Using MOOC Data

codeThe MOOC - massive and online and sometimes open - has been around long enough that there is now massive data collected about these courses and their participants. And yet, there is not much agreement about what it all means for changing education online or offline.

EDUCAUSE recently posted "Harvard and MIT Turn MOOC Data into Knowledge" which uses data from the Harvard/MIT edX Data Pipeline. This is an open-source effort to manage MOOC data among higher education institutions.

What can we learn from all the clicks within learning management systems (edX, Canvas, Moodle, etc.)? We could find out how much time students spend reading texts, watching videos, and engaging with fellow students in discussions.

Data at the MOOC scale offers possibilities for new insights.This Harvard/MIT partnership also offers possibilities with MIT perhaps focusing on analyzing Big Data and Harvard, via its Graduate School of Education, addressing the educational responses.

Using edx2bigquery (Google’s BigQuery) and XAnalytics (a dashboard that connects to Pipeline), will allow other institutional representatives to interact with edX data. This is all beyond my experience, but I look forward to results.

Chasing the MUSE


DARPA has a program called MUSE (Mining and Understanding Software Enclaves) that is described as a "paradigm shift in the way we think about software." The first step is no less than for MUSE to suck up all of the world’s open-source software. That would be hundreds of billions of lines of code, which would then need to be organized it in at database.

A reason to attempt this is because the 20 billion lines of code written each year includes lots of duplication. MUSE will assemble a massive collection of chunks of code and tag it so that programmers can automatically be found and assembled. That means that someone who knows little about programming languages would be able to program.  

Might MUSE be a way to launch non-coding programming?

This can also fit in with President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative and it may contribute to the development of brain-inspired computers.

Cognitive technology is still emerging, but Irving Wladawsky-Berger, formerly of IBM and now at New York University, has said “We should definitely teach design. This is not coding, or even programming. It requires the ability to think about the problem, organize the approach, know how to use design tools.”

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished was launched in the summer of 2013. Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a short whitepaper he had written about what he wanted to accomplish.

He wrote that he saw as another step in the direction that Facebook had started going with earlier initiatives (such as Facebook Zero) to improve global Internet access. is a partnership between Facebook and six companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm) to bring affordable access to selected Internet services to less developed countries. 

Some writers have compared with Google's X Project Loon which also has a mission of providing Internet access to remote areas. More than half of the world's population is still without Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide.

Both sound like good things, but they have been met with criticism. There is a Zen-like proverb: "No good deed goes unpunished." Some say that these "good deed" projects would be violating net neutrality by selecting certain Internet services to be included. Might Facebook or Google exclude their competitors? In fact, in February 2016, regulators banned Facebook's Free Basics app service in India based on "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations" and Facebook removed it.

Even Wikipedia has gotten into this space with its Wikipedia Zero. That project. by the Wikimedia Foundation, aims to provide access to Wikipedia free of charge on mobile phones, particularly in developing markets.

These kinds of projects rely on what is known as "zero-rating" which is toll-free data or sponsored data. For this to work, mobile network operators, mobile virtual network operators and Internet service providers have to NOT charge end customers for data used by specific applications or Internet services through their network.