Friday, December 13, 2013
They say that information wants to be free. Actually, that is wrong, information (data) should not always be free. Privacy matters. Sustainable business models matter. Ownership of data matters. Education, however, does want to be free. Like health, it is a human right. This is the real gift that the web offers, to free us from the tyranny of time, place and above all, learning that is bound up in institutions.
I’m fine with good institutions; schools, colleges and universities but when they start to act as if that’s the only place that real learning takes place, I’m not so fine. Scarcity in education is not a virtue, neither is restricted access, unnecessary expense, loans and debt. The western model of scarce, elite, expensive institutional learning is starting to creak. If we really want a step change in education, we should make it free, or at least as cheap as possible. This does not mean simply ballooning the public debt. We know what happens when we simply displace debt to the state. We need to make it more efficient and therefore cheaper.
That’s exactly what’s happened with Google, Wikipedia, YouTube and many other useful resources. They’re free and they’re popular. Abundance is what we need and that means low cost. As with all successful learning tools and experiences on the web – make is free and compelling and they will come.
We have to get out of the model built on scarcity towards the democritisation, decentralisation and disintermediation of learning – the Napsterisation of learning. MOOCs, for me, are a way of reframing learning around this idea, seeing it as a right, something that is free (at least affordable), open and not locked up paces where people charge you extortionate sums for entry. We know that this means a shift from high cost, low occupancy buildings to online.
I’ve heard a number of arguments against education being free, none of which convince me. The first is that people won’t value it unless we charge them money. No, education should be like love and sex, something you want, enjoy and don’t have to pay for. We don’t need to build campuses as that’s where people learn. They’re far too big as they are thank you very much. Stop constructing buildings and focus on constructing minds. Never have there been so many teachers in so many institutions, yet teachers are not a necessary condition for learning. It may very well be the case that we need less teachers, just as ATMs meant less bank tellers, online booking less travel agents, online shopping less shop assistants, spreadheets, less accountants, word processors less typists and so on. We have to be realistic and accept the fact that the world has changed and that this change is irreversible.
We have had a phenomenal rise in the number of teachers since the introduction of universal and compulsory schooling, a huge increase in academic teachers due to the massification of higher education and a massive rise in the number of trainers post second world war. The fact that turkeys do not vote for Christmas, does not negate the fact that most people love Christmas and want to eat turkey.
One 'O' in the word MOOC means more to me than any other and that's Open. The spirit of openess is a moral, not technical issue. It means open access and that means free or at least very cheap. MOOCs are one, and only one, way of achieving that goal.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
10 big reasons for rise of corporate MOOCs
Seems odd – a corporate MOOC, if only for the primary problem of them being ‘Open’. Corporate training is often built as closed, bespoke product, as companies want competitive edge. What’s the point of using stuff that everyone can use – we want to be better. For this reason, much corporate online learning will remain in-house and this will continue. However there are lots of other opportunities for MOOCs:
1. Customer learning
Google has an excellent ‘search’ MOOC and there’s every incentive for intangible software and tangible product vendors to help customers use their stuff. SAP and many others are using MOOCs to train customers on how to use their software, especially new products. Just as most have shifted their advertising and training budgets online, so they have shifted their marketing budgets online. MOOCs may well turn out to be a valuable marketing tool, giving you authentic edge over your competitors. Help customers learn how to use your product and you develop a closer relationship with them and keep them.
2. SME training
Governments have always struggled to deal with the SME market as the SME eye is on sales, marketing, product, delivery and cash - not learning. MOOCs may well be a solution to this problem. There’s already a flood of good, business training on MOOCs. The main benefit is that MOOCs are free, non-bureaucratic, immediately accessible, therefore a boon for cash strapped, small businesses. A more specific species of SME training is supplier training. Large international corporates are competent at training, and well resourced, but they often have problems with suppliers and the vast supplier chain that feeds them. These are largely SMEs with limited resources and low levels of training activity. Having this training online gives a multinational organisation reach. MOOCs certainly have a role here.
3. Internal training
There is already evidence that organisations are looking at MOOC platforms as an alternative to the traditional, expensive LMS. They are attracted by low cost, agile and scalable nature of these platforms in terms of their coding structure (Django, Python, Ruby on rails etc.), where the rendering and representation is kept separate from the logic and interactions. This is in contrast to the monolithic code and limited single database use of traditional LMS vendors. They are also looking at some of the innovations that the MOOCosphere is coming up with in terms of peer assessment, online assessment and pedagogy. Christian Kuhna of Adidas, understands this stuff and sees MOOCs as an opportunity for both employees and customers. “We want to integrate the great stuff on the internet into our learning offerings”, he said, as well as for use by a wider audiences, such as customers and suppliers.
