One Mind Opines about 20 Million Minds

20 million minds foundationOn Jan 8, 2013, an organization called Twenty Million Minds Foundation held a one-day conference/ symposium/ discussion/ thingy called “re:boot California Higher Education.” Check out Audrey Watters’ Storify about the whole day.

There were several things that struck me about the conversation throughout the day. I’ll pick five of the things that were said during the day and give my own point or counterpoint.

#1: Has online learning growth been faculty-driven?

Bob Samuels is the President of the University Council (California-based) of the American Federation of Teachers. You can also read his reflections on the day’s events. I have no bone to pick with Dr. Samuels, and I agree with him that the idea that the growth to online learning has NOT been faculty-driven. He says “this is all about reducing costs and making money.” Let me clarify that I partially agree with him but that I disagree with him in total. I agree with him that at the research universities – this move to online has NOT been faculty-driven. The research universities have, for the most part, been brought into the online arms race kicking and screaming. Let’s face it. The online learning growth over the past 15 tears has mainly been fueled by community colleges that want to increase access to education while growing their enrollments and by the for-profit providers who want to increase their profits by growing enrollments. Neither of those two things are especially important on the campuses of our major research universities.

Where I disagree with Dr. Samuels is when it comes to community colleges. In my experience in Minnesota, and in many other places where I’ve travelled to connect and share with people involved with e-learning; a great deal of the growth in online learning has been faculty-driven. I know a large number of faculty members who have embraced the advantages of online learning while putting up with the disadvantages of such, without any coercion from the dreaded college administrators. The point of this is something that was brought up several times during the day; namely that we cannot paint with such a broad brush to think that there is one problem here and that there will be one solution. Higher education is NOT a single industry. Community Colleges and R1 universities are as different as night and day.

I think the following tweet sums it up nicely:

Regarding Dr. Samuel’s other point that online ed is “all about reducing costs,” I would have to agree that it seems to be coming down to that during the past year or so. For 15 years of online learning growth, I was never involved in serious conversations about how this would dramatically reduce the cost of providing higher education opportunities. The main focus was increased access to education and flexibility to meet modern lifestyles and schedules.  But now, just lately, cost reduction seems to be the major focus. I suppose we can blame the governors who seem to think that a bachelor’s degree should cost no more than $10,000, or maybe we should blame some of the for-profits who (for a while) were making huge profits (and therefore had low costs relative to revenues generated) before they started getting slapped around by Senator Harkin and the like. Whatever the many causes of this shift in the conversation, this is not a good shift. If we focus on online education as being the way to reduce costs, we will certainly lose our way as a global leader in the education market.

#2: Will the best MOOC win?

I believe the question was asked by Lillian Taiz, President of the California Faculty Association (apologies if it was someone else). Her question related to the MOOC craze, and whether the logical extension (my words, not hers) of all of this would be a single course by a single provider for each needed course title. Thus, will there eventually only be one (presumably the best) Intro to Psychology course, taught by the best instructor in the world, and all the students in the world will learn from the feet of this 21st century reincarnation of Socrates.

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately, ever since the MOOC craze kicked in. As you can see in the embedded tweet, I remember this same question being asked about 15 years ago. I was a faculty member in Minnesota and attended a state-wide Community College faculty meeting at Normandale CC in Bloomington, MN. There were many big fears about this unknown thing called online learning, and one of the biggest fears was that it would put everyone out of a job. “Why would they take my accounting course when they can take that course from Harvard or Yale or whoever has the best course and instructor?” Some of us thought that those concerns were overblown, but there definitely seemed to be more people who believed it would happen to them than those who didn’t believe it.

During the ensuing 15 years, there was nary a glimpse of anything close to that happening, and for lots of reasons that I won’t go into at this time. Suffice it to say that anyone who wanted to teach online was able to do so and have full or nearly full classes to teach – at least in my experience. And now all of the sudden, the MOOC thing seems to be turning that on its head. If I taught a course on Artificial Intelligence and saw that Thrun and Norvig attracted 160,000 students to their MOOC of the same flavor when first offered at Stanford, I might be just a little bit nervous about my job security.  My advice is to not progress beyond the stage of being a “little bit nervous.”

In the end, will the best MOOC win and everyone else die? NO – not even close.

#3: Is Bigger Always Better?

This one gets a lot of play. Just remember that there’s always more than one side to consider. Sure, Ng would need 250 years to “reach” as many as he did in the MOOC. The difference between “reaching” and teaching is something that definitely needs to be part of this discussion. The educational opportunity provided to the 100,000 students in the MOOC is very different from the 400 students on campus. The quote above that talks about 250 years is based on some media reports of the AI MOOC enrolling 100,000 students. Other reports say it was as much as 160,000 students – which would take 400 years of the small (400 is NOT small) classes to match.

