We have had about a week to digest the latest MOOC bombshell that Georgia Tech is offering an online MS in Computer Science via a partnership with Udacity and funding from AT&T. An offering of an affordable degree, approximately $7000, conferred by Georgia Tech delivered via Udacity’s MOOC engine. Oh yes, available for free through that same engine but with no official blessing. Reaction from our higher ed community is more jaw dropping by the EdTech folks and skepticism by the traditional academic.
This latest move is just another sign pointing to the changing world of higher education. Agree or disagree but change is happening. What is significant to me about this deal is the AT&T investment. Traditional funding for public higher education is under siege by constituents who are requiring outcome assessment, as in, what is the value proposition for a college degree. Employers just want validation of skills and thinking so they can filter their employment recruiting pool. So do you think this deal for AT&T is about hiring only those graduates from Georgia Tech. No it is probably about access to all of the other student taking the courses for free. The actual degree must be validated with official assessment, hence the $7000 price tag. Here lies the real significance of this bombshell. This program will generate a quantifiable comparison of of the outcomes of the degree vs non degree students.
I really admire Georgia Tech for hedging their bet with this innovative move. They win either way, but what about the rest of higher education on the sidelines still claiming that online learning will never be able to produce qualified employees? Notice I said employees not graduates.
The acceptance that higher education is going to change is fairly unanimous at least in the circles I walk. Everyone has different ideas about what that will look like but change does appear to be inevitable. Unfortunately the reasoning behind that consensus seems to be the agreement that higher education is broken. And for the most part my colleagues have a good understanding about how it is broken. What concerns me the most is that our academic community does not appear to have any interest in fixing what is broken or possibly influencing the impending change? I am not even sure they believe they will have to change.
Maybe I’m just naive in believing that this multi century institution of higher education can be forced to change. But I base my concern on the fact that technology appears to be the driving force and the trend for technology disruption appears to be definitive. There is an obvious economic model for higher education that is becoming less and less justified. Traditional government support is not only bailing due to resource limitations but I am sensing a loss of pride in what higher education represents. If the people do not believe that investing in higher education is justified then change will come quickly.
Recent government acceptance that competency based degree attainment was equal to credit hour based degrees is a prime example. I am not saying competency based learning is not a valid option but it just seems like acceptance of this as an equal is moving way to fast. This is what I sense as the loss of pride. And this is where I would expect the higher education community to become more engaged. I will give credit to those promoting change like the Gates Foundation, but what about our higher education community of esteemed scholars that should be more concerned about their livelihood.
Change is going to come in the form of withdrawal of support. For state institutions it will be reduced appropriations and the promotion of more cost effective online delivery solutions. As these once impressive institutions of higher learning lose their edge I fear that they truly will not be able to respond with a competitive solution. A crumbling of intellect and infrastructure will threaten sponsored research while lack of attention to changing pedagogy will leave teaching instruction outdated. The traditional academic leadership does not have the skills for the business change that will be required. So what is one to do? Keep your head in the sand or try to change the world. Come on academia, you can change the world.
PC shipments are down and predictions of a 20% decline for the year are not to far fetched. We have to take a realistic look at the obvious trend, especially if you are involved with a commitment to a Microsoft PC computing environment. Reality being, Microsoft is not going to be a player in the mobile space. Why, because Microsoft is still trying to define the mobile space that has already been defined. What is wrong in Redmond?
What is with Windows 8. What does Microsoft think those millions of iPad owners were looking for? Do they think iPad owners are disadvantaged by not having a device that runs MS Office. I’m sorry for going back and harping on MS Office. But guess what, when I decided to write this post I was on a PC, so I opened Wordpad to write it. Why, because Wordpad is more effective for this very common type of writing that dominates how most of us communicate. I won’t go much deeper into the MS Office dumpster, Excel can still stand on its own as an enterprise application but everything else is unnecessarily complex.
OK, back to Windows 8, no, never mind, it really isn’t worth a critique. It is just ridiculous, starting with the fact that you have to use a Microsoft email account to activate the email app. So here is where I am at. I believe that Windows 7 should be our supported Microsoft desktop or laptop OS and that the iPad is the most effective tablet for our campus. Something is really wrong with Microsoft when the iPad actually plays better with the PC then their tablet does.
Advice to Microsoft: just keep improving Windows 7. Advice to Dell and Hewlett-Packard: push Windows 7, Microsoft can’t tell you what to do anymore. Oh yes, take a lesson from Lenovo and sell OS less PCs.