4. External resources in blended learning
Internal courses can be expensive to build and deliver and now that there are hundreds of ‘free’ MOOCs out there it makes sense to use and integrate them into your training. This is especially true of business, finance and IT, where MOOCs can be seen by corporates as part of a sophisticated off- and online blend. The blended MOOC is a real option for corporates, where they have the resources to deliver other components internally with face-to-face, tutor support and so on, to balance out the purely online nature of the MOOC.
5. Flipped classroom
This model is a more specific example of blended learning, where the MOOC becomes that which you study at home for the knowledge and exposition and the internal training gets you to practice and adapt that knowledge, within your organisation. This gives you free external training and internal relevance and competitive edge. One can easily see a cohort of people within an organisation starting a MOOC and moving forward together with mutual support to achieve real learning.
6. Continuous Professional development
This has long been a problem in organisations and often a responsibility that has been long abandoned to the employee. MOOCs can redress that balance, as they are free, or at least very low cost, allowing organisations to recommend and encourage their use for CPD. Rather than relying on over-priced courses from the Chartered Institutes of X, Y and Z, you can point people towards better, more relevant and recent learning in MOOCs by known, inspirational experts, that are hot off the shelf.
MOOCs are already being used in recruitment, with high performing students being recommended, especially to tech companies. The whole talent management process may become infused with MOOC activity, with MOOCs already being taken seriously by employers, who see such learners as having initiative, self-motivation and competences. I’d love to see MOOCs crop up on CVs and the recent tie up with LinkedIn should accelerate this process.
This is an interesting one, as there’s already a good supply, and high demand, for quality, entrepreneurship MOOCs at all levels. This is a good sign. I always wince when I hear of ‘Entrepreneurship’ degree courses., usually run by people who have never sold anything on eBay, never mind started or run a business. Similarly with ‘leadership’, so often taught by those who have never led anything other than a course.
Corporates, such as Google and AT&T, already see the value of sponsoring MOOCs. It can be part of their social responsibility push, or simple marketing. Being associated with a free educational resource may well fit high-end brands, especially high end consultancies and tech companies.
10. Certification not the issue
Rolls Royce spend £40 million on training a year but only £2 million on certified training. That’s why the ‘certification’ argument doesn’t really matter that much in this market. Organisations want skills and competences, not bits of paper. This is often a message lost on education providers. It is also a good reason for MOOCs being more relevant, unshackled by the obsession with paper certification.
There is the issue of LMS integration. Companies want data that proves efficacy and competence and want it through their LMS. This is merely a technical hurdle over which most MOOC platform vendors are already jumping. Tin Can promises to provide an interoperability standard way beyond that of SCORM.
When you consider the rationale for corporate MOOCs, Udacity’s move in that direction doesn’t seem so surprising. They have forged a relationship with Google, Autodesk, and other tech companies and this is fine. EdX is being used by the steel manufacturer Tenaris in its Tenaris University to deliver learning to 27,000 employees. Udemy and others already serve this market. McAfee use MOOCs for sales training, essentially a flipped classroom model. MOOCs are no longer just an HE issue.
Once an innovative digital genie escapes from the bottle, all sorts of people want to see what it can offer, and corporates are no slouches when it comes to innovation, especially when that innovation offers very low costs, quick access and global, online reach.
Try this experiment if you work in training. Just click on each of these links and make a list of any of the courses you think would be useful to your organisation. I think you’ll be surprised.
Monday, December 09, 2013
MOOCfest in Berlin
The first image of the first talk by Professor Mayer-Schonberger, he of Big Data book fame (see my review here), was one word – MOOC. His point was that MOOCs currently offer the best chance of harvesting Big Data in education, as they’re massive and online. This was prophetic, as MOOCs dominated this year’s Online Educa. I gave a talk on MOOCs, chaired a MOOC session and watched 12 presentations on MOOCs, had innumerable discussions on MOOCs and the backchannel was MOOCsville. It was, as they say, a MOOCfest.
MOOCs are ‘doomed’ debate
Let me start with the MOOC debate, which I helped organise. We decided to go for a simple motion - this house believes that ‘MOOCs are doomed’. Now most Online Educa debates are well argued on both sides and pretty close on the vote but this was a wipeout. It was clear from the start that the two protagonists, arguing that MOOCs were doomed, didn’t really know what they were talking about. The audience and the opposition sniffed this out with questions on Twitter, and when they both admitted that they had never even bothered to take, even look at a MOOC, the debate was all but done. Strangely enough I had this same experience in the last MOOC panel I witnessed in Qatar, where neither of the critics had bothered to look at even a single MOOC. They quite simply lacked, the data, nuance and arguments to make any impression. It was like watching celibate priests debate ‘sex’.
