Coursera Attempting to Improve MOOC Learning With F2F Learning Hubs

The N.Y. Public Library is planning face-to-face sessions for MOOC students in a partnership with MOOC provider Coursera.

Coursera is trying to build an infrastructure for in-person learning around its free online courses. Research has suggested that MOOC students who receive offline help earn higher scores on their assessments.

Coursera is not paying the library to provide this service and the library will fund it as part of its own public-service mission.

Learning Hubs is Coursera's global initiative in community building + blended learning. But this online company is doing it through establishing physical networks of space, facilitators and students worldwide.

Coursera, as part of its mission to connect the world to a great education, is launching the Coursera Learning Hubs Initiative, which establishes physical spaces where students can access internet to take classes online. The Hub framework aims to improve the accessibility of and support for online education. Students who may not have access to the Internet at home - common in places where affordable education is most needed - can come to learning hubs to take Coursera courses and can participate in interactive learning sessions with facilitators in their local area.

Coursera has been helping organizations establish similar “learning hubs” but they have been almost entirely outside the United States. 

Reinventing the Classroom Conference

Time: April 30, 2014 to May 1, 2014
Location: online
Organized By: Reinventing the Classroom
Attending: There is no cost to attend.

Event Description: Inaugural Reinventing the Classroom Conference: "How Ed Tech Is Reshaping the Classroom Experience" on Wednesday, April 30th and Thursday May 1st, 2014.

This free world-wide conference will be held online and will be a unique chance to participate in a collaborative global conversation on innovative classroom uses of ed tech with presentations by your peers. 

To be kept informed of the latest conference news and updates:
Join the Reinventing the Classroom network and conference website at
Follow conference discussions on Twitter using #reinvent14

Conference strands will include the following topics: Teaching with Technology, Student Devices, Online Learning, Subject-Specific Ed Tech, Creative Ed Tech, Web 2.0 & Social Software, and Administrative Support.

Google Removes Ads from Apps for Education

More than 30 million students, teachers and administrators globally rely on Google Apps for Education. About 40 percent of nonprofit colleges use Google for institutional email. Under pressure from privacy advocates, Google announced that it had permanently removed all ads from its Apps for Education. That includes the Gmail service. That means that the company can no longer harvest students’ information for advertising purposes.

Google had previously given college administrators the option of allowing the company to scan student Gmail accounts for key words and to deliver targeted advertisements to those students. Apparently, few administrators opted to allow the ads so many users won’t actually see a change.

Google said that Gmail collects data on all incoming and outgoing messages for several reasons. The practice allows the company to identify certain messages as spam, and makes it possible for users to unearth old emails with key-word searches. Scanning for potential advertising key words was part of that larger process, but the company has isolated and eliminated that part of the scanning process for Google Apps clients.

In California, two college students joined a recent attempt to bring a class-action lawsuit against Google for violating state and federal privacy laws in its data-collection techniques, according to Education Week. There has been discussion about whether Google’s data collection might violate Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 

There Is Open and Then There Is Closed

open closed

Going back all the way to the early days of MOOCs (less than a decade, of course), the Open part of Massive Open Online Courses was a very important part of the equation. OPEN meant a number of things, including:

Access - open to all, regardless of age, location or previous experience and education

Free - without cost

Open Tools - using free and open tools like Moodle, blogs etc.

Reuse – the right to reuse the content in its unaltered / verbatim form

Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself

Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new

Redistribute – the right to make and share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others

That is not true for many of the big MOOC providers. Another blow against the Open Everything Empire comes with the announcement that Udacity will no longer give learners the opportunity to earn free, “non-identity-verified” certificates. People will still be able to view Udacity’s online course materials without paying, but those who want a credential will have to pay. Udacity feels their courses are worth something and plans to charge students accordingly. Udacity had earlier pulled back on believing that MOOCs are best-suited for academic pursuits and better applied to traing and lifelong learning. That is what many universities consider to be "non-credit" courses.

How long before the courses are not even open to those who aren't willing to pay to learn?

The big MOOC providers already tend not to use open source platforms and most don't allow the courses to be remixed, reused or redistributed.

The openness is eroding.



Quest-Based Learning

Perceval and the quest for the Grail

Quest-based learning (QBL) is an instructional theory that uses elements of game design and learning communities to support student choice while still operating within the context of a standards-based curriculum.

Many educators and many schools at all levels are uncomfortable moving away from a top-down approach to information acquisition. So, QBL may bee seen as moving out of many comfort zones.

Some game-based feedback tools - not games - like experience points, progress bars, badges, and achievements are motivating and meaningful to students.

Rather than design courses via textbook learning and lectures, QBL classes require students to select quests and progress at their own pace through a series of educational activities. This may remind educators of project-based learning or problem-based learning, but the unique element is the self-selection part of the design.

Quests are often online learning activities that address the core of the subject matter. These might be an audio podcast, a short video or collaborating online with classmates in discussion or composing.

For me, the most important thing is not putting the quest-based learning label on the pedagogy, but the inclusion of the QBL elements in course design.

In a white paper by Chris Haskell (Boise State University), he explains that QBL lesson design "focuses on an individualized and flexible curricular experience. In QBL, students can select activities, called quests, rather than assignments in a fixed linear order. Students leverage choice to promote engagement rather than waiting for a due date.”

Hands might be raised immediately to question how autonomy over what and when to learn would have any effect on academic achievement. Haskell and a colleague implemented an experimental QBL curriculum with pre-service teacher candidates in 2010 and they found “93% of students using this approach reached the winning condition, described as receiving a course grade of ‘A’ . . . the average completion time was reduced from 16 weeks to 12 ½ weeks with one student completing [the course] in just four.”

It's interesting that this experiment started in higher ed and is being moved down to K-12, since much innovation in teaching and pedagogy moves up from the lower grade levels.

Will this quest lead to a holy grail for teaching? No. There is no grail. It's all in the journey.



This post also appears at Ronkowitz LLC