The Rules for Online Learning

online learnerRegulators who make the rules for higher education accreditation are being closely watched now for the rules governing online learning. Three industry groups who are concerned have put forward their own policy recommendations. The groups are the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET).

The recommendations are concerned with competency-based education (CBE), regular and substantive interaction, and state authorization. The Department of Education's ongoing accreditation rulemaking session (which may also require congressional action) may develop outcomes-based Title IV eligibility standards for gauging colleges' effectiveness with a wider range of instructional modalities.

One big topic of discussion concerns the current rules around regular and substantive interaction. This is the measure of how much contact instructors and students must have in online courses. Some educators feel the current rules put online learning at a "competitive disadvantage" relative to on-campus instruction.

One of the test cases has been the DoE's case against Western Governors University. But in January 2019 it canceled a $713 million fine owed by WGA that came out of a 2017 audit that concluded that the school's CBE model was not in compliance with federal standards for online education. In its January reversal, the DoE determined that the fully online nonprofit university "made a reasonable and good faith effort" to apply the rules to its model.

The DoE further stated that it is "hopeful that further clarification [around distance learning] will be part of future regulations that will help spur the growth of high-quality innovative programs."

According to Inside Higher Ed, a third of all higher education students take at least one online course. Many of those students live on campus or within a two-hour radius of the college, so that the older term of "distance education" has become far less relevant.

But online learning is still growing in higher education. For example, Florida International University now offers more than 100 degrees fully online, and added more than 15 degrees in the past year. Those offerings include 20+ STEM programs at the graduate and undergraduate level, and new bachelors’ degrees in economics, writing and rhetoric.

Not all universities and educators are as strong in pushing online learning. Researchers at George Mason University and the Urban Institute say students who lack strong academic preparation tend to struggle in an online-only environment. But that research has been questioned by others. And the discussons continue at many levels.

 

Steven Spielberg, Dinosaurs, Oscars and Degrees, Netflix and Coursera

Oscar StatuettesFilmmaker Steven Spielberg has been having an argument with Netflix. His tenure as Governor of the Academy that oversees the Oscars ends this summer, but his very public feelings about Netflix has become an issue in the motion picture industry.

Netflix is just the biggest name in streaming services and Spielberg isn't happy with this disruptor of his industry. He is all for protecting the traditional film studio pipeline and the Oscars that prioritize theaters over living rooms. He would like to see movies made for streaming services be excluded from the major categories at next year’s Oscars. He thinks that Netflix movies (and really ones from Amazon and other companies) should compete for Emmys, not Oscars.

“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,” he told British ITV News in March, 2018. “I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

Roma, the film that was up for Best Picture, was the focus of a lot of this debate, was at the center of his argument this spring. The film lost in that category to Green Book, but it won Best Foreign Film, and Alfonso Cuaron won Best Director, so it certainly had a big impact this year.

graduationNow what does this have to do with education and this blog? I do tend to view a lot of things through an education lens (pun intended). It is how I have lived my adult life. 

I love movies. I got my MA in communications with a concentration of film and video back in the late 1970s when video was already taking the place of film. In my earliest teaching days, I taught students to cut film. It was a literal cut on a piece of film stock. At one time we even cut videotape that came on reels. By the 1980s, we were editing video by copying and pasting it to other videotape and the reels became VHS tapes. Analog became digital and though my students still did some animation frame by frame using Super 8 film cameras, we knew that would end soon.

I would compare Spielberg's argument with the arguments about disruptors that we have in education.

The Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a good example. Going back to 2012 (the supposed "Year of the MOOC"), there were many similar arguments being heard. MOOCs will destroy traditional universities and degrees. Online learning will become free. The quality of MOOCs is inferior to credit-based online courses from universities.

Universities were movie theaters. Roma was a MOOC. Coursera was Netflix.

In the 7 short years since the MOOC got its big push, they have changed, been adopted by traditional universities and adapted to their own purposes. They didn't destroy traditional colleges or college course or degrees. They did disrupt all of those things. All of those things have changed in some ways, and they will continue to change as the MOOC and its evolved offspring appear.

SpielbergIs Steven Spielberg a dinosaur?

He has been at the technology edge for all of his career. Yes, he prefers to shoot on 35 mm film if he can, but when he needs the video technology, such as in his Ready Player One, he goes that route. 

As an Academy Governor, he is in a place where he feels the responsibility to protect the movie business, which he clearly loves. That includes the traditional distribution vector of movie theaters. Theaters have been threatened since the arrival of television in a big way back in the 1950s. So their dominance for distribution has been threatened for more than 60 years. But theaters still exist, though in reduced numbers.