Here are a few possible steps in the right directions. Bring Back the Start Button and Boot to Desktop
I came to Missouri S&T a little over a month ago and discovered that our Distance Education Program really was that, courses delivered over a distance. My initial thought was how outdated that was, actually still trying to deliver a bricks & mortar experience to students afar. Isn’t that where online learning got started? What I found out was that Distance Education has come a long way. We deliver courses anywhere in the world with an equivalent experience approaching that of physical presence in the classroom. We do this with technology and sophisticated television production style studio classrooms. And we have a lot of them.
Of course the opportunity to deliver a true classroom experience to a remote student works very well for many of our STEM, typically engineering courses. For example, offering aerospace or nuclear engineering courses to specific industrial sectors is a valuable service. Leveraging our metro campus to allow highly renown adjunct professors to deliver courses across our university is a critical strategy. So how does this all fit into the trends pushing online and blended learning. Does the MOOC craze cause concern? Actually I find S&T in a very unique situation. I have long been a proponent of improving traditional classroom delivery with blended learning techniques. I agree with the overwhelming research that shows that blended learning translates into more effective learning. But now I get to look for ways to improve Distance Education with blended learning tools.
Let me break it down. We deliver our courses to the remote student with the highest quality of virtual immersion into the actual classroom. We rely on the finest streaming video and phone conferencing tools. Many classroom cameras offer our small army of video production operators great license to produce the ultimate immersion experience. The instructor is equipped with numerous feedback mechanisms that do not interfere with what would be their normal lecture. They do need to adapt to the use of a green screen but once that occurs I think the instructor really appreciates the more flexible presentation options. All of this is captured in HiRes HD video file made available for replay or to build asynchronous delivery options.
Our unique opportunity is that we started with the highest quality classroom experience packaged for digital manipulation and distribution. New tools like Kaltura for multi format video distribution or inline video mastery quizzing allow us to enhance this experience for the asynchronous model. We are not approaching this from the need to create more affordable course delivery, but instead we strive to offer a more valuable course delivery model. Isn’t that what the elite universities are really trying to do with the MOOC experiment. They know they must discover and incorporate the most effective components of blended learning to ensure that their Bricks & Mortar product will always be the most desired. I am more excited to be approaching this from the other direction.
I have been at my new university for about a month trying to assess a constant flow of data about how and why everything is as it is. My overall observation is that it is good, but that has a lot to do with the fact that my world renown science and technology university does not worry about the same challenges facing much of the rest of higher education today. What we deliver is highly valued in our technological world even if we are using a century’s old pedagogical approach.
We do have modern pedagogical teaching and learning success stories here at S&T, but we also have excellent traditional course delivery of science and engineering classes that do not need to be adjusted. So why do we also find ourselves pressured to offer more blended and online courses? Because unfortunately most of us fit into a much larger higher education structure that will be pushed and pulled by many reactions, some of which are “knee jerk” in nature. But that is OK, we must all ultimately be responsible for our own response.
I mention these early observations in my new job as sort of a preview to what I believe will be an amazing journey that I will share will my talented faculty and highly motivated EdTech team as we adapt to the changing world of higher education. Our greatest challenge may be to understand that even though change is not required it is also not bad. If our typical highly motivated STEM students are coming to us from a different culture then maybe changing our pedagogy a bit to compliment their learning preferences could be a way to make our end product even better. The challenge that brought me to S&T was not to save them but to have an opportunity to improve them. On the world stage today I see the real challenge for the United States is not just to produce more STEM graduates but to produce the Best STEM graduates. So maybe I get a chance to help change the world.
Cyber attacks sure do seem to be on the increase as well as getting more sophisticated. Finding out today that Educause has experienced a security breach motivated me to offer up a post. Is anyone surprised by the attacks being traced back to the Chinese Army. Those of us with systems under attack have known for a long time where most of the serious traffic was coming from. And although we did not have a specific building in Shanghai, however, we did know that attacks were originating in China. I guess they finally went too far and the Pentagon had to go public with the story. Of course the official report issued by the security firm Mandiant Technologies could not be ignored especially after the New York Times hack was made public.
The cyber attacks were not sophisticated direct penetration attacks but instead just very well done phishing attacks. Phishing as in tricking users into allowing their account passwords to be discovered. The White House and many universities in our country, mine included, were heavily targeted by spear-phishing attacks in the Fall of 2012. The results of these compromised accounts translated into massive use of our email servers to send out Spam email. This turns out to be a very profitable product for the successful hackers. However, the positive outcome from these attacks is that our university is now willing to get far more serious about implementing stronger security measures. Leading the way will be a stronger password change policy. But the real reason for changing passwords is to protect us against the compromises we do not know about.
