MOOCs vs. House of Cards smackdown

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

The usually techno-utopian Joshua Kim is channeling our pal, MOOC skeptic Jonathan Rees!  It’s almost unbloglich!  (I’ve jumped on Kim before and was kind of a jerk, but he was a thoroughly decent guy about it all, contacting me in a personal email.)  In a post published yesterday at Inside Higher Ed, Kim reports that he was doing so well watching recorded lectures in three different MOOCs when Netflix released the entire new season of House of Cards recently, enabling Kim’s penchant for immersive binge-watching.  In “How House of Cards killed my MOOCing,” Kim writes:

Access to media, from games to videos, is now as close as our smartphones.

The quality of compelling content available on our phones is only increasing.

House of Cards comes from Netflix.  Amazon is releasing original programming. Some folks are lucky enough to have passwords to HBO Go accounts.

And this is only video. The real action is probably in mobile games and mobile social media platforms.

As higher education content migrates to our smartphones, as it surely will, this educational material will be competing with entertainment available on the very same platform.

The answer, of course, is that I was not really missing out on an education by missing out on my MOOCs.  

An open online course is a wonderful thing for many many reasons, but participating in a MOOC is not the same thing as investing in an education.   Continue reading

Shocking news: grades, not test scores, more predictive of college success.

Historiann1990Can we all just hold hands and shout “DUHHH!!!!” together?  NPR reports on a new study this morning:

Today, some 800 of the roughly 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in America make SAT or ACT submissions optional. But before a new study released Tuesday, no one had taken a hard, broad look at just how students who take advantage of “test-optional” policies are doing: how, for example, their grades and graduation rates stack up next to their counterparts who submitted their test results to admissions offices.

.       .       .       .       .       .

[Former Bates College Deanof Admissions William] Hiss’ study, “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” examined data from nearly three dozen “test-optional” U.S. schools, ranging from small liberal arts schools to large public universities, over several years.

Hiss found that there was virtually no difference in grades and graduation rates between test “submitters” and “non-submitters.” Just 0.05 percent of a GPA point separated the students who submitted their scores to admissions offices and those who did not. And college graduation rates for “non-submitters” were just 0.6 percent lower than those students who submitted their test scores.

How now?  It turns out that “high school grades matter–a lot:”  Continue reading

Mooks talking MOOCs: Our AHA MOOC panel comments are now online at Perspectives

cowgirlropeAnd guess how I learned this?  Through the Twitter machine, when I saw Jonathan Rees tweet a link to his contribution, “The Taylorization of the Historians’ Workplace.”  (Regular readers will recall that Jonathan put together a panel on “How Should Historians Respond to MOOCs” at 2014 annual conference of the American Historical Association in Washington, D.C., last month.)

Our panel comments–slightly tweaked and edited–are now available at Perspectives.  Many thanks to editor Allen Mikaelian for his patient editing and great title suggestions for my contribution, “Can Teaching Be Taken ‘to Scale’?”  (Check it out–I quote William F. Buckley approvingly!)  I also quote one of you I saw at AHA who said to me something like Continue reading

Friday round-up: It’s What You Want!

Booted and rarin' to go!

Booted and rarin’ to go!

Who’s knows what you want, what you really really want?  I do, and what you want is a round-up, of course.  It’s been too long.  Take a gander, friends:

  • MOOC meltdown!  (Quelle suprise!)  It’s almost as if I know what I’m talking about!  From Inside Higher Ed:  “A professor’s plan to let students in his Coursera massive open online course moderate themselves went awry over the holidays as the conversation, in his words, “very quickly disintegrated into a snakepit of personal venom, religious bigotry and thinly disguised calls for violence.” But some students have accused him of abusive and tyrannical behavior in his attempts to restore civility.”  Cue Nelson Muntz.  I suppose there’s something to be learned from internet hatefests, but I don’t think it should be for college credit.
  • Speaking of college credit:  check out this experiment in using Twitter to engage students in survey classes run by my colleague Robert Jordan.  He writes, “The students, primarily freshman, have formed groups of 10-15 individuals tasked with the goal of a producing and publishing a work of digital public history via Twitter over the course of the semester. . . . [S]tudents quickly learn to discern an academic from a non-academic source; work collectively to determine the best narrative structure for the publication of their particular topic; develop an awareness of the opportunities and challenges inherent to communicating information through digital media; utilize digital and physical library resources; construct Chicago Manual of Style-formatted bibliographies for their sources; and become “knowledgeable users” of several digital technologies.”  I’d say that’s pretty darn good for students in a 100-level survey course.  You can find Robert on Twitter at @rjordan_csu–this semester he’s offering a new undergraduate course in digital history that will in part be co-taught by my colleague, Sarah Payne, who’s teaching a digital history methods course at the graduate level.
  • As my late high school French teacher used to say, run, don’t walk over to Vanity Fair to read Joshua Prager’s portrait of Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” behind the key Supreme Court decision on abortion 41 years ago in Roe v. Wade.  I’ve heard the moral of this story before–about McCorvey’s ideological flip-flop from pro-choice to anti-abortion, and the argument that McCorvey isn’t so much a political activist as an opportunist.  That’s probably not new to most of you either–and really, I don’t blame McCorvey for attempting to profit from her own exploitation, considering that she doesn’t have a lot else going for her.  No, I was more interested Continue reading