But he also would need about 3,000 years to see as many of his students fail (not succeed or complete) his course as he did in the MOOC. BTW, 3,000 years is just a wild guess – but I feel pretty confident about it.

Okay, I’m running out of time here. Three is less than five. I’ll get around to a second post in the near future with a few more items from re:boot.

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D2L FUSION12 – Guide for First-Timers

Are you a first-time D2L FUSION attendee? Hang onto your hats. It’s always a blast. But that’s not what this about.

More importantly, are you a first-time visitor to Sun Diego? That was not a typo. Just to get you in the mood, click the play button below.

I lived there for about a year when I was on a bit of a walkabout between high school and college. I’ve visited many times since and it is absolutely one of my favorite cities. San Diego probably has the most stable climate of any place I’ve ever lived or visited (okay, in the U.S., that is). Not too hot, not too cold. Want snow? Don’t go there. Want 100 degrees? Don’t go there. According to Wikipedia, San Diego gets an average 41 days per year where some precipitation falls, compared to 110 days for the rest of the United States. Sun Diego gets 267 sunny days per year on average (after the morning fog burns off), compared to 213 elsewhere. In any given year, you can expect 2 or 3 days when the temperature gets above 90 °F (32 °C), which is 36 days below the U.S. average. You can expect zero days below 32 °F (0 °C) in San Diego, while the national average is 88 days per year. Most importantly for FUSION on July 16-20, average high temperatures in July  are 76 °F (24 °C).  One week out from the start of the conference and the forecasted temps are for a high of 70 and a low of 65, with a 10% chance of rain.

The conference hotel is located right by the San Diego harbor, very close to an area known as the Embarcadero. Here’s a few things you might want to check out while you’re there.

For those of you who will be transportation-challenged (no wheels):

  1. Petco Park – Padres vs. Astros – Monday night social event for FUSION12! (.3 mile) I’m a huge Padres fan, but I’ve never watched a game from the Western Metal Supply Building in left field. That’s where you’ll find me on Monday night.
  2. Harbor Cruise – (1.4 miles) Tuesday night social event with a Sunset Cruise and dinner!
  3. Tin Fish Restaurant – (.4 mile) Very close to Petco Park and Omni Hotel. Best fish tacos ever!!Tin Fish - tacos
  4. Gaslamp Quarter – (.5 mile to the start – many blocks wide and long) Get insulted at Dick’s Last Resort, or check out House of Blues. I plan to spend some time at The Tilted Kilt just outside the right field entrance to Petco Park (map) – if you go there, you’ll know why it’s my favorite.
  5. Ferry to Coronado and see the Hotel Del. This is also one of the cleanest and most picturesque of the beaches in the area. Take the 15-minute ferry ride from landing behind  the Convention Ctr (.2 mile from hotel to ferry landing) and then in Coronado take the trolley (or a cab) from the ferry landing to the beach and hotel all the way cross town. If you have wheels it’s only 4-5 miles over the Coronado Bridge and then explore on your own.Hotel Del
  6. USS Midway Aircraft Carrier – (1.3 miles) Remember the Tar Heels vs. Spartans basketball game? This is the place. Take a tour and you have a good chance of having a docent who actually served his country on the Midway.
  7. Martime Museum and Star of India sailboat – (2 miles) I’m not a big museum guy, but this could be right up your alley.
  8. Tool box skyline – You’ll see this from the harbor cruise, or just by walking around. Flat head screwdriver, Phillips, hex-shaped Allen wrenches, maybe a chisel, maybe some Vice Grips.
  9. Kansas City Barbeque – (1 mile) This was the setting for sleazy bar scene in the movie Top Gun. Odd place, but fun. Top Gun barbeque
  10. Seaport Village and the Embarcadero – (.4 mile to 1 mile) Still there on Friday, 7/20? If so, the Peking Acrobats perform at 7:30 ($$$) at Marina Park South (Note, the hotel is located very close to the Embarcadero Marina South Park and there is also a North Park very close by (.8 mile). There’s usually interesting things happening there, and several homeless people to dodge. Seaport Village is less sketchy.)

