This course consists of 12 part lecture series that combines classroom instruction in business management and a term project involving the analysis of a business case. The course is designed to build upon and integrate the student’s previously acquired business knowledge and skills into an understanding of how to start and run a new business. Some of the topics include creating a financial plan, market analysis and venture capital.
>>Take me to the course]]>
By Kevin CareyAll around the world, people have been waiting for someone like Shai Reshef to come along.
Reshef is the founder and president of the University of the People, a tuition-free online institution that enrolled its first class of students in 2009.
UoPeople strives to serve the vast numbers of students who have no access to traditional higher education. Some can’t afford it, or they live in countries where there are simply no good colleges to attend. Others live in rural areas, or identify with a culture, an ethnicity, or a gender that is excluded from public services.
UoPeople students pay an application fee of between $10 and $50 and must have a high-school diploma and be proficient in English. There are also small fees for grading final exams. Otherwise, it’s free.
The university takes advantage of the growing body of free, open-access resources available online. Reshef made his fortune building for-profit higher-education businesses during the rise of the Internet, and he noticed a new culture of collaboration developing among young people who grew up in a wired world. So UoPeople relies heavily on peer-to-peer learning that takes place within a highly structured curriculum developed in part by volunteers. The university plans to award associate and bachelor’s degrees, and it is now seeking American accreditation.
Rather than deploy the most sophisticated and expensive technology, UoPeople keeps it simple—everything happens asynchronously, in text only. As long as students can connect their laptops or mobile devices to a telecommunications network, somewhere, they can study and learn.
For most of humanity, this is the only viable way to get access to higher education. When the university polled students about why they had enrolled, the top answer was, “What other choice do I have?”
Some observers have wondered how effective such an unorthodox learning model can be. But UoPeople’s two courses of study—business administration and computer science—were selected to be practical, culturally neutral, and straightforward.
The university has also accumulated an impressive array of peers and associates. UoPeople’s provost, David Harris Cohen, was previously a top administrator at Columbia University. In June, New York University announced that it would consider transfer applications from students who complete a year at UoPeople. A few weeks later, Hewlett-Packard announced that UoPeople students would be eligible for the company’s online-research internship program.
To date, UoPeople has enrolled just over 1,000 students in more than 115 countries. Reshef says he believes that the very act of putting students from different cultures in close collaboration is a step toward peace. He believes the university will grow to 10,000 students in five years. At that point, he says, it will be financially sustainable.
That seems realistic. The university has received thousands of applications and more than 350,000 “likes” on Facebook.
The scale of the global population lacking access to higher education is gargantuan—Reshef puts it at 100 million people worldwide. It’s outlandish to think that they’ll get it through the construction of American-style colleges and universities—the most expensive model of higher education known to humankind, and getting more so every year. Low-cost, online higher-education tools are the future for most people. What remains to be seen is whether American institutions understand the opportunity and the obligation this future represents.
There are numerous American colleges and universities now sitting on multibillion-dollar endowments that grew significantly in part because of government tax breaks for charitable donations and capital gains. They have globally recognized brands that are worth billions more, names so powerful that students from the other side of the world are magnetically attracted to these institutions. They have accumulated the brightest scholars and students, many of whom loudly and publicly express their concerns about global-economic injustice.
Yet what exactly are these institutions doing to redress those injustices with the service they are built to provide—higher education? In most cases, virtually nothing. John Sexton, the president of NYU, appears to be one of the elite higher-education leaders who most understands what’s at stake: He has created a groundbreaking new NYU campus in Abu Dhabi and is looking to expand into China next. His enthusiasm for the UoPeople is no surprise. Nor is the presence of other NYU administrators in UoPeople leadership roles. Yale University has led the way in providing open-education resources, such as free, high-quality lecture videos, as have universities including Carnegie Mellon and MIT.
But those institutions are the exceptions. Harvard has made back some of the fortune it lost in the Wall Street casino, but it seems to have no inclination to use that money to educate more students. Undergraduates at the University of California at Berkeley can minor in global poverty, but Berkeley isn’t using newly available online-learning tools to actually reduce global poverty by helping impoverished students earn college degrees. And while some institutions are publishing open-education resources, they aren’t offering degrees to match.
Most elite American colleges are content to spend their vast resources on gilding their palaces of exclusivity. They worry that extending their reach might dilute their brand. Perhaps it might. Righteousness is easy; generosity is hard. In any event, Harvard’s public-relations wizards managed to spin the university’s decision to subsidize tuition for families making three times the median household income as a triumph of egalitarianism. The institution could easily use a program designed to help desperately needy students living in political, environmental, and economic turmoil to burnish Harvard’s brand.
If Harvard doesn’t seize the opportunity, some other university will. Reshef is the first to tell you that he didn’t invent any of the tools that UoPeople employs. He’s just the one who decided to build a whole university around the idea of using those tools to give students the education they need, the way they need it—free. He won’t be the last.
