Blended Course Design MOOC

UCF is offering the fourth iteration of BlendKit – an open, online course for those interested in blended learning course design, sponsored by ELI and delivered via Canvas Network.

The course begins on Monday and is free (along with a credential option for a fee, for those interested).

BlendKit 2015: Becoming a Blended Learning Designer MOOC

Blended learning (the strategic combination of face-to-face and online learning experiences) is growing in popularity within higher education and K-12 settings around the world. The goal of the BlendKit: Becoming a Blended Learning Designer MOOC is to provide facilitated assistance to faculty members and instructional designers in developing and designing blended courses through (1) a consideration of key issues related to blended learning and (2) practical step-by-step guidance in producing materials for a blended course (e.g., developing design documents, creating content pages, and receiving peer review feedback at one’s own institution).
This five-week course involves:
  • Expert and peer assessment and critique on design work
  • Regular interactions with facilitators and students
  • Blogging/social networking interaction opportunities
  • Weekly webinars with guest presenters
  • Document templates and practical step-by-step “how to” guides
  • Readings from scholarly works pertaining to blended learning

Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) grant in 2011 leveraged the University of Central Florida’s expertise to create the Blended Learning Toolkit as a free, open resource for educational institutions interested in developing or expanding their blended learning initiatives. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), UCF’s grant partner, agreed to use its membership to distribute the toolkit and support new course models. The BlendKit course emerged from the grant to assist educators in designing blended courses and has supported three open, online cohorts since 2012.

Will Traditional Higher Ed Be Disrupted by Pragmatic Tech Training?

I think the author overstates the prevalence and significance of the phenomenon he points to (the rise of ALPs – accelerated learning programs), but he’s right that there’s a trend and lots of folks in higher education don’t see it.  The last two years or so have seen the emergence of lots and lots of (many for profit) organizations that promise to teach people actually employable skills and to do so in relatively short order.

Traditional colleges and universities that traffic in “education” with a capital E should at least be aware that this phenomenon makes their business look a little bit like the one that specifically does NOT teach you things that represent employability.

from the TechCrunch blog…

A Wave Crests: Silicon Valley, Postsecondary Education And A Half-Trillion Dollarsby Shawn Drost (@shawndrost)

It’s easy to forget that these are early days for the Internet. We still have different ideas on what it is or how it should work. The web is governed by an iterative improvement process that moves faster than any other invention in human history. Ed tech is no exception. 

I’d like to direct your attention to an interesting phenomenon: since 2012, most ed-tech companies have quietly rewritten their product promise from unbridled learning for learning’s sake to a path to a job or career goal — website copy now essentially says “jobs, jobs, careers, jobs.” 

That transition may be related to another 2012 development: the rise of accelerated learning programs (ALPs), including General Assembly and Dev Bootcamp. ALPs explicitly measure student employment outcomes, including placement rate and average salary, and they work. The ALP phenomenon has helped influence this product pivot in the ed-tech sector. When one of my students gets a job, I get a giant bear hug and the credit for getting them there, and other educational tools are sidelined. 

It’s not a coincidence that 2012 brought both the beginning of the end of the MOOC and the start of the ALP: the zeitgeist had latched on to the connection between jobs and education. Postsecondary education has been off-balance from decades of seismic change, and 2012 kicked off three back-to-back State of the Union addresses pushing universities to reduce student debt and take accountability for student employment outcomes. 

This chronology sets the stage for an interesting future. Postsecondary students have unambiguously stated their priorities: jobs, jobs, careers, jobs. But the incumbent university system is hesitant to adopt this new focus as paramount. Silicon Valley has cottoned on to this imbalance, and has its eye on the postsecondary education market — worth a half-trillion dollars every year. Read on for a sneak preview of the next few years, and an exploration of trends surrounding the 2012 transition. But first: a historical primer on college.

Toward Disruption of Disruption

Disruption’s a magical buzzword these days, uncritically seized upon wherever you go. Far more than it ever was with new technologies, anyone who raises questions is an obvious counter-revolutionary, a luddite, a fan of the inefficient status quo. There’s precious little quality critical thinking around innovations like taxi apps, selling restaurant reservations, and market regulation – most of the discourse is either bandwagon fandom or knee-jerk anti-ism. Lepore, more a cultural than economic historian, seems to get the organizational and economic sociology of disruption and contributes a useful bit of provocation into an otherwise too often one-sided conversation.

From The New Yorker



What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.