Here, in Berlin, they completely misjudged the level of expertise in the audience, the majority of whom, on a show of hands, had taken a MOOC, many several. Once they had been shown up as uninformed charlatans, you could see their embarrassment and feel the mood turn. Interestingly, there were also comments (from women verbally and online) about the fact that they were all men, trussed up in suits and ties and it was true, they seemed so old-school.
The final nail in the coffin was a lovely Greek guy who explained how he loved his MOOCs and had actually cried when he had completed his first, a quite moving moment. As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it’. The vote was so one sided, the audience and chair actually laughed.
We saw MOOCs from around the world. There’s coming on for 400 MOOCs in Europe, with Spain, UK, France and Germany leading the way but also Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Italy and Portugal also contributing (see this wonderfulmap)
Russia’s also getting in on the act as is Canada, South America, the Far East and Africa. This doesn’t surprises me, as the need for free (at least cheap) education is a global issue. Many of the more interesting examples I saw were not from the US but in different languages and flavours from around the globe.
We heard from the US, UK, Spain and Germany about the way in which MOCs had caught the imagination of HE but had moved well beyond this domain into the corporate (Adidas), not-for-profit (World Bank, Ufi) and even high school spheres. The liveliest debate was around drop-out, with one side seeing it as a serious problem, the other as a category mistake, as there’s lots of window shoppers, the curious, toe-dippers and others, so it’s not really drop-out. Better to be amazed at how many drop-in. The debate around pedagogy was interesting, as those who had taken MOOCs, and there were plenty, were very positive, with the criticism, curiously, coming mostly from those who had not. Most interesting of all was the sheer diversity of MOOCs, people taking MOOC, places where MOOCs were being built and the untapped possibilities. My own presentation, called the flipped university, was about the shifts from old to new that MOOCs were enabling.
I chaired an interesting set of presentations from MOOC builders in Belgium, Dubai and Russia, who were honest about how hard it had been but positive about the outcomes. Bert De Coutere explained how he had used an ensemble of tools including Canvas, YouTube, Dropbox, Surveygizmo and Openbadges, and provided some incisive insights into the problems he faced. Tamilselvan Mahalingam used Coursesites with very low cost video production. Marie was working with OpenupEd and gave us the strangest fact of the conference, that MOOC means ‘torture’ in Russian! Platform choice was a live topic which I touched upon this in my presentation and in this blog post. LINK
The debate simply confirmed the great majority in the room that this is not the time for negativity based on prejudice rather than experience. What was heartening were the many who were starting to see MOOCs through fresh eyes. The backchannel and discussions were, as usual, the most interesting areas to test out ideas and get a feel for the debate. Twitter was abuzz with MOOC talk and I felt that in this quite sophisticated audience, MOOCs had been tried, would be tried and had excited many. There’s always those, like armchair critics, who have for years yearned for onine learning to come of age, and when it does, globally, they shy away from the consequences, which is decentralisation and disintermediation.
I love this conference, Rebecca Stomeyer and her wonderful team do a brilliant job, in creating an atmosphere that fosters debate and discussion. Importantly, Berlin is the venue. This avoids the Anglo-Saxon dominance that occurs when it’s in London or the US. It’s also great at this time of year, all Christmas markets and gluhwien.
Saturday, December 07, 2013
MOOCs: the C***** word is the problem!
Educators love 'C' words. I once wrote a spoof blog about a 'C' word generator, where the software randomly generated five 'C' words. The ‘C’ word creator puts the ‘C’ into courseware. The creator selects from a considerable database of ‘c’ words including; creativity, challenge, commitment, communication, compassion, cooperation, collaboration, connections, culture, conflict, clarity, concise, context, competence, change, chemistry, contribute, critique, compelling, coordination, consultation, community etc. It takes five of these, randomly, and inserts the phrase, ‘The 5 ‘Cs of..............’ and’C’reator will define your course structure in seconds. Above all, they love the word 'course'. The danger with MOOCs is to become trapped in the language of learning - homework, lecture (means patronise in ordinary language), pass or fail,
College course not the goal
The first wave of MOOCs suffer from replicating the standard 6/8/10 week semester college ‘Course’. That’s their problem. They’re too long, sometimes too ‘video’ heavy’ and don’t actually match the needs of the real audience – lifelong learners. The data is clear – MOOCs are for all. This is to be celebrated, not disparaged. Once you flip the benchmark and see MOOCs as evolving towards widespread use by everyone from school students, parents, vocational learners, students, adults, professionals, the retired, then the coin drops. This is all about flipping the model. My talk at Online Educa in Berlin argued that MOOCs are not evolutionary but revolutionary and that now the digital genie is out of the academic bottle, it will spread to other areas, where it will be far more effective and beneficial. MOOCs are NOT about HE, they’re much more important than that.
