bill Includes Open Access Legislation. “Tucked away on page 1,020 of the 1,582-page spending bill winding its way through Congress, Section 527 of the ‘’Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014’’ would make taxpayer funded research publicly available within 12 months of publication.”

Predictors of Postsecondary Success. “Through this information, policymakers and practitioners can begin to inform the development and validation of factors to identify students who are not on a path to postsecondary success as early as prekindergarten and as late as their senior year of high school. These factors can inform practice and can be integrated into a longitudinal tracking mechanism to identify and monitor individual students who may need additional resources or supports at any point during their schooling. “

Credit-for-MOOCs Effort Hits a Snag. “Once again, an invitation to redeem MOOC learning for traditional credit had been met with the sound of crickets. Cathy A. Sandeen, vice president for education attainment and innovation at the American Council of Education, attributed the lag to the fact that the council had approved relatively few MOOCs by the time students would have had to begin taking such a course in order to have completed it by the fall.”

Ruling Could Drive FCC Forward on Net Neutrality. “Still, the court affirmed the FCC’s ability to regulate Internet-service providers in other ways. In its ruling, it ‘laid out a path the commission can follow, which is to reclassify high-speed Internet access as a common carriage or utility service,’ said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. If the commission does this, its legal authority to speak to high-speed Internet-access providers will be clear. If it doesn’t, we risk having the central infrastructure of the 21st century left to a failed market with little oversight or competition.’”

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