If colleges with the means to do so don’t contribute to the cause, they will at best have betrayed their obligations and their ideals. At worst, they will find themselves curating beautiful museums of a higher-education time gone by.
Kevin Carey is policy director of Education Sector, an independent think tank in Washington.]]>
By Mark Sample
Last week I introduced a pedagogical framework for using Twitter in your teaching, organized along two axes: monologic to dialogic and passive to active. These high-falutin terms are fine for a theoretical matrix, but what about the real life implementation of Twitter in and outside of your classroom? How do you actually do it? I’m going to leave behind the pedagogy (mostly) in this post, and instead offer some practical advice for teaching with Twitter.
I’ll cover six aspects of Twitter integration where it pays to plan ahead of time (i.e. sometime last week): organization, access, frequency, substance, archiving, and assessment. I’ll deal with of each of these areas in turn, but before I do, and if you’re new to Twitter, I want to urge you to read Ryan Cordell’s comprehensive ProfHacker primer on Twitter. Ryan addresses many common questions about Twitter, and his guide is perfect for sharing with colleagues—and students—before you move into the nuts-and-bolts aspects of teaching with Twitter.
A question I often hear from colleagues interested in using Twitter is Do I have to follow all of my students in order to teach with Twitter? The answer is, blessedly, No, you don’t. Ryan explained both lists and hashtags in his primer; these are two methods of participating in a Twitter conversation without actually following the other participants. As Ryan explained, “following a list does not bring the tweets of all its member into your timeline—instead, the List will become readily available in the right-hand column on your Twitter page.” Ryan also described how hashtags work: by including a word prefixed by what we used to call a “pound sign” (#), you’re able to “tie a particular tweet to a larger, ongoing conversation,” which can be tracked using Twitter’s search function.
Creating a list requires you to manually add each student to the list (think of it as a Twitter Roster), whereas hashtags rely upon students themselves to tag their tweets. My own preference is for hashtags (for example, #eng685, which I’ll be using for an upcoming grad class). The advantage of hashtags is that you and your students can flag only the relevant posts. Those tagged posts will appear in the search feed, while all other non-class-related posts from your students will float down the Twitter stream without you having to pay attention to them.
Social media isn’t social unless people know about it. Your class Twitter list or class hashtag needs to be highly visible for your students. It’s a good idea to provide explicit instructions on accessing the class’s Twitter activity. At the very minimum, direct your students to the list page for your class or the Twitter search results page if you’re using hashtags. And if you have a class blog or wiki, it’s easy enough to include a Twitter widget in a sidebar, which will display the Twitter activity right there on that blog or wiki.
Also encourage your students to use a free application like Seesmic or Tweetdeck. These apps (which are available as desktop clients, web apps, or mobile apps) make it easy to create multiple columns of Twitter activity. So your main stream may be in one column, any replies or mentions of your own Twitter username may be in a second column, and your class’s hashtag can permanently occupy a third column.
Another common question I hear is How often should I require my students to tweet? Not to be glib, but the answer is, As often as you want. Or put more seriously, as often as it makes sense for your teaching goals. David Parry has required one weekend of intensive tweeting. Brian Croxall has required one month of tweeting at least once a day. Danielle Stern requires a semester-long Twitter project. There are advantages to requiring multiple daily updates, just as there are advantages to asking only for occasional tweets or for tweet bursts concentrated within a short period of time (such as during a film screening, a technique used by Zach Whalen, which Boone Gorges has eloquently explained).
What’s important is that (1) you match your frequency requirement to your learning objectives, and (2) you make your expectations clear from the outset. Whether you want students to post 3-4 times a week or 3-4 times a day, you need to let them know, and then hold them to it.
As for me, I usually ask students to post to Twitter at least once every other day, a rhythm that allows for ebbs and flows throughout the semester. Students who are naturally inclined toward social media may update more frequently, while students who are resistant to Twitter will still find themselves able to keep pace.
I also allow—and even encourage—students to tweet during class, in an attempt to create a “back channel” to our discussion. This back channel idea has never worked as successfully for me in class as it has at an actual conference. My sense is that students have been drilled to believe that text messaging and the like during class is always frowned upon. I’ve had sputters of a back channel before, and what I saw was promising. So given the right setup, I still hold out hope for spontaneous in-class Twitter use, especially in larger classes.
There’s a final point about frequency to think about: how often are you going to participate in the Twitter conversation? Will you jump in as you feel like it? Will you only respond to tweets addressed to you? Will you simply lurk the whole time as a silent observer? You yourself may not know what role you’ll assume until the class is underway and it just feels right to begin participating in a certain way.
