Posts Tagged ‘about’

01
Mar

Thinking About ‘Massification of Higher Education Revisited’

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Why we may be at peak U.S. college, but we are decidedly not at peak global higher education.

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

10
Jun

I Believe a MacArthur Genius Is Wrong About ‘Grit’

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

The improvement of “grit” as a crucial to good results is a well-known theory among education reformers. I believe it tells a very limited story.

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

07
Jan

9 Factors We Learn About Understanding From Fitbit

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

Blog: 
Technology and Learning

This Hanukkah/Christmas my wife and I gave each other Fitbit Ones, a wearable digital activity tracker that measures steps, distance, calories burned, stairs climbed and sleep.  

Since 12/12/12 I have walked 334,176 steps, climbed 550 floors, and covered 172.19 miles.   

What can we learn about learning (and teaching) from the Fitbit?

1. Learning and Exercise Are Hard: Perhaps the biggest inhibitor of improving our own performance is the belief that other people are "naturals" at a given task. We say that someone is naturally good at math, or that they have a runners body. We can never be as good as they are, so why even try? The truth is that learning and exercise are hard. Nothing good comes easy.  We all need some help. The Fitbit helps me exercise. It motives me to take more steps. Recognizing that exercise, and learning, are difficult tasks can help us look for methods that might help.  We need to think about how we can use technology to encourage learning beyond what is possible with traditional methods.

2. Nudging Towards Better Habits: What the Fitbit does is provide external rewards that hopefully nudge us to adopt better exercise habits.  I run those extra minutes on the treadmill, or take the stairs and not the elevator, in order to reach my daily goal of 10,000 steps.  Eventually those actions should become habit, I'll do then without thinking.  How can we use technology to nudge students towards better learning habits? Can we find ways to provide rewards that foster both internal motivation and better study habits? If the Fitbit is truly successful at creating better exercise habits (something that I think needs verification from experimental research), can we translate the Fitbit's fitness technology to learning technology?

3. The Power of Instant Feedback: The Fitbit provides instant feedback as to how many steps, miles, stairs climbed and calories burned that I've accomplished. All of these data points are tracked in real time on the device, and captured on my own personal web based Fitbit dashboard. I don't need to wait a day or a week to see the results. And Fitbit sends me badges, in the form of e-mail and on the my Fitbit Dashboard, for every time I reach a goal (say 10,000 steps) or a particular milestone (like 500 floors climbed). Fast feedback motivates behavior.   We need to set our courses up so that we can provide fast feedback and periodic recognition of milestones. We all know that a grade at the end of a class, or a week after an exam, is too late.   What is less obvious, and what the Fitbit teaches us, is that we may be better off creating smaller assignments and deliverables in which we can provide fast feedback and turn-around.  We should also be liberal in creating formative computer graded assessments where learners can get instant feedback on their progress.

4. Setting Goals: The Fitbit allows me to set my own activity goals. The default is 10,000 steps a day (and we know the power of defaults), but we can set that goal for anything that we like. Goals can be for calories or miles, steps or stairs.  Setting our own goals is vastly more effective than having someone set them for us. We have done a good job in our course designs of including learning objectives and goals for individual modules. Have we done enough to figure out what our learners' goals are, and then to measure their performance against those individual goals? We talk a great deal about adaptive learning and personalized learning environments, but in my experience these methods remain infrequently practiced.   

5. Tracking the Data: We don't improve what we don't measure. The Fitbit is one example of the emerging Internet of things and a source for all that big data we keep hearing about.   Every minute of every day that I where my Fitbit I'm creating vast amounts of fitness related data that can be tracked, measured, indexed, and I'm sure sold to advertisers and marketers.   All this data is effective in motivating my behavior, as I can see days when I did reach my goals and try to adjust future behaviors to avoid low activity days. We are doing a better job of tracking learning (or at least assessment) data within our courses, but we are only at the beginning of connecting and aggregating learning data for the entire length of a students' higher education career.   (And forget trying to connect K-12 with post-secondary data). The digitization of learning will help us track things like time spent reading, watching course lectures and simulations, participating in collaborative platforms, and of course taking formative and summative assessments. Will we make all this data available to our students?  Will it run longitudinally across courses? Will employers or graduate schools want to see this data?

6. The Social Element: Learning is social. Every edtech company is trying to turn their learning platforms into social learning platforms. Fitbit lets me see the activity levels of my Fitbit friends via the web based dashboard. If your friends or family buy a Fitbit, and give you permission, you can see how many miles they traveled each day. So far, I have 3 Fitbit friends at work, my wife and her sister in my network. Getting crushed each day by these (apparently incredible active) colleagues and family member is amazingly motivating. Social learning may be effective if classmates can share (can opt-in) to display learning inputs. Time spent interacting with online presentations. Numbers of course blog or discussion postings. Utilization of online, computer graded formative assessments. A Fitbit community tends to set norms around levels of activity, just as a social learning community could set norms around levels of learning effort and time.   