For those with transportation – or willing to just jump in a cab, cost be damned:

  1. San Diego Zoo (3 miles) Yep, still one of the best zoos anywhere.San Diego Zoo koala
  2. Del Mar Race Track – (21 miles) Opening day is Wednesday, July 18. Races start at 2 PM. Attn: Kyle Mackie! The One and Only Truly Fabulous Hat Contest starts 11:30 AM.
  3. San Diego Wild Animal Park (37 miles) Now called the Zoo Safari Park, but I’m staying old school.
  4. La Jolla Beaches– (14 miles) For the rich and famous.
  5. Slater’s 50/50 Burgers by Design – (5 miles) I’ve never been there, but the 50% ground bacon, 50% ground beef burger has captured my attention.
  6. Black’s Beach  – (18 miles) Only for the very adventurous. If you have to ask what that means, don’t go to Black’s Beach!
  7. Balboa Park (2.5 miles) The 2012 Shakespeare Festival runs at Old Globe Theater on Sun, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri nights at 8PM with three choices: Richard III, As You Like It, Inherit the Wind (okay, that’s not by WS).
  8. Mission Beach – (8 miles) This is a very active beach. Lots of people and lots of things going on. Great people watching, too.Stone Brewery
  9. Tijuana – (16 miles) If you have a huge life insurance policy and a death wish, this is a great place to visit. Otherwise, stay away. (Not really joking about this)
  10. Stone Brewery Tour (Escondido – 37 miles) For the beer aficionados, this would be worth the trip. The home of Arrogant Bastard Ale and Ruination IPA.

That should keep you busy. Don’t forget to attend a few sessions at FUSION. Especially mine.

For my last piece of FUSION advice, take your pick from your favorite Sergeant from Hill Street Blues (yes, that was NYC, I know):

  • a) Hey, let’s be careful out there! or
  • b) Let’s do it to them before they do it to us!

NOTE: since no one leaves blog comments any more, I’ve resorted to reposting stuff from other places:

Discussion Facilitators Wanted at #FUSION12

Wanted: Discussion Table Facilitators at FUSION12

Added June 21: Thanks to all the volunteers! We are good to go. See you in San Diego.)

Going to #D2L #FUSION12 in beautiful Sun Diego this July? Got something you’d like to talk about? I have about a half dozen spots open for Birds of a Feather discussion leaders on Monday morning, the first day of the conference. The rest of the conference kicks off at 12:50 that day (see schedule here), but we’re going to have 25-minute table discussions from 10:00 to 11:30.

If you would like to host/facilitate one of those tables, we’d love to have you join us for the action. Suggest the topic that you’d like to discuss, and tell me a little about your plan for doing so – and we’ll see how good we can make this. We’re planning to have about 15 tables and up to 150 people in attendance.

It’ll go something like this:

  • 10:00-10:25  First discussion
  • 10:25-10:30  Switch tables
  • 10:30-10:55  Second discussion
  • 10:55-11:00  Switch tables
  • 11:00-11:25  Third discussion

Just to be clear, you’ll lead the same discussion topic three times, with different people each time. I’ll come up with some sort of reward for you if you volunteer to be one of the table leaders. Email me to let me know that you’re interested and also give me one or more ideas for discussion topics that you’d be willing to lead. TIA.

Student Loan Debt Triples Overnight

TRIPLED!! Or so you’d be led to believe if you were in the room at #WCET11 when Josh Jarrett of the Gates Foundation was speaking about High Quality Online Institutions that Scale. Apparently he said something that led to this tweet.

Which was then re-tweeted. Then I saw it and tried to set the record straight (falling on deaf ears, no doubt), as follows:

I learn a great deal from my Twitter network every day. But I also see a great deal of misinformation – mostly from the twitter feed at conferences.

For the record, student loan debt hasn’t yet topped the 1 trillion dollar mark – although it is expected to do so before the end of the year. The current (10/28/11) amount is $952+ billion, according the the Student Loan Debt Clock.

“Alarming stats” indeed! Alarming because they’re just not even close to the truth.

 

2010 Sloan report: Say What?

It started out as an innocuous tweet from #DTL2011 by @Quinnovator, as shown below:

I have no doubt that Clark Quinn heard this directly from the presenter’s mouth in a session at the conference. Everyone else in the room heard it too. Because it was retweeted many times (more times than the 6 shown above), many other people around the Twitterverse saw this stat as well. It was even retweeted by the U.S. Dept. of Ed.

Only one problem. It’s not accurate. Don’t blame Clark Quinn for spreading misinformation. Don’t even blame the session presenter, whoever that was. The blame for the misinformation goes directly to the Sloan Consortium, and the way they chose to represent and describe some of the data from their 2010 report – Class Differences: Online Education in the United States.

I’m guessing that the conference presenter got his information from page 12 of the report which includes the table shown below (except for the red graphics that I added).

This table has VERY misleading captions for the last 2 columns. The column in the middle contains the crucial data for this table. The number of students taking at least one online course. The numbers in the next two columns are based on that center column – a) the growth rate from year-to-year in the number of students taking at least ONE online course, and b) the percentage of enrolled students who are taking at least ONE online course.

The caption says: “Online Enrollment as a Percent of Total Enrollment” and for Fall 2009 that would be 29.3%.

NO!! That is totally wrong. If an educator says that online enrollments make up 30% (or even 29.3%) of the total enrollments, then they DON’T mean that 30% of the enrolled students are taking at least one online course.