I will blame not posting on my transition between jobs but I find myself in a hotel room in Rock Springs, WY on my way across America with some time for reflections. I am driving my beloved car from Oregon to Missouri via Denver where I will take in the ELI Conference on the 4-6. This Western half of the trip brings back many memories for me.
Leaving the Portland area through the Columbia River Gorge reminded me of the trip I took in the opposite direction in 2004 when I came to Oregon and George Fox University. What a dramatic portal it provides to the Northwest. I was extremely thankful that my trip east on a good highway was so much easier then Lewis & Clark had to deal with. I reference this concern because my entire trip in the heart of winter is a bit precarious in an Acura RSX that looks more like a snow drift to the trucks and snow plows that I have been dodging. Yes the Blue Mountains with snow packed roads kept me a bit tense. As I approached Salt Lake City with a plan to work my way down to I-70 for rendezvous with colleagues in Grand Junction, I had to abort due to a pesky storm hitting the area. Luckily diverting to I-80 worked out well and allowed me to reminisce about my earlier life in Mine Engineering and Electric Power Generating out of NW Colorado.
Rock Spring, WY, an oasis for coal miners in one of the harshest environments in the US. It is about 30 F and the wind is blowing 40 mph as it typically does. But there is coal in these parts and rivers to set power plants next to. Now they have added wind powered generators so there is plenty of electricity flowing out of this desolate place helping to light the cities of the West. Tomorrow I hope to make it to Steamboat Springs, assuming their recent 2 feet of snow does not stop me. There are still good friends and lots of memories there.
Update: I tried to get to Steamboat Springs but turned around at the Continental Divide on the road to Baggs, WY. Glare ice, 40 mph wind and big trucks caused me to reevaluate the risk/reward and decided to drive to Denver via I-80. The next day I did get to go Fly fishing on the head waters of the South Platte near Decker, CO. And yes, I caught a nice trout.
Final update, I did make it to Rolla. Bought a house the first day, love S&T and Rolla, MO.
I would like for my blogging community to know that I will be changing jobs as of February 1, 2013. My new position will be Chief Information Officer for Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, MO. The official press release will explain it more if you are interested. This is exciting for me because I am returning to my science and technology roots. It should bring a new flavor to this blog as I transition not only from private to public but from primarily Apple to Microsoft.
It was a great privilege to answer God’s call to help George Fox University, but I sense a new call to help our country graduate more scientists and engineers. Moving to Missouri will be a dramatic change as will the opportunity to lead a well-established STEM-based university. Science and technology is my passion so I couldn’t be more excited especially with an opportunity to get back into support of significant research activity.
We are responding to a new technology request that I believe will set a trend for Higher Ed tech support. The typical IT help desk is about solving basic computer hardware issues. I have mentioned in the past that I see this trending toward technology coaching. But IT service units have also been about classroom tech support. In the early days this was about delivering technology such as projectors or video capture equipment. In recent years we have been making strategic decisions about permanent installation of this equipment when usage demand justifies it. The new trend is deployment of additional WiFi access points to respond to the need for increased WiFi demand, typically driven by higher density.
AP in a box that you can checkout at the IT Service Desk. Why is this going to trend? I would guess that most IT operations have dealt with the WiFi failure scenario where a gathering of a larger then normal number of WiFi clients with a critical access need experienced less then satisfactory performance. The most recent for us was a certain program wanting all of their majors to take an online test provided by an external entity. In their eyes this was entirely possible. All of their students use laptops. WiFi performance has never been an issue. So why not ask all of these students to come to a specific room so that they can take a semi proctored online exam. That translated to about 50 students in a classroom, but it really translated to about 100 devices in that classroom due to phones, etc. And of course the classroom above and the students in the hall were also competing. We have a very nice Aruba based WiFi deployment but these types of perfect storms will overwhelm most every well designed WiFi system.
How can this AP in a box work? It works because of our more intelligent AP that can use Auto Configuring to set their frequency zone and limit conflict with surrounding APs. I am thankful that this is easily accomplished by our Aruba system. Now we have to work out what this “AP in a Box” will look like.
I have spent a lot of time in the last week thinking about what disruption to Higher Education will really look like. I got to spend some time with Richard DeMillo after I read his book, “Abelard to Apple“. The book is an excellent review of what Higher Ed was and in some cases still is. And Richard offers sound ideas about the obvious need to adapt education to our current information rich world. What struck me was that he identified the significance of MOOCs before they had evolved as we see them today under flags of Coursera, Udacity and edX.
