MoOc With Lower Case open and course

Coursera announced a shift in its business model this month that many people view as making their offerings less open and less like courses.

New courses in their Specializations category will require learners to either to pay up front for the first course in the Specialization or prepay for the entire program. In the past, you had the option to take it free with access to all the course materials but no certificate upon completion, or you could opt to pay ($49 at one time) for an identity-verified course certificate provided upon completion.

In the new model, the courses that charge up front (and that is not all of the courses they offer) still allow you to choose not to pay, but then you then are in the “explore” mode and have access to course materials (lectures, discussions, practice quizzes) but you are in a "read-only" mode for graded assignments. 

I don't see this as the end of the MOOC. A viable business model for companies to pay the bills of creating courses and maintaining the infrastructure has been inevitable since 2012 was named the "Year of the Mooc." For many learners, having access to the materials is all they really wanted anyway. As long as that option continues, I think these are still important educational options, even if the the open and course parts of MOOC may have been demoted to lower case o and c.

Udacity has gone farther and earlier down the path to paying for courses and developed a clear business model to work with companies and not function as an alternative university. Working with Google , their "Responsive Web Design Fundamentals" course (see video intro below) is an example of that approach. You can jump into that course and explore, but it is also part of Udacity's "Nanodegrees" which is comparable to Coursera's "specializations." 


What Google’s New Open-Source Software Means for Artificial-Intelligence Research

"Google wants the artificial-intelligence software that drives the company’s Internet searches to become the standard platform for computer-science scholars in their own experiments.
On Monday, Google announced it would turn its machine-learning software, called TensorFlow, into open-source code, so anyone can use it.
“We hope this will let the machine-learning community — everyone from academic researchers, to engineers, to hobbyists — exchange ideas much more quickly, through working code rather than just research papers,” Google announced on its website.
Until now, researchers have had access to similar open-source software: Torch, built by researchers at New York University, as well as Caffe and Theano, are also open to everyone. TensorFlow is meant to combine the best of the three, Jeff Dean, a top engineer at Google, told Wired."


Can You Still Require a Textbook for Your Course?

Articles on college students' spending on textbooks continues to be an issue, as I has been for decades. Lately, it seems that the spending on books and course materials is declining, but not because textbooks are cheaper.

As I have posted and presented in years past, more and more students simply skip buying required course materials. Do students have alternatives? There are usually used books to buy - though the constant "new editions" discourage that and buying from college bookstores or publushers is often not much of a savings. 

The scarier alternatives for faculty, colleges and students is that students simply try to get through the course without the materials. Fake it, beg, borrow or steal it. Some students report that they have to take fewer classes (especially true with part-time students). Some students say that the cost of materials is a factor in choosing classes (electives) or sections of a course (required).

Can you still require a textbook for a course? Of course. Can you expect that all the students will own a copy? No.

A new survey of undergraduates on 23 campuses by the National Association of College Stores, found that students spent an average of $563 on course materials during the 2014-15 academic year, compared with $638 the year before.

Some of that decrease may be due to the increasing use of textbook-rental programs and the use of open textbooks. But of those students who did not buy textbooks, the report noted, a greater percentage than in the past said it was because "they believed them to be unnecessary."

I would not recommend that students buy a textbook before the semester and wait to see how critical the readings are to course success.

I have found for my own students (and other surveys seem to agree) that as digital as my students might be, they still prefer print if cost isn't a factor. 

I do not see a significant increase in the use of free and inexpensive open textbooks, and that is unfortunate. That is out of the hands of students and is often a direct result of teachers not being aware of them.

In a time when college bookstores are more likely to be called just the "campus store" because more sales come from clothing, snacks and drinks than books, you would expect the open textbook movement to be gaining strength.

I did a number of presentations to faculty in past years about finding open textbooks to use in their courses. (An older guide I did at PCCC is still online and relevant.) You can start by just searching through some of the most used sources (below), but, yes, it does take some work.

I haven't assigned a textbook in any of my graduate classes in the past 5 years with all readings coming from free online sources including open textbooks. 

Art and the MOOC

A new "virtual art school" called Kadenze has already teamed up with programs at 18 institutions to create a digital platform designed for arts courses.

According to a company co-founder, Perry R. Cook (an emeritus professor at Princeton, one of the schools involved), the platform will be “multimedia rich” and allow students to create online portfolios, upload music files and scanned art, watch videos, and participate in discussion forums.

Their website describes Kadenze as "the future of creative education" as it "brings together educators, artists, and engineers from leading universities across the globe to provide world-class education in the fields of art and creative technology."

Kadenze will initially offer about 20 courses on subjects including music, art history, and technology and art.

Their "business model" is one that has been evolving the past two years for many MOOC providers. Similar to the free and premium model used by many app and software as service (SAS) providers, it offers free access and also additional access or features for paid users. You can enroll in courses and watch videos for free. Paying $7 a month allows you to submit assignments and receive grades and feedback. Additional fees of  $300, $600, or $900 will be charged for courses that are offered for credit.

Open-Access Journals a Victim of Their Success


A very interesting and ironic opening to an article from The Chronicle:

"A blossoming experiment in allowing a form of open-access scientific publishing appears to have hit a roadblock, after the world’s largest journal publisher found that too many universities were moving to take advantage of it."

That publisher is Elsevier. They have notified universities that have built their own online repositories of journal articles written by their researchers that they now must respect waiting periods (typically lasting a year or two) before allowing free access to Elsevier-owned content. This is the same approach that movie studios - another media dinosaur - has taken to holding back films from streaming services (like Netflix) for weeks, months or years.

Why these embargoes? Money, of course. And an attempt to hold back a rising tide to openness that will eventually overcome and destroy the publishers (and studios).

According to the article universities and their researchers are "crying foul, saying Elsevier is reneging now that a movement to create university repositories — web-based storehouses of articles — is rapidly gaining momentum."

Who would have thought that this open-access concept would catch on?  Not Elsevier.