Streaming services like Netflix are a big competitor, but so are Disney and other traditional studios that want a piece of that streaming money and may care less for their theater share of profit which has been shrinking over the past few decades.

Spielberg is a dinosaur in that he wants the old system to continue. he prefers the status quo. If he was a professor or college administrator, he probably would have opposed MOOCs.

Probably, as with the MOOC, both theaters and streaming films will continue to exist. Each will influence the other, but streaming and MOOCs will not disappear.

It is understandable that Netflix wanted Roma to be considered for an Oscar, so it put it in theaters for a limited release to qualify. there are some people who are willing to pay for a film in a theater on that big screen with an audience, even though it will appear on their television set in their living room if they wait a few weeks. But Netflix makes its money from those streaming subscriptions.

Actually, it is kind of a myth that Netflix "produced" Roma.” Netflix had nothing to do with “making” or even funding “Roma.” That is actually the case for many of the shows and movies labeled as Netflix Originals. They buy films just like the other traditional studios. Participant Media financed Roma. It was shot by Cuarón’s production company. Any of the traditional studios could have acquired Roma and put it in theaters. A black-and-white film in Spanish is not as appealing to many studios, even if the director has a good track record.

If I use Coursera, the world’s largest massive open online course (MOOCs in some ways) with a learner population of nearly 40 million, as my educational Netflix, I would point out that their courses are really courses made by traditional universities. The universities are the film studios. Coursera is their distributor.

If Spielberg fights to keep things "as is" then he is a dinosaur.  There are still education Spielbergs who don't want online courses at all. MOOCs are certainly something they don't want to be considered for credit toward a degree. Credits and degrees are the Oscars of higher education. 

It is still evolution more than it is revolution.

 

Social Media and Crisis Response

This article first appeared at Ronkowitz LLC.

t-rex in the rearview mirror 

Often when we think of a social media strategy, we think of marketing. Create a plan, make a content calendar, and build campaigns.  But organizations also need a strategy to respond to a crisis using social media (SM) and ones that emerge in SM.

Many organizations and boards use an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) approach for dealing with a crisis. But that ERM was probably overseen by an audit committee or some group other than a social media team. In fact, the SM team might not even be in-house. The traditional ERM might have originally considered things like disaster recovery (fire, flood, hurricanes) and had its purview expanded to oversee things like cyber readiness. A well prepared organization's risk mitigation should also have pre-reviewed SM responses ready.

Betsy Atkins, writing in Forbes, suggests that you prepare for your ten most likely risks. Having prepared such strategies and taught students to do so, I know that though there may be some industry typical risks that are obvious, you really need a list customized to your organization. For example, Atkins suggests that for a restaurant, those risks might include a wide range from food poisoning, to a #metoo issue, or a breach of customer info, to an armed attack/active shooter.

She notes that the difference between Starbucks’ speedy response on an alleged racial bias issue contrasts poorly with the poor responses by United Airlines concerning passenger abuse removal scandal followed by a puppy suffocation death. In a time when customers are more likely to tweet their anger with your organization or post a bad review, you need to respond very quickly and as proactively as possible.

I was a MoviePass customer and I saw many complaints on social media about service and all received the same boilerplate "contact us privately" kind of response. I knew they were in trouble. Beyond the person who posted their complaint, there were many more readers of it who had the same issue or would have in the future and they saw that the company was avoiding any public response.

Is there any crossover between the marketing side of SM and the risk management side? There should be.

Since I work frequently in higher education, I was interested in an article about how George Washington University is using campus influencers  to market for them. Using students, alums, campus leaders is not unique, though much of what you see online is probably accidental rather than intentional marketing. These participants received a package of GW "swag" and were asked to post about GW at least three times a month using the hashtag #GWAmbassador and attend at least two events at GW (tickets provided) each semester if they live in the D.C. area.

The article was vague on details but said that "officials" would provide these ambassadors with “expectations” about how to promote the given material. I hope those expectations are carefully worded and thorough in their coverage since you have designated these people as ad-hoc members of the marketing team. Are they disclosing that they were given the ticket to the event they are posting about?  If they wear their GW hat and sweatshirt at a gun control rally and post a photo without the official hashtag are they still representing the university at some level? The campaign sounds okay, and the few examples I saw in Twitter seemed innocent enough. Are they ready to respond to a crisis emerging from it?