So you’ve figured out how to organize your students’ tweets, and you’ve told them how often they need to tweet. But what should they tweet? Again, this decision is up to you. I encourage students to think of Twitter as low-stakes writing, as a place to pose adventurous claims or half-baked ideas. Because there are only 140 characters to work with, there’s no way (in a single tweet) to back up what you say. You don’t need to provide evidence for any claim you make, and nobody expects you to, which makes writing on Twitter amazingly liberating.
That said, you don’t necessarily want your #PHIL101 hashtag stream to consist of students writing about what their cats ate for breakfast. This is why I like David Silver’s valuable distinction between thick and thin tweets. As David explains, “thin tweets are posts that convey one layer of information. thick tweets convey two or more, often with help from a hyperlink.” Thick tweets push the conversation forward; they provide something new, something of value, even if it’s only an unanswered question. Thick tweets are what we should hope for from our students.
In my own classes I’ve been deliberately vague about what students should tweet about. I didn’t want overly prescriptive guidelines to constrain what might be possible. Instead, I wanted our integration of Twitter to evolve organically. Given this open-ended invitation, I’ve found students tend to use Twitter for class in three ways:
The first two behaviors add to the community spirit of the class and help to sustain student interest across the days and weeks of the semester. The third behavior, when I first noticed it, was an utterly unexpected finding. (And as I’ve argued elsewhere, it was a good, powerful surprise that legitimated my use of Twitter in and outside of the classroom. I saw students take an oppositional stance in their writing—a welcome reprieve from the majority of student writing, which avoids taking any stance at all.)
Paying attention to your class’s activity in a TweetDeck column is one thing. Preserving that activity for posterity—or at least until you want to see the broader contours of the online conversation—is something else altogether. Considering that your class’s tweets may eventually number in the hundreds or the thousands, I strongly recommend creating a permanent Twitter archive. A free service such as TwapperKeeper will track a specified hashtag, collecting the tweets 24/7, and you simply return to TwapperKeeper any time to download the archive. It’s so easy to use that I’ve begun creating TwapperKeeper archives for any hashtag there’s even the slightest chance I’ll be interested in revisiting later.
Another useful archiving tool is called, appropriately enough, The Archivist. Again, the idea is simple: specify a username or hashtag you want to archive, and this desktop program will collect it for you. The Archivist stands apart from TwapperKeeper because it can quickly generate data visualizations, such as a timeline of Twitter usage:
This graph, for example, tells me when students were most active on Twitter (the evening before class, it turns out). The Archivist was designed by a group of programmers at Microsoft, so it’s not surprising that the desktop application is Windows only. Luckily, though, the Microsoft developers have recently unveiled a browser-based version of The Archivist that will work on any platform. Like the desktop version, it generates several useful graphs and charts. The drawback to the web version of The Archivist is that you are limited to three archives at any given time (whereas TwapperKeeper allows an unlimited number of archives).
Whichever archiving option you go with, be sure it allows you to export the archive in a usable format (both TwapperKeeper and The Archivist can export your archive into an Excel or OpenOffice spreadsheet). Once you’ve got the full archive in your hands, you can analyze it with a variety of tools. It’s always enlightening, for example, to dump your class’s Twitter output into Wordle and see what ideas stand out, as in this word cloud from my graphic novel class last fall, created about a third of the way into the semester:
The final question to consider as you incorporate Twitter into your teaching is one your students will of course be asking: Are we being graded on this? For once, this is not an inane question to ask of a professor. How do you assess what students do on Twitter? The answer is, honestly, something I’m still working on. Or, to put the burden back on you: how you assess what your students do on Twitter depends on what you want them to do, how much you value it, and how much you want them to value it (or at least value what you value).
Speaking only from my own experience, I tend to evaluate my students’ use of Twitter holistically. While I follow the hashtag and will jump into the conversation, I don’t grade every tweet. In the past I’ve counted Twitter as part of the class participation grade (which generally counts as 15-20% of the final grade). And using the graphs produced by a program like The Archivist, it’s plain to see which students are active and which have fallen off the chart:
However you decide to assess your students’ Twitter activity, the key is to make your expectations clear. It’s also valuable to review your expectations occasionally. One effective tactic a few weeks into the semester is to show the class a chart like the one above. The students who find themselves to be a tiny sliver of the pie quickly realize they need to be more active.
How about You?
I’ve covered organization, access, frequency, substance, archiving, and assessment, but most of my advice comes from either firsthand experience or from what I’ve learned from other faculty on Twitter. What have I missed? What tips do you have? What other questions would you like to have answered about teaching with Twitter?
[Classroom photograph courtesy of Flickr user velkr0 / Creative Commons Licensed]]]>
The iPad for Academics
July 12, 2010
By Alex Golub
Teachers and students have always been an important market for Apple — a fact made clear by the tremendous amount of spit and polish that went into the new education website the company recently unveiled. But honestly: What do Apple’s slickly produced promo videos of adorable multicultural elementary schoolers have to do with us? And just how relevant is their newly-released iPad for what we do? Do academics really need to shell out five hundred bucks for what is essentially a big iPod touch?