7. The Potential of Mobile Devices: The Fitbit works to improve fitness (if it works, again we need some experimental verification), because it is a mobile technology. Clip it on and forget about it. The data syncs automatically to my web based Fitbit account. No need to plug and download anything. The Fitbit device both tracks and displays my activity, so I can check my progress as I go through the day.   The potential of mobilizing our learning is that our students will have their courses and course materials wherever they go. A set of readings, lectures, videos, collaboration opportunities and assessments on a smart phone will be available whenever a learner has a few free minutes. Our existing digital learning platforms have, for the most part, been born on the web – not on the smart phone. Do we have a learning management system that was designed first as an app, and then secondarily as a website?   What would a born mobile learning platform look like?

8. Ecosystems and the Danger of Lock-In: The Fitbit is not only a souped-up pedometer. It is a website. It is a smartphone app. It even includes a WiFi scale (for $ 129.95) that lets up to 8 people in your household track their weight, BMI, and body fat on the Fitbit dashboard. (I've lost 5 pounds so far!).  The value add for the Fitbit is not the little device, but the way that the ecosystem hangs together and the manner in which all the data populates the Fitbit network. The danger is of course lock-in. My Fitbit data (as far as I know) is not portable, if I switch to say the Nike FuelBand I'll lose all my fitness history. We need to learn how to build our learning ecosystem while avoiding locking our learners in to one platform. Personalized learning data should be accessible across learning platforms, exportable, and ingestible in other platforms. We need to follow Amazon Kindle and Fitbit in creating a valuable ecosystem for learning, but avoid the sins of these companies in making the data (whether e-books or fitness data) proprietary.   

9. The Need for Better Devices:  As much as I love the Fitbit ecosystem, I worry about losing my Fitbit device. A clip on Fitbit is sub-optimal for my lifestyle, I think it will get knocked off, lost or left behind too easily. What I want is a Fitbit watch. Waterproof. Something I can wear all the time and forget. Something that charges by the natural motion of my body. I'm betting (hoping) that Fitbit has this device in development (does anybody know?), until then I live in fear of misplacing the gadget. We also need better mobile e-learning platforms. I dream about Apple or Google or Microsoft putting learning at the core of their mobile operating systems.  The potential to bake in learning applications at the mobile OS level, rather than leaving these apps to the application marketplace, seems to me like the smartest long-term strategic bet that any of these company's could make. Can we imagine what an iPhone, Android, or Windows phone would act like if it was purpose built for learning?

What do you think we can learn about learning from Fitbit?

Are any of you also Fitbit devotees?

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

26
Sep

Imaginative Insights in Considering About Technique

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

Blog: 
StratEDgy

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to travel to Lithuania to work with the ISM University of Management and Economics on thinking through strategy and how they compete in the global market for management education.  I could do an entire post about the beauty of Vilnius, how gracious everyone there was, or how cool it was that they’re housed in an old monastery and built their newest building on top of the old city walls -; but I won’t.  Rather, I’ll tell you about what impressed me most -; the way they creatively approached developing strategy. 

The school itself focuses on developing innovative managers and they modeled what they expect their students to become throughout the two-day meeting.  The session was structured so that on the first day, participants all viewed, reviewed and discussed a common set of information and the second day they discussed options, debated alternatives, and created a rough outline for how they would move forward.  They followed a lot of best practices throughout the session:

  • Include a diverse set of opinions: Participants included ISM’s president, top management team, a handful of faculty, and me. 
  • Inject fresh insights: They started by asking me to present overall trends in management education and then facilitate a discussion around what’s happening in the sector not only in the Baltic region, but in Europe, the US and Asia to get a sense of how what they’re experiencing is unique to ISM or common across regions.  Lots of slides, lots of discussion and it took a full day. 
  • Listen and discuss:  In this case, many of the more senior people hung back and waited for others to present ideas and data -; and they really listened to what others said.  And no one in the room appeared to be nervous about questioning others’ ideas or disagreeing with their conclusions.  It was done in a spirit of cooperation and good will, and people could disagree without being disagreeable.
  • Understand that there is no “;right” answer.  On the second day discussion turned toward “;what’s next” for ISM and what it would take to get there.  The team envisioned, discussed and debated ambitions, future states, and positioning.  It became clear that there were a lot of alternatives and tradeoffs, but no single right answer.  Some ideas and options, however, were better than others.
  • Understand the tradeoffs and implications of various strategies.  After the above debate, the group coalesced around one desired future state and voted on the four main areas/priorities for achieving this state.  Four emerged quite naturally and they broke into four smaller teams to discuss initiatives, resources, tradeoffs, etc., and then came back to present and discuss ideas. 
  • Keep in mind that progress is not always linear.  It wasn’t.  