Massive Open Online CONTENT
Once you see MOOCs as “a supply response to a demand problem” you see that the demand is not actually HE, that’s a tiny portion of the demand. Real demand lies in lifelong learners of all ages, backgrounds and locations. It’s an anytime, anywhere, anybody medium. Don’t get trapped into thinking that ‘course completion’ is the goal – it’s not. Don’t get trapped into thinking that ‘certification’ is the goal – it is not. Don’t get trapped into thinking this is about long, and often long-winded, HE courses – it is not. It’s about demand, namely learners, and their choices. If you walk around with a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, said Abraham Maslow, almost the only interesting thing he said. But this habit has plagued the MOOC debate. It’s not about courses stupid, it’s content.
A course demands completion, content, even structured content, does not. Take your time, dabble if you want, go as far as you want. The course is an institutional artefact. Keep them in institutions but don't foist them and their constructs on the web or the rest of us.
Wrong questions get wrong answers
If you ask the wrong questions you get the wrong answers. Time and time again I hear MOOC myth questions. The first set make the age-old category mistake of equating MOOCs with University courses. MOOCs are much bigger than this and are NOT to be equated with college ‘drop-out’ or the 18 year old undergraduate expectations around completion and certification. Neither are they weak pedagogically – in fact many of the more innovative things that are happening in online learning are in the MOOCosphere, in learning analytics, use of video and online assessment. Neither are they part of the LMS world, as their coding is much more agile, flexible and scalable. Finally, they can and will make money. Even if they don’t the benchmark is the ridiculously expensive college degree and that ain’t hard to beat.
MOOC Myth 1: It’s about courses
Flips inward to outward. Where closed, offline, supply-led, elitist HE scarcity with small numbers subject to the tyranny of time and location FLIPS TO open, online, demand-led abundance with massive numbers anywhere, anytime
As George Siemens says, it is “a supply response to a demand problem”.
MOOC Myth 2: Catastrophic drop-out
Flips drop-out to drop-in. Where the inappropriate concept of high-school and University drop-out, meaning failure FLIPS TO another concept - drop-ins, where it’s OK to leave, and stopping is rational. Drop out, when applied to MOOCs is simply a category mistake. Completion is not always desirable. It is not the goal.
MOOC Myth 3: All about 18 year old undergraduates
Flips horizontal to vertical, from the 18 year old undergraduate model and Higher Ed MOOCs TO the lifelong learner, corporate MOOCs, not-for-profit MOOCs, charity MOOCs, vocational VOOCs and high school HOOCs.
MOOC Myth 4: Just videos
Flips lectures to short video. Where the 1 hour lecture which has no basis in the psychology of learning and exists simply because the Babylonians had a 60 based number system, delivered at a fixed time, fixed location, once only FLIPS TO short videos where ‘less is more’, seen anytime, anywhere, available to be viewed many times.
MOOC Myth 5: Weak on assessment
Flips off- to online assessment. Where offline, compulsory certification, teaching to the test once a year using pen & paper and no innovation FLIPS TO online, where there’s a minority interest in certification, learning for learning,’s sake, anytime and there’s lots of innovation, such as peer assessment, ProctorU, automated essay marking and so on.
MOOC Myth 6: Just an LMS
Flips old platforms for new. Where traditional LMS/VLE vendors such as SumTotal, Blackboard and Desire2learn , with monolithic code is inflexible with few releases and a high cost per learner FLIPS TO Django, Python, Ruby on Rails, MVC framework, cloud-hosted flexible, agile platforms with a stream of innovations and releases at a cost of cents/pence per learner
MOOC myth 7: No evaluation
Flips bad data to big data,. Where bums on seats, contact time, course completion, summative assessment and happy sheets FLIP TO performance, competences, feedback, useful and personal data that guides learners and improves design.
MOOC Myth 8: Can’t be monetised
Flips grants to monetization. Where expensive, government funded institutions, load up on loan ridden students plunging them into deep debt FLIPS TO cheap learning from many sources, such as not-for–profits, for profits, payment for certification, sponsorship, more students, and huge organisational and government savings.
I simply ask you to flip your mind and see MOOCs not as courses but free content. In this respect, it’s more like Wikipedia and YouTube, both massive learning tools, used by hundreds of millions of learners. We don’t talk about drop-out in Wikipedia or YouTube. What they talk about are drop-ins – the huge amount of real use.