After having used an iPad shortly since its release I can safely say that the device — or another one like it — deserves to become an important part of the academic’s arsenal of gadgets. Choosing to plop down the money for an iPad is like Ingrid Bergman’s regret over leaving Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart. You will do it: not today, not tomorrow, but soon — and for the rest of your life.
box that replaces a seemingly endless plethora of other things you already own: It’s a TV, a radio, an MP3 player, a compass, a flashlight, a level, a deck of cards, a calculator, a photo album, an alarm clock, a Bible, the Talmud (yes, the Talmud has been ported to the iPad)… the list goes on and on. The crucial question for academics is: What in our current arsenal will the iPad replace? After using the device, the answer surprised me: the iPad makes a lousy computer replacement, but it does a great job of replacing paper.
Let me begin by getting one thing straight: When it comes to weaning professors off of traditional computers, the iPad fails. It is simply not a good device for people who do serious productive work, whether that be reading, writing, or working with multimedia. The iPad’s on-screen keyboard simply cannot hold a candle to an actual keyboard, even for academics who are veteran texters well-versed in the use of autocomplete functions. You could get a keyboard for the iPad… but then you’d be using a netbook.
Apple deserves credit for making the thing as usable as it is, but it is still not quite there. You can browse on it, but you can’t quickly and effectively search databases. You can read e-mail messages, but it takes a tad too long to write them. The screen is much more generously sized than a cell phone… but such a comparison simply damns the iPad with faint praise. Over time the iPad may get more usable as the software improves, but its size will not. And so until the human visual field shrinks and our fingers no longer require tactile feedback, we academics will be sticking to our keyboards and screens.
Where the iPad does shine is as a paper replacement. The iPad is the long, long awaited portable PDF reader that we have hoped for. Finally, we have a device that preserves formatting and displays images, charts, and diagrams. After decades of squinting at minuscule columns of photocopied type we can now zoom in on the articles we are reading and perfectly adjust the text to the width of the screen. You can even highlight and annotate documents and then send the annotations back as notes to your computer.
True, some people do not prefer a backlit screen, but it’s great for reading at night, and despite some early evidence to the contrary, LED screens don’t cause eyestrain any more than eInk. The device is slightly heavier than the Kindle and Nook, but it is still ultra, ultra portable and ultra usable. It makes you read more and saves paper — which is clearly a good thing. Because of the iPad I’m finally untethering myself from paper files. In fact these days I’d rather buy an eBook and export the annotations to my notebook program than add another underlined book to my library — an amazing turnaround for someone who once ranted on this very website about his passion for paper.
The reason the iPad is such a great paper replacement is Apple’s app store. Devices like the Kindle sell you content from a single source and allow you to read it in a single way. The iPad, on the other hand, allows third-party developers to create (and sell) different “apps,” or programs, that live on your iPad. This means developers can build better and better apps for reading PDFs, and we can use them without having to buy a new device.
Now, it is currently early days for the iPad and the software is still developing: I have to get my PDFs onto my iPad with one program, and open and read them with another. But clearly things will improve. The makers of the überbibliography program Sente are already working on an iPad app, and soon they and others will make the device even more useful. The only thing you’ll need that can’t be downloaded to the iPad to help you read documents is a stylus — that you’ll have to buy yourself, and trust me, it is actually quite useful, even on a “magically” touchable device like an iPad.
That said, the revolutionary thing about the iPad is not software for reading content, but for finding (and buying) it. The iPad represents the genuine retailization of academic content. Let me explain:
Currently folks like Elsevier act as content wholesalers, selling greats bucketfuls of the stuff to libraries, who then make it available to students and professors. As journals have slowly transitioned away from paper, they have pursued business models of the “purchase this enormous bundle of journals you don’t want or else our Death Star will destroy another planet of your Rebel Alliance” variety. Individual articles are prohibitively expensive, and academics must fight through a tangled, messy mass of proxy sign-ins and authentication web pages while their IT guys make embarrassing, eye-averting administrative decisions to not think too much about the copyright of what is being posted on class Web sites.
Amazon and others have led the way in producing apps that allow you to read content across different devices: once you purchase an ebook or from Amazon you can read it on a Kindle, an iPad, a Mac, or a PC. This in turn raises the question: What would happen if journals went straight to consumers and sold articles like they were mp3s? What if you could log on to your ScienceDirect or JSTOR app and get a complete browsable list of your favorite journal articles, available for purchase for, say, 25 cents each?
