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.