What I saw at the AHA 2014: Who are the ladies?

elvgrenartistHowdy, friends!  I spent last weekend at the American Historical Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.  Here’s what I saw & did, at least the not-unbloglich parts.

  • Tenured Radical and I had coffee on Friday and then dinner on Saturday and spent the whole time figuring out how to silence and oppress more junior scholars, in-between her multiple appearances on the program and her incessant blogging and tweeting about the conference.  Honestly, those of you who want to take her on had better stock up on your Power Bars and Emergen-C, because her energy and enthusiasm for her work online and as a public intellectual are utterly overwhelming.  I’m ten years younger than she is, and I’m already at least a week behind her!  For those of you who are interested, see her three blog reports:  AHA Day 1:  Digital History Workshopalooza, AHA Day 2:  Fun With the Humanities, AHA Day 3:  Remember the Women, and her always lively Twitter feed.  (Excuse me–I have to go have a lie down after just linking to all of that activity.)
  • Clever readers will hear echoes of Abigail Adams’s counsel to John Adams in Tenured Radical’s “Remember the Women” blog post.  I also keep thinking of that scene from Lena Dunham’s Girls in which the character she plays, Hannah, asks the other women, “Who are the ladies?”  (Shosh has been quoting a heterosexual dating advice book aimed at “the ladies,” and Hannah’s question implies that “ladies” is a stupid, made-up, narrow way to talk to real women, who come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities, etc., and both Hannah and Jessa resent being lumped into the notional category of “ladies”–just click the embedded video below.)  That was the essence of Tenured Radical’s question for the women on the “Generations of History” panel she writes about in her AHA Day 3 post when she asked what the panel would have looked like if it had included a lesbian, for example, or even some women for whom marriage and children were never a part of their life plan.
  • Continue reading

MOOC meltdown!

Pthbbbbtttttt!

Pthbbbbtttttt!

I assume you’re all familiar with Sebastian Thrum’s “ooopsie–my bad” last week on the argument that MOOCs can educate the uneducated masses and at the same time make money for his deluded investors.  I haven’t had the time or energy to say “I told you so,” especially because Jonathan Rees has a nice round-up (with a bonus Monty Python joke and clip) of the issue.

However, I’ll chime in this morning to note this survey of MOOC users at the University of Pennsylvania:  80% of them already hold advanced degrees!  This makes perfect sense in terms of what Jonathan, I, and every other critic of MOOCs has pointed out from the very beginning, which is that the people who really need college educations also–unfortunately for the edupirates like Thrun and Daphne Koller–need human beings to teach and guide them. Continue reading

Peer review sting of open access journals

Howdy, friends–no time to waste this morning, but did you hear about this sting of open access science journals published in Science today?  From the article, “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?”, by John Bohannon:

Over the past 10 months, I have submitted 304 versions of the wonder drug paper to open-access journals. More than half of the journals accepted the paper, failing to notice its fatal flaws. Beyond that headline result, the data from this sting operation reveal the contours of an emerging Wild West in academic publishing.

From humble and idealistic beginnings a decade ago, open-access scientific journals have mushroomed into a global industry, driven by author publication fees rather than traditional subscriptions. Most of the players are murky. The identity and location of the journals’ editors, as well as the financial workings of their publishers, are often purposefully obscured. But Science‘s investigation casts a powerful light. Internet Protocol (IP) address traces within the raw headers of e-mails sent by journal editors betray their locations. Invoices for publication fees reveal a network of bank accounts based mostly in the developing world. And the acceptances and rejections of the paper provide the first global snapshot of peer review across the open-access scientific enterprise. Continue reading