Academics are ready for this development. We’ve spent years suffering from Amazon’s fiendish “get drunk and use our one-click purchase feature” to buy books online, and we often download tons of PDFs to make us feel productive. Apps with alerting and micropayment systems could provide for massive distribution that would push new issues of journal to your digital reading device. As such they offer a world where everyone can read exactly the articles they want. Individuals, not institutions, could purchase content — exactly the content they’re like, regardless of whether their library subscribes to it or not. In such a system publishers might object that piracy would be a concern, but honestly: If you’re selling content to universities that license it to tens of thousands of students living in highly-networked dorm rooms, is an app store really going to make the problem worse?
There are plenty of outlandish scenarios to imagine: professors who create specialized current content lists or anthologies of classic or cutting-edge articles, essentially filtering wholesale content and retailing it to increase their academic prestige (or even a chance to dip their beaks). Classrooms where student readers are easy to assemble and cheap — something textbook companies have tried unsuccessfully to do for some time. Librarians free to give up their increasingly restrictive role as purchasing agents and get back to old (and new!) roles of developing collections and enriching their institutions.
A key feature of the retailization of scholarly content is that it be reasonably free of digital rights management — and here academic publishing should learn from the music industry’s failed attempts to sell copy-protected music. The more open and reusable academic content is, the more reasons people will have to buy it. The great thing about PDFs is that, like MP3s, they are not copy-protected. While some, like the Google book settlement, have sought to meter content down to the word in the name of “choice,” such a move will ultimately prove equally stifling. Neither locking down our ability to move texts around nor micrometering them to death are good outcomes for the future of scholarly communication.
As an anything box, the iPad has the potential to replace a whole variety of devices that we use in our research, from voice recorders to GPS units to tuning forks. To be honest, however, I am not sure just how many niches there are here for Apple to fill. The iPad is an expensive device to take to the field, and a lot of times it just cheaper and easier to buy a tuning fork. And in addition, the app store lacks the super-deep selection of specialized programs that are currently available for normal computers.
I’m sure there are certain cases where an iPad might make a great mobile device: photographers who want to view, edit, and upload their photos on the fly, for instance. Overall, however, by splitting the difference between dedicated devices and genuine computers, the iPad doesn’t show a lot of promise as a mobile platform for research and teaching. Of course if everyone is always carrying around an iPad already then they might start replacing voice recorders. It’s hard to tell. My bet is that tuning forks and compasses are not going away.
Finally, I’ve been talking about how the iPad helps academics do academe better — but does it offer the ability to do academics differently? Is this device truly “magical” in a way that will radically innovate academe?
While I can imagine some innovative pedagogic uses of the device, what academics do is still narrowly defined — and tied to institutional, political, and economic imperatives. Some imagined the Internet would cause us to rethink what it meant for a text to be coherent — and it has, to a certain extent. But really it has just reinforced our chunky, discrete notions of texts by making it easier to share PDFs and .docs. The academy might be too obdurate to be easily transformable.
At heart, an anything box like the iPad might not be such a dramatic agent for change anyway. The iPad is a chameleon, able to assume the form of other things but lacking (so far) its own unique identity. You can introduce Twitter into the classroom, but Twitter is the innovative factor here, not the iPad. It may be that someone will write the killer app for the iPad that will mutate our activities in unimaginable ways. But for now those ways remain…. unimaginable.
Indeed, it may be that the iPad is just the harbinger of some future tablet device that is yet to come. That future device might not be from Apple, but it will owe a lot to the iPad. Ultimately, academics need a world full of devices they can pour information in and out of. The more open and interoperable our new ecology of applications, devices, and content providers are, the more our learning will enrich human life — whether the people selling us our readers, software, and content are Apple, Amazon, or someone else entirely.
Alex Golub is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
June 24, 2010, 11:00 AM ET
By Billie Hara
This morning, Heather recalled how a professor’s inclusive in-class grammar made learning more engaging. In this post, I want to think about how we frame our pedagogy, to ourselves and to our colleagues. In September of 2009, I wrote an article for ProfHacker about Teacher-Centered vs. Student-Centered pedagogy. In that post, I described a situation I’d found myself in where I had been described by a new colleague as a “teacher-centered” instructor.
I understood very quickly that my colleague and I were not working with the same definition of the term, as I’d always seen myself (and others had seen me) as a student-centered instructor.
In my real life and in the comments to that ProfHacker post, the term “teacher-centered” stirred some debate. As modern-day pedagogues, we desire to be student-centered, egalitarian, libratory, process-centered, or whatever modern-day buzz-word we can include to produce hip and wonderful descriptions of our teaching styles. Being “teacher-centered” in the midst of those other idealistic terms, can be, well, offensive … at least to a teacher of writing who is supposed to be–by nature of the discipline and her personality–student centered.