DeMillo was a guest speaker for our NWACC Summit which happened to be our 25th anniversary with a major strategic planning purpose. So it also surprised me that discussion amongst the 30+ CIOs from the Northwest also focused heavily on the ramifications of the MOOCs. You see MOOCs are not the disruption, they are just exposing the problems so that we will finally need to deal with the disruption that is already upon us. Many have chosen to focus on the MOOCs themselves, determining how they will inevitably fail to compete academically and with respect to profitability. But it is not about the MOOCs succeeding in our traditional measures. The MOOCs have been funded by venture capitalists who tend to know when a profit is to be made and the Monetization value of MOOCs is starting to become clear. Exposure brings fame and fortune and access to valuable data or clients does as well. Coursera Career Services is not just about about helping their students find a job. I believed for many years that there was no way Amazon could ever make a profit, now I realize there are bigger forces at play.
The disruption comes from the MOOCs exposing the weakness of our traditional Higher Education course and degree delivery system. An obvious threat comes from the career service aspect. That is a domain that Higher Ed needs to control. Our degrees need to be the preeminent standard for validation that learning has been accomplished. At the foundation of our system is the credit hour. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching announced this week that it is rethinking the value of the Carnegie Unit for which we have defined the credit hour. Higher Education; we need to respond to this disruption with innovation rather then denial.
I am just going to cover random thoughts in this post. First a reflection on the Annual Educause Conference held last week in Denver. Overall it may have been the best Educause I have ever attended and that may just be due to luck of how everything came together. Really enjoyed the session “Chronicle Tech Trends: After a Year of Disruption, What Now?”. Got to see my old colleagues Dave Mills and Ali Jafari from the Cyber Learning Lab. Ali has a new venture based on a Social Networking Course Management service called Course Networking. It has potential.
I continue to investigate CRM, DW and BI so I kept an eye out for anything new at Educause. We are hitting recruiting analytics hard so now we really can justify CRM for managing inquiries and communication. What we have found with DW and BI is that we can build what we need. What is really intriguing is the changing role of data. Historical data just does not carry as much weight as it used to especially with respect to admissions data.
We have some concerns about our Moodle LMS. Moving from version 1.9 to 2.2 is causing us to reevaluate performance sizing. We will be replacing MYSQL with PostgresSQL. Grade Book is the other issue but we have workarounds. I think we are going through a natural period after a major design upgrade where we will need to invest more resources then we have in recent years. Basically we have been spoiled by how little we needed to do for Moodle support.
Still waiting on Google to offer us an enterprise option (especially for G-Drive), however, we did finally turn on G+ Premium which gives us a bit more administrative control. I suppose this is another step toward more officially endorsing Google institutional services highlighted by Hangout. Still looking for an enterprise Video Conferencing solution that I can justify. Latest score sheet: Impressed with WebEx, Disappointed with Adobe Connect and others aren’t competitive for our situation. Still no complaints with Google Hangouts as long as the purpose fits the current model.
I’m a volunteer turkey carver tonight for our students Thanksgiving dinner. Hope you all have a good holiday. Still plenty of great football and of course basketball hits center stage now. For football it is “Go Beavers” and basketball “Go Hoosiers”
I was intrigued by my own response to the Apple product announcements yesterday. How does that work? Well, I allowed my own technical interest to play out. I watched the product announcement video, I critiqued the Jobs-less Apple presentation as any Apple fan might do. But then I stepped back and evaluated what I had seen and what my gut reactions had been. And I believe I sensed a turning point similar to what I witnessed when the PC finally emerged as the option for the masses back in the early eighties.
Apple’s new products are beautiful and carry an even higher “cool factor”, but I think the difference now is the status difference that emphasizes affluence over practicality. I caught myself asking “why do we really need such a thin iMAC with a retina display that will cost approximately $2000. Sure some power users can justify the specifications, but I sensed a new arrogance from Apple, one that says we only care or cater to the affluent buyer and if you have concerns about being locked into our platform then tough, we don’t need you. Why haven’t I felt that before.
- Was it because the Apple products were so superior that cost was not a factor.
- Was it the fact that I don’t really see a difference with the retina display.
- Was it the lack of attention to even offer low cost options.
- Was it the $329 entry price for the iPad Mini.
Yes, probably so.
If I wear my Higher Education hat, I start to question whether the recent trend of students preferring Apple laptops is still healthy in these turbulent financial times. I see the student with a white macbook as the Kmart shopper and the those with aluminum models the Neiman Marcus shopper. I see our entitled students as being concerned about this. Nothing wrong, this is who we are, but I sense that the split in the road is now pronounced. Apple only wants the high road and the profit margins that come from that market segment. Do we in Higher Education need to shift our focus to the affordable consumer market that appears to be dominated by Google based platforms?