So far this sounds like many strategy sessions I’ve been a part of, but what the teams came back with was anything but.  What emerged was some very creative thinking -; one team, for example, summarized their discussion using an equation with variables and consonants to describe their research agenda and desired results.  Another utilized a theatre analogy to describe how to create the motivated team they needed to get closer to their desired future state.  This one, in particular, was impressive -; and you could tell by the knowing smiles that came from easily understanding the analogy and how it would be applied in their situation.

For a school focused on innovation, they certainly demonstrated it in the way they approached this strategy session -; using a facilitated process and making the outcome their own.  Of course the hard work began after the two-day session, and it’s well underway. That’s not the point.  The point is they used a solid process and set of practices to discuss options, debate alternatives, and consider the best path forward. 

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

17
Jul

Thinking about Coursera’s Growth

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U

Blog: 
Hack (Higher) Education

The online education platform Coursera announced today that 12 more universities had signed on as partners, joining the 4 that were part of the startup’s launch in April. Joining the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, University of Michigan and Stanford are Georgia Tech, Duke University, University of Washington, Caltech, Rice University, University of Edinburgh, University of Toronto, EPFL – Lausanne (Switzerland), Johns Hopkins University (School of Public Health), UCSF, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Virginia.

That last university is a particularly interesting one, considering the role that MOOCs played in the ouster of UVA president Teresa Sullivan by its Board of Visitors. The decision-making at UVA is the focus of much of Inside Higher Ed’s Steve Kolowich’s article on today’s news. Kolowich chronicles the negotiations among UVA deans, faculty members and Coursera, noting the irony that these discussions were ongoing as the BOV fired Sullivan for failing to have an adequate response to their questions about the university’s plans to respond to the Stanford-model MOOCs. The plans are clear now: join the Coursera platform.

The rapid expansion of Coursera’s partners, along with the equity investment made by two of them, certainly suggests that many institutions are preparing to face what the New York Times’ David Brooks called the “;campus tsunami.” Initially, Coursera had to woo schools and professors; now schools and professors are approaching Coursera, which offers universities its technology and expertise in teaching and grading “;at scale.” And while this might demonstrate what Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng told me -; that “;MOOCs are not a passing fad” -; it’s not clear yet how MOOCs will evolve as they expand to new disciplines and new universities and/or how these MOOCs will change higher education in turn.

It’s the latter that seems to elicit the most excitement and concern. Georgia Tech computer science professor Mark Guzdial has shared the email that faculty received there announcing its partnership with Coursera. In it, Provost Rafael Bras offers reassurance that “;we are not abandoning our central mission of residential undergraduate instruction. In fact, we view this as an opportunity to remain true to our pledge to define the technological research university of the 21st century by exploring new modes of instruction and operation. What we learn from the Coursera and other similar experiments will above all benefit our own students and strengthen our existing programs.”

That echoes how Ng and his co-founder Daphne Koller describe Coursera as creating a “;better education for everyone.” When I spoke to the duo when Coursera launched, Koller said that the creation of these online courses will make for robust and active learning experiences on campus. There is a “;growing amount of content out there on the Web,” she said, and “;the value proposition for the university isn’t getting the content out there but rather the personal interaction between faculty and students and students and students.”

That is part of the value proposition of the residential campus experience, I’d argue. When I asked Ng about the impetus behind these universities’ signing up for Coursera, he said that both faculty and administration were pushing for it. But students at these universities, not so much. That’s not to say that students in general aren’t interested in the free online classes -; Coursera boasts 1.5 million course enrollments by over 680,000 students. But these students aren’t necessarily that same population served by a residential campus. (According to demographics from Ng’s Machine Learning class offered last fall, only about 11% were in undergraduate degree programs.) In The New York Times today, University of Michigan (and Coursera) professor Scott Page says, “;There’s talk about how online education’s going to wipe out universities, but a lot of what we do on campus is help people transition from 18 to 22, and that is a complicated thing,.” He adds that MOOCs would be most helpful to “;people 22 to 102, international students and smart retired people.”

Who’s being “;helped” here is a crucial consideration -; for institutions, for faculty (both research and instructional faculty), for enrolled students and for learners everywhere.

A few lingering questions:

  • How will the University of Washington’s plans to offer credit for its Coursera classes work? (And related: how will concerns about online cheating be addressed? Udacity partnered with Pearson for this.)
  • How will a partnership with Coursera change universities’ other online course offerings? (These universities and other universities, pre-existing and planned programs, and particularly for-credit ones)
  • How will the peer grading work? (History professor Jonathan Rees raises questions about how well students will be able to evaluate one another’s assignments.)
  • With all these online lecture-based course options, whither the offline lecture-based course offerings? And how will funding models have to change for universities if students opt to learn “;elsewhere” for these credits?

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U