Generally, teacher-centered pedagogy is, simply put, a system in which most of the meaningful course information comes from the instructor. This approach places a significant amount of responsibility on the instructor to provide the “right” information, in the “right” way, regardless of learning/teaching styles. Depending on many factors (discipline, for example), teacher-centered pedagogy is the preferred method of content dissemination for both teachers and students. However, this style of teaching can be limiting to students. Most of us know what to expect in this educational environment, and the roles of teacher/students are well-defined. This style of teaching/learning is traditional.
The roles of student and teacher in a student-centered pedagogy, on the other hand, can be less clear and predicable. Often in student-centered pedagogy, students take on more responsibility for their learning, as they have to do some of the work of teaching. In a student-centered classroom, as just one example, students create knowledge by working with each other, with their instructor, with outside community agencies to apply course content in a “real world” type of manner. Again, depending on the discipline, student-centered teaching approaches can be very effective for students, but this type of environment can be chaotic for some students who desire highly structured learning environments.
O’Neill and McMahon placed this debate on a continuum:
But even this continuum lends to an all-or-nothing understanding, as there doesn’t seem to be much room in the middle for alternate styles and methods.
Reframing the Debate
However, perhaps we need to redefine the center of this pedagogical debate as not being person-centered at all. Perhaps we remove the actors and focus on the action. If we can reframe the debate, looking at this issue from a number of perspectives, pedagogy can then become “learning centered.” McCombs and Miller in Learner-Centered Classroom Practices and Assessments explain that learning centered environments “balance the concern with learning and achievement and concern with diverse learner needs.” Additionally, learning-centered pedagogy “meaningfully predicts learner motivation and levels of learning and achievement” (120).
How about you?
ProfHacker readers come from all disciplines, from all ranks, and from all types of learning/teaching strengths. How do you balance pedagogical methods in your class/discipline? How do you implement a “learning-centered” focus into your classes? In other words, please share the strategies for creating a LEARNING focused classroom. Please leave comments below.
By Joshua Kim June 9, 2010 9:17 pm
It is not everyday that I recommend that you invest your precious time to go and read a vendor whitepaper, so I hope this time you will take my advice. Go to the Symtext home page and download their whitepaper “The New Learning: Digital and Post-secondary Education.” Even if you have no interest in checking out Symtext, I think you will find this brief (6 pages) document thought provoking and informative.
The main argument the whitepaper makes, and the value proposition of Symtext, is that the traditional textbook business is an anachronism in a world of digital content. To quote, “Textbooks are products of an industrial era”. The value of textbooks is in their content, not their delivery mechanism (“wood pulp is not a business model” reads one heading), yet traditional publishers revenue models depend on selling physical books. This model is bad for students, as they end up paying an “unread chapter tax” for content not used in the course, and bad for publishers, as they capture no revenues in the used book market. Further, course content is no longer limited to text, as multimedia is an increasingly important curricular source. Textbook publishers, however, locked into a paper textbook economy, have difficulty monetizing (and therefore investing in) curricular multimedia.
Symtext’s answer to this twin problem of student needs (better content and paying for only what is utilized) and publisher needs (revenue loss in the used book market) is their “liquid textbook” platform. Symtext is building a platform that allows publishers to disaggregate and price their content (be it chapters, media, or even smaller chunked content such as diagrams or images) and professors to discover (through search or browse) this content to custom build their own digital textbooks. What Symtext is doing is working to create a market for digital curricular content, by providing the platform, tools, and frameworks necessary for suppliers of content (publishers) and purchasers (faculty decision makers, student payers) to get together.
Ideally, the market that Symtext creates through their platform should be a win-win-win. Professors can pick only the content they want, the content can be mixed media, and collaborative tagging, community and advanced search tools can help the professor discover the best-of-breed content. Students only pay for what they will use, and can receive and consume their content on the platform of their choice (Symtext is developing iPad/iPhone platforms and print-on-demand options to complement their existing browser delivered format). And publishers (and authors and other content creators) can price and receive revenues for chunks of content, and be paid each time the content is used.
The question, of course, is will Symtext be able to pull this off? There is no doubt that their fundamental value proposition is compelling. Their success, however, will depend on the willingness of publishers and content creators to make their disaggregated content available in this marketplace. No doubt some publishers will be concerned about cannibalizing their textbook sales. They will also be suspicious of mixing their content with their competitors (for branding reasons), and they will not want to share digital revenues with a middleman such as Symtext if they can create their own market. The role of publishing reps should also be kept in minds, as it is often the case that instructor textbook adoptions are (at least partially) influenced by the relationship faculty have with the reps.
Assuming that Symtext can overcome publisher’s reluctance to share content to build a large enough database (and they claim they have had strong success), they will then need to flawlessly execute their plan. Developing a robust platform for curricular objects, one that includes community and tagging features, and which can insure that content plays seamlessly across devices will not be easy or cheap. Will Symtext be able to develop an iPad version of a textbook with the same functionality, design and features as a publisher version? One example that comes to mind is the Wired iPad App, a product that publishers could build and sell but that would be difficult to duplicate across a range of titles.
