The Invisible College


The roving College Of the RosicruciansThe Invisible College (whose emblematic image is shown here in an illustration from Speculum sophicum Rhodo-stauroticum, a 1618 work by Theophilus Schweighardt) was the Rosicrucian College, identified by Frances Yates as the "Invisible College of the Rosy Cross".



It is sometimes described as a precursor group to the Royal Society of London. It consisted of a number of natural philosophers and may have also included some prominent figures who would be later connected with the Royal Society.



This article is not meant so much as a history lesson as it is the thought that an "Invisible College" might be something we could use again today.



This idea of having an "invisible college" can be found in German Rosicrucian pamphlets in the early 17th century and another playwright of Shakespeare's time, Ben Jonson, referenced it in several plays.



It was a group of scholars meeting to discuss and learn, but without actual courses, degrees or a campus of buildings.



In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, it is noted that a group of natural philosophers meeting in London from 1645 was identified as the "invisible college" by Thomas Birch, writing in the 18th century.



It might remind some readers of other more concepts of "expert communities" such as Epistemic communities or Communities of Practice.



book infoThe concept and the term was applied to a global network of scientists by Caroline S. Wagner in her book, The New Invisible College: Science for Development.



In the book, Wagner argues that a shift from big science to global networks is creating new opportunities, especially for developing countries, to tap science's potential. Don't try to create 20th century scientific establishments and centers of learning, but use global networks of leading scientists to focus on research to address local problems.



My own thought is that some combination of online learning, MOOCs, alternative and personal learning networks - and maybe even "degrees" in some new format -                                                                      may create a new Invisible College without buildings or a home campus that grows and travels from place to place as it is needed.



The concept is mentioned in Clay Shirky's book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. It has found its way into fiction like The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown and Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.



It was the inspiration for the humorous Unseen University in 13 fantasy novels by Terry Pratchett (such as Unseen Academicals).



For now, the Invisible College (preferable to the Invisible University, which smells stronger of degrees) is fiction and fantasy. Of course, both invisiblecollege.com and invisibleuniversity.com are already owned by people who have parked the URLs for the time when...



 


MOOC: The Seven Year Itch

I am looking forward to speaking at NJEDge.Net's 15th Annual Faculty Showcase on March 28, 2014.

Last year, I spoke about Massive Open Online Courses just ahead of offering one myself. That was "Academia and the MOOC" which was offered with NJEDge.Net through Canvas Network last spring.


This year I will be back as the lunch plenary and I'm calling my talk "MOOC: The Seven Year Itch" since the MOOC is now 7 years old.


If 2012 was the "Year of the MOOC", then what happened in 2013 - and what will become of the MOOC in 2014?


I will give an update on the past year in Massive Open Online Courses and a sense of how they are really impacting education and training.


The morning speaker is Dr. Erin Templeton an Associate professor of English at Converse College and a fellow lover of poetry. But for this audience, it is more that she is a regular contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education blog, ProfHacker.



The Faculty Showcase is all about best practices from member institutions and is targeted to educators from K-12, higher education, institutional research, and healthcare related teaching as an opportunity to show their work to NJ colleagues.


The event features presentations and posters on technology-mediated instruction.


More event information at njedge.net/activities/facultyshowcase/2014/



Still Questioning MOOCs?

Whether you think they are a game changer or a fad, you have to admit that no other recent development in higher education has captured the imagination of the media and the attention of universities as MOOCs have done.

Are they really a disruptive innovation and, if so, how are they changing higher education? That's what a recent call for papers asks. http://journals.uoc.edu/ojs/index.php/rusc/pages/view/callforpapersenero2014 (Submission deadline: 30 June 2014) Actually, they ask a number of questions:
Why and how do institutions decide to offer MOOCs?  
Who are the learners and what are their patterns of behaviour?   
What are the implications of MOOCs for developing countries?  
What changes are MOOCs stimulating in institutions (e.g. more online learning, shorter programmes/courses, public-private partnerships, etc.)?  
How is evolving technology changing the infrastructure required to offer MOOCs?
MOOCs have spread beyond higher education and are now being offered by a wider range of institutions and organisations – what is their experience?
Are viable business models for MOOCs emerging?

The early big pioneers of big MOOC platforms are still around. In the spring of 2012, Anant Agarwal, a professor of computer science at MIT, taught a course called “Circuits and Electronics.” The course enrolled 155,000 students from 162 countries around the world. Now the head of edX, Agarwal says MOOCs still matter. He thinks that they are a way to share high-level learning widely and supplement (but perhaps not replace) traditional classrooms. He has a vision of blended learning as the ideal learning experience for 21st century students.




Daphne Koller co-founded Coursera with Andrew Ng and got top universities to put some of their most intriguing courses online for free. They do it as a service and as a way to research how people learn.

Coursera measures each student's activity, quizzes, peer-to-peer discussion and grading gives them Big Data on how knowledge is processed.