Making Educational Content Accessible

disability symbols
You might have read earlier this year that the University of California, Berkeley started removing more than 20,000 video and audio lectures from public view that they had made freely available online. Why? It was the result of a Justice Department accessibility order requiring them to make the educational content accessible to people with disabilities.
UC Berkeley was one of the colleges in the forefront of posting to YouTube, iTunes U and their own webcast.berkeley.edu site. Accessibility for people with a wide variety of disabilities has been an issue with online courses for many years. Mostly, schools have "gotten away with it" when it comes to following requirements that largely came into focus primarily after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990.
It's curious that the Justice Department’s investigation did not look at how Berkeley actually serves students with disabilities, but only the accessibility of content it offers to the public. As a result of this order the university will also require users sign in with University of California credentials to view or listen to them.
This is a scary ruling for other institutions who have been "getting away with it" and now may have to do the same as UC. 
All it took was complaints from two employees of Gallaudet University, the world's only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hard of hearing students. The employees said that Berkeley’s free online educational content was inaccessible to blind and deaf people because of a lack of captions, screen reader compatibility and other issues.
Unfortunately, to remedy these issues any university would need to implement measures that are very expensive to continue to make these resources available to the public. Since they were offered for free, there is really no business model that applies here other than charity. So, the immediate solution was to make them "inaccessible" to everyone by removing them. 
Berkeley can continue to offer massive open online courses on edX. They also plan to create new public content that is accessible.
One concern that many educators have is that this ruling will result in the disappearance of much Open Educational Resources.

Don't Fire the Humans Yet

human intelligence
AI is the thing everyone wants to use. Social media is in love with artificial intelligence. Of course, much as the cry went up when computers first appeared, some people say that "AI will take our jobs."
Facebook has almost 2 billion users. Those users post a lot of content. Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that live video is a big part of the future of Facebook. But the company has come in for a lot of criticism for violent video posted this year, including murder and suicide.
How does Facebook (and other social media companies) decide what content violates its community standards? They all are desperately implementing and experimenting with AI, but they still rely mostly on humans.
Facebook announced recently that it is using an AI system designed to identify users contemplating suicide or self-harm. How? By using pattern recognition to determine if a post and its comments resemble previous posts identified as being about self-harm. Facebook is also including clearer options for reporting posts that appear to indicate self-harm. It is people reporting to people who determine inappropriateness.
AI-based image-recognition tools that users can use are assisting human moderators now. Can the 54,000 potential cases of sexually related extortion and revenge porn reportedly posted each month can be found and deleted by AI? Not yet. 
Did you see the film Hidden Figures ? In the early 1960s, the mathematicians working at NASA were called "computers" - people who did computations. But those human computers also saw the entry of IBM mainframes into NASA that were better  computers. They realized they would need to become the humans who could program those electronic computers if they wanted to keep working. Take note Facebook and other companies - and anyone who wants to work for those companies: AI requires human intelligence. 
After 2 murders were broadcast live on Facebook in April. Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would add 3000 employees to the already 4500 employees who work on their Community team reviewing reports on videos. Live video is growing rapidly online, and Facebook Live is a service with 1.9 billion monthly users to broadcast video. Lawmakers in Germany and the UK have also been pressuring social networks to better remove illegal hate speech and clamp down on fake news. The 3000 new workers will monitor all Facebook content not just live videos. This team would operate around the world and will most likely be virtual contract employees.
Just last week, Facebook's "leaked" guidelines for dealing with these types of situations became public that hopefully can make a big difference in preventing suicide and other life-threatening situations.  

Microcampuses

"Rather than build its own brick-and-mortar branch campuses, the University of Arizona is embarking on a plan to open more than 25 “microcampuses” at international partner universities over the next three years, creating a network that it hopes will be capable of educating more than 25,000 students around the globe. Arizona’s plan is for each of the microcampuses to offer at least one, and in most cases several, dual-degree programs in which degrees are conferred by both Arizona and a partner university. Each microcampus will be housed at the partner university, which agrees to provide classrooms and a UA-branded space. announcing its next 11 planned microcampuses, where it hopes to begin offering dual-degree programs with its partner universities in 2018." 