Despite these challenges, I think that Symtext is on to something important with their liquid textbook concept. They deserve our attention and support as they try to disrupt the traditional educational publishing market.]]>
By Joshua Kim June 2, 2010 9:56 pmEvery syllabus should be published, indexed, and freely available online.
Where possible, the online syllabus should have these 5 traits:
1. Published in Web format, in addition to a PDF or Word document (which is better for printing but not for quickly scanning).
2. Contain links to full-text openly available curricular documents and media.
3. Provide learning outcomes at the course and modular level.
4. Include links to the instructor’s C.V. and any other online resources or places that can connect the learner with the instructor.
5. Be licensed under the Creative Commons.
While I’m suggesting a set of common standards for online publishing of syllabi, I don’t believe that these standards should be a top-down mandate. Rather, I think this change will come organically if we figure out a system to support and model this behavior for instructors.
Some questions that we could ask ourselves about the publishing of syllabi include:
–Are the tools in place to allow instructors to easily publish their syllabi to the Web?
–Are examples of syllabi that are effective for both classroom/student use and as an open learning resource easily available and accessible?
–Have opportunities for discussion and dialogue between instructors who have taken this step of publishing their syllabi and those who have not been made available?
–Does the institution reward and support the online sharing of syllabi?
–Are there sufficient educational technology resources available to partner with and assist instructors in creating and publishing syllabi for the open Web?
We also have the problem of the platform. As far as I know, we don’t have a common platform for syllabi like the ones emerging for open course media on YouTube/EDU and iTunesU. (Am I wrong?).
This seems like a great opportunity for Google to extend its work on its Google Book Library Project to the syllabus. How about the Google Syllabus Project? A collection of the syllabi in every discipline from every part of the world. Google could develop a set of robust tools to easily allow instructors to author, convert and publish their course syllabi. A specific search term for syllabi could defined (filetype:syllabus), making searching across this content type extremely easy.
Are you creeped out by the suggestion that Google should offer this syllabus platform? Do you think that professors will not participate in such an exchange given concerns about a Google monopoly on data? Perhaps I’m naive, but I’d welcome such a platform and I’d welcome Google throwing their weight behind open learning resources at the level of the syllabus. Nor do I see this sort of thing being done really effectively by non-profits or individual schools, we just don’t have the scale and Web expertise that Google could bring to a project like this.
Tell me all the places where I’m wrong…….
By Jill Laster
Last week was a big one for Google fans in higher education. Google Wave opened its doors, and Google Voice now lets students get calls forwarded from their old numbers to their new phones.
Google made one more announcement last week—about a new course-scheduling system, CloudCourse—that could potentially have implications for higher education. CloudCourse is integrated with Google Calendar and allows users to schedule classes, look up user profiles, and sync the service’s data with internal university systems. CloudCourse was built entirely on Google’s App Engine, which allows users to build and host Web apps. Google hopes that CloudCourse can serve as an example of how to use the App Engine.
One potential use for CloudCourse is to manage class rosters with tools that allow users to look at enrolled versus waitlisted students, mark student attendance, and change a student’s enrollment status in a course.
Universities typically already have an internal system to complete the tasks CloudCourse can perform. Irwin Boutboul, a Google software engineer, said in an e-mail to The Chronicle that Google designed this system with businesses, and not universities, in mind.
“Nevertheless, CloudCourse can certainly help university administrators, who most likely don’t have the time or resources to worry about hardware hosting and dealing with traffic bursts like the ones that occur during class enrollment periods,” Mr. Boutboul said. “We’d love to see universities pick up this platform and code additional features on top of it to make it more relevant to the higher-education ecosystem.”]]>
From the April 20th edition of the NJ Star Ledger…..
Technology & Internet »
Eric Greenberg teaches marketing at the Rutgers’ Center for Management Development in Piscataway Forget cranking out software code and hoping to strike it rich with a hit iPad app.
Rutgers University said yesterday it will offer business courses — rather than application development ones — that revolve around Apple’s hot new tablet computer.
The program will be the first of its kind in the country and is a collaboration between Rutgers officials and Apple’s higher education team. The week-long pilot, a digital marketing course, will launch July 19 and will award certificates to students.
MBA students can even choose to count it toward their degrees.
It is the brainchild of Eric Greenberg, who teaches marketing at the school’s corporate training facility — the Center for Management Development in Piscataway. He approached Apple months ago, before the iPad went on sale and as rumors still swirled about the anxiously awaited entry into the tablet computer market.
“We think the iPad can help Rutgers transform business education,” said Greenberg,the program’s director.
He added there is “a big disconnect” between the way companies spend their marketing dollars — on print and television platforms — and the way the public is increasingly consuming information via mobile devices.