BY JUNE 23, 2014

In the last years of the nineteen-eighties, I worked not at startups but at what might be called finish-downs. Tech companies that were dying would hire temps—college students and new graduates—to do what little was left of the work of the employees they’d laid off. This was in Cambridge, near M.I.T. …. We’d work a month here, a week there. There wasn’t much to do. Mainly, we sat at our desks and wrote wishy-washy poems on keyboards manufactured by Digital Equipment Corporation, left one another sly messages on pink While You Were Out sticky notes, swapped paperback novels—Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Gabriel García Márquez, that kind of thing—and, during lunch hour, had assignations in empty, unlocked offices. At Polaroid, I once found a Bantam Books edition of “Steppenwolf” in a clogged sink in an employees’ bathroom, floating like a raft. “In his heart he was not a man, but a wolf of the steppes,” it said on the bloated cover. The rest was unreadable.

Porter was interested in how companies succeed. … Clayton M. Christensen… was interested in why companies fail. In his 1997 book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” he argued that, very often, it isn’t because their executives made bad decisions but because they made good decisions, the same kind of good decisions that had made those companies successful for decades. (The “innovator’s dilemma” is that “doing the right thing is the wrong thing.”)

In “The Innovative University,” … Christensen and Eyring wrote, “will allow us to move beyond the forlorn language of crisis to hopeful and practical strategies for success.” … Christensen and Eyring’s recommendations for the disruption of the modern university include a “mix of face-to-face and online learning.” The publication … in 2011, contributed to a frenzy for Massive Open Online Courses…. Shortly afterward, the University of Virginia’s panicked board of trustees attempted to fire the president, charging her with jeopardizing the institution’s future by failing to disruptively innovate with sufficient speed….

See Also

Who Owns What When Faculty Create Digital Teaching Materials

The rise (and fall?) of MOOCs over the last two years has intensified interest in who owns digital teaching materials.  If I develop digital tools for students to use in my courses, can the college deploy these in other courses?  If I leave the college could digital versions of my lectures still be made available in online courses the college?  Who “owns” the syllabus I produce for a course?  If the college generates revenue using materials I have developed, am I entitled to a share?  In the coarsest form, the question comes down to this: if I digitize my teaching materials, will my employer be able to replace me with recorded versions of my lectures?
It’s complex question with lots of legal nuance, and still evolving practice.  The gist that’s relevant for most college faculty members is whether their employer can claim ownership in teaching materials they commit to digital form.
At many institutions, there’s no existing policy and this provides faculty an opportunity to put smart policies in place. It’s also a risk for faculties who are asleep at the wheel to find themselves with an especially unfavorable policy in place.
A first step in developing the background knowledge necessary to think this through is to clarify the the difference between patents and copyrights.  Patents are for inventions that have functions, copyrights are for creative works with an author.  Patents last for 20 years and give the patent holder right to exclude others from making and selling something.  Copyrights provide authors with control over reproduction, derivative works, distribution and public performance.  Patents are the big concern among scientists and engineers.  Copyright is more the issue for the rest of us.
Owning or holding copyright in your teaching materials – lectures you write, lectures you deliver and someone records, worksheets, exams, syllabi, study-guides – is, for practical purposes, about whether or not someone else can use them, as is or in modified form, in a “commercial” endeavor. That could include another teacher using them without permission in her teaching, but mostly it means can a for-profit website, a for-profit educational institution use or adapt your materials and sell them to students.  Or it could mean can your own institution use the materials to offer credits to students you do not teach?  Or to continue to offer “your” course after you leave the institution?
My own solution for these things is to put everything I produce under what is called a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License:
Teaching Materials by Dan Ryan are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
This means I grant anyone in the world permission to use and adapt my stuff for non-commercial purposes as long as they grant the same license on the material they produce.

But what happens if my employer wants more?  That’s where the need for an institutional policy comes in.  To stimulate discussion, here’s a first draft of a policy based on one found at Emerson College.  In the policy below, a “non-exclusive royalty-free license” means the college can use the materials without paying the creator and the creator can still license the work to others as she sees fit.  Note that the purpose of this policy is to encourage creativity.  The standard here is “what rights for creators will motivate production of more rather than less pedagogical material.”