It doesn’t mean that at all – but now there are hundreds of people out there who think that online learning somehow comprises about 30% of the total course enrollments in the U.S.

Great data table – NOT!!

A Note about the Madison Conference

As I write this, the 27th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning (#DTL2011) is kicking off with the first day of pre-conference workshops. For several years I was a regular attendee of this fine conference, and I usually was a presenter for these same pre-conf workshops. Many people I know simply refer to DTL as “the Madison conference.”

I stopped attending altogether a few years ago. As the distance learning administrator for a 2-year school in Minnesota (no longer true), I couldn’t justify the cost of the conference given that there is almost nothing there for someone trying to learn new things that apply at 2-year colleges. The conference is very much focused on input from very learned people who hail from research universities (not that there’s anything wrong with that). If you want to sit through sessions with several dozen newly minted (or nearly-minted) PhD’s telling you about their research topic – then this is the place to be. I actually find that stuff to be interesting, but rarely applicable when I would return to the 2-yr campus.

During my last year of attendance, I realized that I was having a hard time finding sessions that were being led by people from community colleges (or other forms of 2-yr schools). So I went through the entire program and took a census. As memory serves, there were 135 different sessions to choose from and SIX (yes, 6) of them had presenters from two-year schools. I’ve done similar checks of the online schedules during each of the past few years and found almost identical results.

I just did it again. Here are the results with total number of sessions followed by 2-yr sessions in paren):

  • Keynotes:  3  (0)
  • Workshops:  20  (0)
  • Demonstrations:  24  (2)
  • Discussions:  32  (1)
  • E-Poster Sessions:  12  (0)
  • Lightning Sessions:  22  (4*)
  • Information Sessions:  64  (3*)
  • VideoShare Sessions:  9  (1)

In total, there are 186 different sessions scheduled at the conference (wow, that’s a lot), and 11 of them (or 9, if I don’t include the generous scoring as mentioned below) come from people at 2-year colleges.

* The asterisks indicate that I included one session that comes from one of the Florida state colleges that are no longer 2-year schools. I included them as 2-year schools since their tradition and experience still mainly lies in that arena.

With other conference choices that are much more relevant to community college people – why would they choose to spend their shrinking budget dollars on attending DTL? 

Don’t get me wrong, someone like keynoter Clark Quinn  will have valuable information and ideas for all attendees, no matter where they’re from. But still, if you want to learn about what’s happening at 2-year campuses (clearly a great source of information about DL), you need to hear from people who work in those schools.

Before I get accused of railing against this conference, let me tell you a couple of things. 1) The people who organize and coordinate DTL each year are absolutely fabulous – I love ’em. I got to know them fairly well during the years that I attended and they are totally first-rate. 2) The DTL conference is a very well-run conference. Good production value (like for keynotes, etc.), great location, friendly people, etc. etc.

In closing, let me suggest a couple of possibilities:

1) DTL should consider a separate track for people from 2-year schools and actively recruit presenters and attendees for these sessions. There needs to be more than 11 sessions sprinkled throughout 186 offerings. I know someone who could help with that task.

2) Failing #1 above, someone should organize an early August e-Learning conference specifically focused on innovations and best practices in the 2-year schools. Again, I know someone who could make this happen (so should I?)

(NOTE: your comments are welcome. I’ll turn off moderation for a day or two to allow immediate throughput.)

EDTECH HULK needs some love

As I write this, the EDTECH HULK only has 40 followers. Come on people, where’s the love for the big green tweeter wearing the purple pants? Several of us at #ITC11 were speculating about who was the David Banner behind the HULK, and although we came up with a list of 6 or 8 possibilities, chances are good that we don’t know who it is. We may never know, which makes it all the more fun.

And it is fun. EDTECH HULK certainly smacks us right on the funny bone. Here are a couple of gems – but you really need to just start following him (her?) and go along for the ride.

(HULK USING IRONY! IN CASE THAT NOT CLEAR! IRONY HARD PULL OFF WHEN SHOUTING EVERYTHING! PEOPLE SEE BIG GREEN HULK! MISS SUBTLETIES! #ITC11)

THAT @COGDOG CLEARLY NOT GET POWERPOINT! SLIDES SUPPOSED TO MAKE SPEAKER REDUNDANT! THAT WHAT PROFS ROUND HERE DO! #ITC11

“HULK” ONE OF MOST TWEETED WORDS AT #ELI2011! WHAT SECRET TO HULK’S SUCCESS?! TWEET LOTS! AND SPEAK IN THIRD PERSON!

STUDENTS USE BOOKFACE! SO WE SHOULD USE BOOKFACE TO TEACH! HUH?! STUDENTS USE DORM ROOMS TOO! HULK NOT GOING THERE TO HAVE CLASS!