Read full article at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/05/23/arizona-embarks-plan-develop-25-global-microcampuses

 

Moodle Goes MOOC With Academy

Academy home page May 2017

Academy is Moodle's version of a MOOC) platform, It's not that some people and institutions haven't gone done the MOOC road using the Moodle platform that was originally developed in 2002 by Martin Dougiamas to help educators create online courses. The Moodle platform was conceived with a focus on interaction and the collaborative construction of content and it has evolved over the past 15 years quite successfully. But it was not designed with the aim of hosting a course that contained tens of thousands of learners with different (and perhaps more limited) interactions and less emphasis on student-centered content creation.
There was an announcement about Academy in May 2016 and the Academy platform is still a preliminary version. As far as I have read, it is being used by only one institutional partner (Dublin City University) and for seven courses that are currently in the pre-enrollment stage).
At first mention, Moodle Academy was being compared to the Canvas Network because it seemed that Academy would be a centralized MOOC hosting platform run and managed by Moodle. This would be ideal for institutions (or individuals?) who wanted to offer a MOOC but needed not only a platform but the servers and bandwidth to deal with massive users and activity. I taught a meta-MOOC called "Academia and the MOOC" in the spring of 2013 in Canvas Network, and have used Canvas to teach undergraduate courses at a university since then.
I signed up for an Academy account and pre-enrolled for a course to test out the platform. (No start date listed yet.) The course is "21C Learning Design" and described as being for teachers who want to develop 21st Century skills in learning design. There is currently no content, but the platform itself looks very much like a Moodle course. For example, filling in my profile information, photo etc. was the same, and the home page with topics also looks the same as what I have used when I teach in Moodle at NJIT. 
AS with Canvas and Canvas Network, I suspect that Moodle and Academy will differ more behind the scene and screen and feel very comfortably similar for Moodle users.
If you want to try out Academy, go to https://academy.moodle.net/ and register. If you decide to take the 21C class, please message me there. It would be interesting to meet some Serendipity35 readers in a MOOC platform. 

The Adventures of the Serendipity35 Gang

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You probably noticed some changes on this blog the past month. Brother Tim did some upgrades and that required getting rid of our old and outdated theme. The updates also busted a lot of images from the site and changed all kinds of settings on the admin end of things. For example, it reopened comments on posts and I immediately started getting hundreds of spam comments again. Oddly, many of them were links to Chinese sites selling basketball shoes, but also the usual Cialis and other drug and questionable merchandise. Unfortunately, that is further proof that we just can't allow commenting, (I do get the occasional legitimate email sent to the site though.)
I have tried to fix the frontend of the posts and Brother Tim has been playing behind the screen with things and hopefully we are back to something like normal - which is more than I can say for the offline world.

The GIF Story

FOXThe GIF is a file in the Graphics Interchange Format, a bitmap image format. Some people pronounce the abbreviation with a "G" sound (like gift without the t) and other use a "J" sound (like JIFfy). It was developed by US-based software writer Steve Wilhite while working at the internet service provider CompuServe in 1987. (He used the G sound.) Since then, it has gone into widespread usage due to its wide support and portability.
Originally, CompuServe wanted a lightweight color image format to replace their black and white only run-length encoding (RLE) format. The GIF had color and LZW data compression which allowed larger images to download faster. This being a time of very slow modem connections, it was common to see a big or detailed image appear line by line as you watched it load.
CompuServe released an enhanced version in 1989 (called 89a) which added support for animation delays, transparent background colors, and metadata. 
It wasn't until September 1995 when the early and very popular web browser Netscape Navigator 2.0 added animated GIF support that the animated GIF became popular. Perhaps, too popular, as early websites often featured many animated logos and decorative (and annoying) images.
In 2012, the American wing of the Oxford University Press recognized GIF as a verb as well, meaning "to create a GIF file", and they voted it their word of the year, saying that GIFs have evolved into "a tool with serious applications including research and journalism."
Today GIFs are often used to illustrate simple processes and also as mini-movie clips (although they are not true video files).

myosin
Molecules of the protein myosin dragging a ball of endorphins along an active filament into the inner part of the brain’s parietal cortex which produces feelings of happiness. via paradelle.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/what-happiness-looks-like/