Thursday, July 18, 2013

Udacity effort at San Jose State University on "pause"

San Jose State University's has announced its plan to place on hold its collaboration with Udacity, an online MOOC company, after spring semester testing showed students using the online program performing more poorly than peers in traditional classes. The experiment, announced in January by Gov. Jerry Brown and encouraged by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, showed that only 51% students in Udacity's developmental mathematics courses passed compared to 74% of those in the regular courses. These results were announced by the university's vice provost at a meeting of fellow California State University provosts last month and shared with the Inside Higher Education news publication by the California Faculty Association, whose members have been critiquing the university's plans to adopt MOOCs as a way to cut costs rather than improve educational quality. By contrast, the university's EdX MOOC experiment, designed as a course supplement rather than a course replacement, is going relatively better. University leaders are attributing some of the Udacity course problems to its rushed creation last winter and selection of particularly high risk students. They plan to absorb the lessons learned and continue design work with Udacity in the spring of 2014.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Old fashioned shoe leather and MOOCs

Ry Rivard, a reporter for Inside Higher Ed, filed a solid piece of old fashioned journalism today on how MOOCs are securing service agreements in 21 universities in 16 states without going through the usual bidding process intended to keep costs down to taxpayers. The novelty and uncertainty of how to make money from these MOOC services appear to have contributed to the trend. Universities typically engage multiple bidders for similar services, such as learning management systems. In the wake of the MOOC hype over the past year, traditional LMS businesses have begun offering their own MOOC support services too. The universities' diversion from standard procurement practices reflects the similar diversion from standard internal review and privacy waivers associated with the MOOC trend. Universities have permitted MOOCs to have access to student learning data without securing waivers to FERPA regulations or going through an internal review board. They do this by designating MOOCs as "service providers." By contrast, traditional researchers measuring the effectiveness of educational interventions have to devote substantial time and research resources to securing such permissions, and often must grapple with highly incomplete data as a result.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Calling Bruce Bochy and Jim Harbaugh: City College needs you

To anyone who has spent even a few moments at a board meeting of the City College of San Francisco, the news of its possible shutdown comes as no surprise. The dysfunction is painfully apparent. If CCSF were a play, it would feel as though all the players, from faculty to college president to board members, were elbowing each other like a bunch of third-rate drama queens on a stage, each one striving to play Camille in her famously wordy death scene.

It is perhaps in disgust with this spectacle that last week the college's accreditor gave the motley troupe of CCSF a year to shut down its 11 campuses or somehow come together to file a cogent appeal. The letter cited the college's failure to address 11 out of 14 accreditation requirements. These include relatively mundane bureaucratic requests, such running a healthy budget and showing how well students are learning. Reading between the lines, one can almost hear the accreditor saying: "Enough Camille! More Baron de Varville!" (The baron was the social climber's dull, cuckholded husband who underwrote her colorful Parisian lifestyle.)

For models of what could be done, we turn from the theater to sports, which is one institution that actually works in San Francisco. Perhaps the CCSF group should borrow some tips from the head coach of the 49ers or the talented manager of the currently slumping, but ever classy and team-focused, Giants. Instead, reports indicate that the CCSF troupe plans another--get ready of it-- "mass campus protest." They cannot get enough drama, apparently. As Camille said: "I always look well when I'm near death."