Faculty rights generally. “Faculty,” all members of the tenured and tenure track faculty and all employees who have a term contract for teaching at the college and all members of the library staff.*  Faculty retain ownership of copyright in all their scholarly and pedagogical works, with the following limitations:

  1. Faculty rights in work created with significant College equipment or staff. If faculty create the work using College cameras, film editing software or hardware, audio editing software or hardware, focus group rooms, specialized staff assistance, multimedia development staff assistance, equipment in computer production labs and suites, television studios, or theaters and sound stages, then the faculty member owns the copyright in the work, but College retains a non-exclusive royalty-free license to use the work for the College’s educational, promotional, and public relations purposes.
    1. The use of standard issue office computer and software or routine support by IT does not constitute “significant College equipment or staff.”
    2. This limitation does not apply to materials developed and used for classroom or other course work; that is, the College does not claim a non-exclusive royalty-free license to use faculty created syllabi, lecture notes, lesson plans, handouts, PowerPoint presentations and other digital materials, and the like created in fulfillment of one’s teaching responsibilities.
    3. This limitation does not automatically apply to all audio or video recordings of one’s class presentations and lectures; that is, even if some college resources are used to produce a recording of lectures for the purposes of “flipped” classes, student review, etc. no license is granted to the college for the use of these materials outside courses taught by the faculty member.
  2. Faculty rights in work created with significant College financial support. In general, if faculty create the work as part of an explicit assigned task, such as the development of a new course, and receive specialized financial support, such as a special assignment contract, then the faculty member owns the copyright in the work, and College retains a non-exclusive royalty-free license to use the work for the College’s educational, promotional, and public-relations purposes.
    1. The receipt of course-development support does not in and of itself constitute “significant College financial support.”
  3. The College may on occasion provide faculty significant financial support on the condition that the College own the copyright in the work. The College must assert, in writing at the time the funds are first released, its ownership of the copyright in the work, and the College must grant the faculty member a non-exclusive royalty-free license to use the work for educational purposes.

* The rationale for this definition is to include all those persons who the college wants to be creating things related to education and instruction.  In other words, the purpose of this policy is to encourage creativity.

See Also

After Setbacks, Online Courses Are Rethought

The latest swing of the MOOC headline pendulum is way over on the “complete bust” end of the evaluation spectrum but they represent a very big solution in search of a problem and as such are not likely to disappear as fast as they emerged.

I stand by most of the points I made in my 2012 talk on MOOCs and small liberal arts colleges.  The main one was that we should we should avoid the urge to imitate and compete but embrace the opportunity to borrow and adapt the tools being developed in connection with MOOCs.

In today’s NYT we read about several high-profile flops in MOOC-land and evaluation research that suggests that MOOCs so far have been reaching “already educated” folks rather than those without access to higher education, undermining one of their primary public selling points. I would caution against over-embracing: as I said in the 2012 talk, the bandwagon is a hand-basket.

Other recent MOOC-related articles in the NYT…

Hi My Name is Dan and I’ll be Your Server

In a talk on October 14 blogger Audrey Watters described a dystopian future in which there were only 10 universities in the world.  The narrative arc of her provocation was that the rest of the “industry” would be replaced by variations on MOOCs and distance learning.  The real point of her talk (spoiler warning) was that this was not a necessary future, but one that some contemporary educational visionaries’ ideas are pointing that direction, whether they know it or not.

I envision a different dystopian higher education landscape.  In my version, the rest of the institutions do not disappear.  Instead, they become “outlets” or “franchisees” of a small number of education “suppliers.”  The business model analogy that’s most apt, I think, will be chain restaurants.  Think about the food court at the airport or the restaurants in a strip mall or scattered around either suburbia or most city centers. This will happen because small colleges and universities will face the “make or buy” decision and everything will point in the direction of buy — that is, to outsource the core educational content functions.

The entrepreneurs who run these establishments deliver a dining experience to customers who more or less beat a path to their door.  For better or worse they get a dependably consistent product.  It’s challenging for others to compete with them because they have all the advantages of scale and name recognition and proven processes of food preparation.

If you look around at the contemporary practices of the big education companies (mostly publishers) and countless education startups, what you will see are the seeds of an industry that will (or want to) capture the entire constellation of things that happen in colleges and universities with the exception of student faculty contact, student-student contact, and research.  Before long we will likely see a separating out of education per se and research (for better or worse, well underway), then we can move toward a future in which colleges and universities partner with the education franchisors.  The colleges will be able to put a local wrapper on the experience and they’ll have faculty and staff to “deliver” it, but the actual content, practices, and raw materials will be provided by the supplier.

What role will faculty and staff play?  Hard to say.  But if the best we can muster in defense of the ways we do college education is some variation on “relationships matter” then we might well find that that’s the only part we (the we now is “we faculty”) will play will be to serve up the corporate content and help students to get the most out of the experience.

Like Watters’ narrative, not a necessary future, just a possible one.  To avoid it, I think we need to pay attention to efficiency and productivity within our institutions.  Otherwise, we’ll get lapped by entities that are so much more productive that our claim to difference in kind will be drowned out.