I think the door is still slightly open for Microsoft to hold onto the corporate workplace, but it won’t be because of an Office Suite but can be about professional applications. Let’s accept the fact that a Pad computing device is more then adequate for working with today’s cloud based information. I believe we will see affordable smart computing devices appear in the hands of the consumer masses worldwide. This is a movement that redefines the Personal Computer, “PC”. And with it, we will have an even greater need for techies to maintain computing sanity.
Our student News team wanted to do a story on our iGFU Mobile Portal. They tried to video record a demo off of an iPAD which was not going to work so iGFU author, Brian McLaughlin, made them a simple tutorial that we now use on our website. Checkout the tutorial if you have any interest in what a university mobile portal needs to be. Remember, our mobile portal is basically a skunk works project that leverages the flexibility and performance of HTML5 using Java and PHP to access useful data from general data feeds, Moodle and our PeopleSoft ERP.
The tutorial also highlights a couple of other useful tools. Brian made the video by using an App called AirServer that allows him to mirror an IOS device to his MacBook. He then records it with Quicktime and with a little editing on iMovie you get a very real view of a mobile app. Then we upload the video to our new ShareStream video distribution system which gives us total flexiblity to manage and distribute video (especially if we want to manage copyright). We are investigating if AirServer might offer a better path for iPad mirroring to projector in the classroom.
I thought I should give a recap of our departmental website redesign project. Many of you have responsibility for a website or at least content on a website. For some this is natural but for many it is difficult to maintain. If like my job, you are responsible for a website that is the portal to services needed by your constituents then it needs to be an effective site for navigating to the desired answer. Our IT website was basically created from a general university design back when we implemented a new CMS solution. It was not terrible but it was not thought out either with respect to usability. But who has the time or interest to tackle such a problem. Inevitably I did have to tackle this, so at the beginning of the year I posed the question to our CIO listserv if anyone could suggest good Higher Education IT Websites. Got some good feedback and gravitated to the IT website of the University of Chicago. I like their quick access icons and organization based on function rather then role.
We borrowed some of the design features from the UC site and began working with our Marketing department to design a new IT website theme. We use Cascade Server from Hannon Hill so we needed to translate our ideas and let them give us a prototype. With a basic design and goals for the various navigation strategies we involved many of our IT staff in translating our current website to the new design. Of course we came up with some new pages but mostly it was a redefinition of the purpose and style for conveying the same information. Of course we had some superstars who really helped us organize it. All this leads to a pilot site that you try to get everyone to update and validate.But at some point you have to say launch and once you get close it is probably better to launch. Mistakes on the production website that your department has taken project ownership of is a good motivator to make sure it is ready for the launch. I know that was a very general recap of a process many go through but I can say that it appears our site is a great improvement over the past. We offer quick tabs (icons) for the most requested services. We have functional service areas and then we keep a running sidebar menu for a little of both.
BTW – checkout our video about IT Services on the Home Page of our Website
The MOOC debate is not going away. Offering free online courses whether Massive or not is part of the Higher Ed landscape. Early on we tried to dissect why these elite institutions were participating in the MOOC phenomenon. Of course it was about research and goodwill but I always leaned to control and marketing. How better to deal with this emerging validated course delivery model then to help define it. Reminds me a bit of the various UNIX or open source software initiatives that always had the support of the key industry players only to insure that the initiatives never gained any momentum. I do still believe that these MOOCs are defining the baseline for a online course which helps to keep the lower tier of online courses from establishing any quality validation. But the “cat is out of the bag”, online or especially blended learning is a viable alternative to traditional classroom course delivery. Now we see how one might adapt a MOOC to fit into our traditional academic structure.
Today I read about Colorado State University’s new Online Campus is accepting a successfully completed Udacity Computer Science Course for credit. And edX is offering to validate a MOOC course with a proctored final exam via Pearson’s VUE Services. In fact hasn’t Pearson positioned themselves well with this growing dependency on online learning.
No, the MOOC debate continues. At a minimum I see all of us needing to offer free online courses as a marketing tool. The other article today “MOOCs’ Little Brother” by Steve Kolowich at Inside HigherED outlines an example of a small institution opening up some seats for free to expand their reach. I have been pushing this in my own institution for a while, asking our academic leaders to consider what would be a good seeker course to introduce our institution to prospective students. I may even offer my “Information Services” course I’ve taught for our School of Business as a MOOC or at least CUOOC, “Check Us Out Online Course”.
Addendum 9/7/12: A second major MOOC provider signs deal to hold exams at physical testing centers, potentially elevating the credibility of certificates.
Good article by Kevin Carey in the Chronicle, Into the Future with MOOC’s, More focus on how the MOOC explosion will accelerate the breakup of the college credit monopoly.