Tonight I got a gorgeous box of @GWtweets goodies and the invitation to be a #GWAmbassador and y’all know I teared up. I MUST MEET the person behind this influencer campaign and become BFFs ASAP #RaiseHigh pic.twitter.com/eUuFWI2Fph

— Mollie Bowman (@mollielieff) October 2, 2018

Facebook Cloning

cloning

So, a real friend on Facebook messages you to say " I got another friend request from you yesterday which I ignored so you may want to check your account.”  What's going on? Should you "hold your finger down and forward the message?" 

I'm reading many articles that say these kinds of messages are a scam. And other articles that say they are real. Both are true. I received messages from a cloned account of a friend. It didn't say to forward it, but it did try to get me to take the bait on a money scam.

Facebook cloning is when scammers create a fake Facebook profile by using images and other information stolen from a legitimate user’s real Facebook profile. That cloned account looks very much like the genuine profile because it uses photos and information that the victim has made “public.”  Using that cloned fake profile, friend requests are sent to people on the real accounts friends list.

Why would you accept a second friend request? Maybe you don't remember ever friending this person. I accepted one because the person who was cloned was someone who very rarely used Facebook, so I assumed she was new. Maybe you thought you had "unfriended" that person by mistake or on purpose and now wanted to reconnect. Maybe you have so many Facebook friends that you can't keep track. Maybe you want friends so badly that you just accept any requests.

What warned me was that I was the only friend listed on this cloned account. I reported the account to Facebook and warned the real person. The fake was taken down.

Facebook itself is not doing this, so don't blame them this time, though they need to put some further privacy policies in place. The cloning is being done by people with bad intentions. In many cases they are trying to lure people into scams offering the chance to "win" large sums of money. The one that I was offered said that my "friend" had gotten $500,000 from the government and my name was on "the list" to also get money. Other people have gotten messages that claim the victim has been stranded in a foreign country and needs a short-term loan to get out of trouble. 

The scams are not new. These scams went from snail mail and phone calls to email and now social media.

Some of the warnings you're seeing now are false. It has become a meme. Some warnings are legitimate. Either way, it is a good idea to protect your identity on and off the Internet.

This article on "How To Protect Your Facebook Account From Cloning" has some good general privacy hygiene for Facebook. 

Hide Your Friends List - You have that ability, so use it. Yes, I like being able to see the friends of my friends (who may be potential friends for me) but that is your choice.
friends listRun A “Privacy Checkup” by clicking the “Lock” icon at the top right of your Facebook profile. You should probably set them to “Friends” or “Only Me” rather than “Public”:

Facebook also allows you to view your profile as the “Public” sees it. That public includes all the scammers. Your photos would be the way the way a cloner would start making the fake version of you.

If you discover that your Facebook account has actually been cloned, report the fake account to Facebook and, yes, then warn friends not to accept any friend requests that look like they came from you.

Professional Ghosting

ghostIf you are familiar with the term "ghosting," it probably refers to the the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. It is often used in social media contexts. Lately, I have seen it used in the context of work situations.

Professional ghosting isn't about Ghostbusters. In a similar way, it could be the co-worker who just doesn't respond to an email, but you know they are at work and reading emails. But a newer usage to me is in reference to a situation like interviewing for a position.

You interviewed, sent a thank-you note after your interview to the main contact, then sent a follow-up note  so that it was clear you were still interested in the position - but you're getting ghosted. No response.

In office politics, there are different ways to deal with being ghosted when someone on a team isn't responding to communications about a project or when you ask for volunteers to take on a task.

In teaching online, I have had to deal with students who ghost me. They seem to drop out and stop responding to emails, messages within the LMS and comments on posts. I will try my best to communicate 1:1, even using a phone number when it is available. I find some students seem to react more from fear and hide from faculty, deliberately not responding because they don't want to confront whatever the issue(s) are in the course.

In classroom or workplace, ignoring your requests, inquiries and feedback is serious. If you are the supervisor/faculty, ghosting will having consequences. If you are the person being ghosted by a supervisor, the practice is not only confusing and frustrating but could affect your job.


The term ghosting has been around since about 20111. The term "ghostbusting" is when you force someone to reply.

"Marleying" (as in the character Marley from Dickens' A Christmas Carol) is when an ex gets in touch with you at Christmas out of nowhere.

“Caspering” (from the comic book friendly ghost) s a friendly alternative to ghosting when, instead of ignoring someone, you’re honest about how you feel, and let them down gently before disappearing from their lives.

The Psychology of Ghosting