Greenberg admitted the idea is a novel one. Instead of twentysomethings clad in sweatpants who talk of code language called “Cocoa,” picture a classroom full of suits, including marketing managers and other corporate types.
And in lieu of chatter about game characters and realistic graphics, classroom conversations will likely involve “digital brand management” and “mobile press releases.”
After paying a $4,995 enrollment fee, each student will be furnished with an iPad that is pre-loaded with course materials. The program consists of several three-hour long sessions — each taught by a different faculty member — covering a wide range of marketing topics for the next technology frontier.
“Social media marketing is probably the sexiest of them all,” said Greenberg, referring to marketing via tools such as Facebook and Twitter.
But there are still some kinks to be worked out, such as how Apple will customize the iPad for use in a higher education environment. Representatives from the Cupertino, Calif., firm will convene with Rutgers faculty later this month to hash out the details, Greenberg said.
Apple is touting the iPad as the perfect tool for students because it is portable and can download e-books.
But even as Rutgers embraces the device, Princeton and George Washington universities are banning it from their WiFi networks due to security and connectivity concerns.
Still, Greenberg said Apple is eyeing the higher education market for the iPad and is using Rutgers as a launchpad. A spokeswoman for Apple was not immediately available for comment.
Students can register for the program by visiting cmd.rutgers.edu.
Venuri Siriwardane may be reached at email@example.com or .
March 14, 2010 The Chronicle of Higher Education….
By Jennifer Howard
Maybe you’re a professor who wants to use a chunk of copyrighted material in your course this spring. Or perhaps you’re a librarian or an academic publisher. If so, the much-followed Google Book Search settlement is not the only legal case you need to be watching. A federal case involving publishers and a state-university system, Cambridge University Press et al. v. Patton et al., should produce a ruling soon, and its stakes are high.
First, a little history. In the spring of 2008, three academic publishers, Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and SAGE Publications, brought a lawsuit against several top administrators at Georgia State University. The plaintiffs claimed that the university was encouraging the unauthorized digital copying and distribution of too much copyrighted material, particularly through its ERes and uLearn systems. ERes allows students to access digital copies of course material via a password-protected Web page; uLearn is a program professors can use to distribute syllabi and reading material.
The three publishers alleged that the unauthorized copying was “pervasive, flagrant, and ongoing.” In February 2009, Georgia State put in place a revised copyright policy, including a checklist for faculty members to help them decide whether the amount of material they wanted to copy exceeded fair use.
Almost two years and many depositions later, both sides have filed briefs asking for a summary judgment in the case.
Legal briefs are a dry genre, but these tussle over some of the central questions of fair use in an academic context: How much is too much when it comes to copying rights-protected content without permission? To what extent is it the institution’s job to shepherd its professors and students through the thorny complexities of copyright?
The publishers’ filing attacks what it calls the university’s “blanket presumption of ‘fair use’” in a higher-education context. The filing goes after the university’s new fair-use checklist and copyright policy, saying that it “delegates the responsibility for ensuring copyright compliance entirely to faculty unschooled in copyright law.”
The plaintiffs quote from the depositions of several Georgia State professors who acknowledge that they are not always clear on the copyright issues at stake. (“This is outside of my area of expertise,” one is quoted as saying.) The publishers want the university to use the Copyright Clearance Center’s licensing system or something like it for course materials.
The defendants take a strict we-didn’t-do-it view. Their brief argues that “any alleged unlawful reproduction, distribution, or improper use was actually done by instructors, professors, students, or library employees.”
Georgia State’s filing also argues that the new copyright policy has drastically reduced the use of the plaintiffs’ copyrighted material. It agrees with the plaintiffs that the defendants have no budget for permissions fees and that “faculty members would decline to use works like those at issue if there was an obligation to pay permissions fees.”
So on one side you have a set of major academic publishers understandably eager to protect revenue, and on the other side you have a university that says it doesn’t promote copyright infringement and doesn’t have the money to pay a lot of permissions fees. One implication (threat?) one could draw is that if professors can’t use what they need at no charge, they will probably use something else.
I asked Kevin L. Smith, the scholarly-communications officer at Duke University, for his reaction. Mr. Smith helps scholars sort out copyright complexities—a function that is becoming ever more essential in university life, as this case makes very clear—and he has written about the GSU case on his blog, Scholarly Communications
For the moment, publishers appear unwilling to go after individual professors. “These faculty members are the same people who provide the content that university presses publish, so it would be really self-defeating,” Duke’s copyright maven, Mr. Smith, explained. “It would also be an endless game of ‘whack-a-mole.’ They would prefer a broad judgment against a university.”
In any case, the Duke expert said, a fair-use case like this deserves more than a summary judgment. This case cuts to the heart of how many professors choose course material now and how students use it. Summary judgment or not, Duke’s Mr. Smith said, “I think faculty and administrators should be very concerned.”]]>