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    Emerging Technologies in Distance Education -- Outstanding...
    blog entry posted September 7, 2010 by Richard E Lillie, last edited May 22, 2012, tagged research 
    18731 Views, 106 Comments
    title:
    Emerging Technologies in Distance Education -- Outstanding Resource
    intro text:

    In July, 2010 AU Press (Athabasca University, Canada) published a book that I think you will find is an excellent resource for ideas about using technology in teaching and learning.  The book entitled Emerging Technologies in Distance Education is edited by George Veletsianos.

    AU Press makes the book available for free in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format.  You may download the entire publication or selected chapters.

    This book is worth exploring.  It may not turn you into a "pro from Dover" (to draw on the line from the movie Mash).  However, it should help you better understand how to use technology when you design course materials and share them with your students.

    Enjoy.

    Rick Lillie (Cal State, San Bernardino)

    Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

    Comment

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Professor Hopes to Support Free Course With Kickstarter, the ‘Crowd Funding’ Site," by Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 29, 2012 --- Click Here
      http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/professor-hopes-to-support-free-course-with-kickstarter-the-crowd-funding-site/35864?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      Free online courses for the masses are all the rage—and many are being run by start-ups hoping to profit by selling related materials and services. Jim Groom thinks that’s too commercial, so he’s raising money for the online course he co-teaches at the University of Mary Washington using Kickstarter, the popular “crowd funding” service.

      In a campaign released today, the professor makes his plea in an irreverent video that mixes in clips from a 90s true-crime show, and video interviews with students and professors shot from unusual angles. He explains that last year he ran the course, which is on digital storytelling and is called DS106, using his own equipment. But the class has grown so large that he needs a new server to keep it going, and he estimates that will cost him $2,900.

      He’s asking for contributions ranging from $1 to $3,000, and those who give will get what he describes as “DS106 schwag”—a T-shirt, a bumper sticker, or a desk calendar with a different creative assignment for each day. Some of the rewards reflect the quirky nature of the course itself: For $100 you can have one of the course assignments named after you.

      The campaign will run for a couple of weeks. If he hasn’t met his goal of $4,200 (a price that figures in the server cost and the price of the schwag), then the project gets nothing and all of those who pledged keep their money. If the target is met, the deal is on. If the goal is exceeded, he says he will use the extra money to add other enhancements to the course.

      In an interview this week, Mr. Groom stressed that the course is “not about him,” and he criticized the way some massive online courses rely on what amounts to a celebrity professor to attract students. He used the word “community” frequently to describe the group of professors and students involved in the course.

      The idea for the campaign came from Tim Owens, another instructional technologist at Mary Washington. “I’ve wanted to do a Kickstarter for so long, but I’ve never been able to think of what could we do,” he said. When he heard Mr. Groom wondering where they could come up with $2,900, he suggested the crowd-funding site.

      Mr. Groom argues that crowd funding could be a model for other free online-education projects. Even some of the largest, such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare effort, have mostly relied on grants for support and have struggled to find a long-term way to stay afloat.

      “It’s like a PBS model” of pledge drives, Mr. Groom said.

      The Chronicle asked the folks at Kickstarter whether other educational efforts have used the site to raise money. A representative from the company pointed us to these five campaigns, all of which succeeded:

      SmartHistory: Raised $11,513 for a Web site created by two art historians.

      Punk Mathematics: Raised 28,701 for a book of mathematical stories.

      Open Educational Resources for Typography: Raised $13,088 to develop teaching materials for courses on typography.

      Trade School: Raised $9,133 to run a program that turns storefronts into temporary trade schools.

      Brooklyn Brainery: Raised $9,629 to set up a collaborative school whose courses would cost $25 for four weeks.

      Bob Jensen's threads on Tools and Tricks of the Trade ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/thetools.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on the growth of distance education ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#DistanceEducation

      Bob Jensen's threads on alternatives for distance education and training ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm

    • Robert E Jensen

      April 7, 2012 message from XXXXX

      I am currently attending Perkins School of Theology pursuing a Masters of Divinity in preparation for entering the ministry. Perkins is the seminary located at Southern Methodist University. While SMU's main campus is in Dallas, the class I am taking is taught (live) at a satellite campus in Houston. Last Monday, one of the faculty visited the Houston extension to see if the satellite was delivering the same quality of education received at the main Dallas campus.

      One of the topics that came up was on-line education. Another Methodist seminary (Asbury) offers on-line courses but Perkins does not. The agency which accredits most main-line seminaries requires for any degree at least 24 hours of credit be earned at the main campus of the seminary (I have already completed 33 hours in Dallas).

      The unanimous recommendation by myself and the other students was that Perkins does not offer on-line courses. (The faculty member was surprised by this.) But our reasoning is that ministry is a face-to-face profession. Personal interaction is a critical skill that cannot be simulated by a computer. Another factor is that the way most main-line churches are organized, the clergy are a small group that rely on each other for a great deal of support. The students attending Perkins now will be working with each other professionally for the next 30 years. And, with pastors, there is more emotional investment and a higher priority on personal relationships that might be found in such professions as accounting.

      As I said, this recommendation was unanimous among those of us who spoke to the faculty member (there were about a dozen of us or about a third of those who attend the Houston satellite campus). All of us are second-career students. I would guess the average age was about 35 with ages ranging from the upper 20's to about 60. Three of us actually have experience in on-line education (myself as a technician, one as a corporate instructor, one as a course manager for a public university). To be fair, I do know of at least one Houston extension student that does advocate for on-line courses but she was not present at the interview. However, the purpose of the interview was not to discuss on-line education - it was just one of the topics that came up and I know it is something you are interested in.

      I guess what I wanted to let you know is that on-line education may not be the "wave of the future" that some pundits say that it is. Since for-profit schools are generally on-line universities, I am wondering if it is the next bubble that will eventually burst.

      XXXXX

       

      April 8, 2012 reply from Bob Jensen

      Hi XXXXX,

      Good to hear from you.

      Online education learning, like onsite education learning, depends on many, many variables. The most important variables as a rule, aside from student motivation to learn, are the skills and passion of the teacher.

      The best teacher I know is Amy Dunbar at the University of Connecticut. She's won all-university teaching awards at UTSA, the University of Iowa, and UCON. She wins these awards whether teaching onsite or online. She says online education has some key advantages to students, and if done optimally, online learning may be easier for students and harder for teachers ---
      http://www.cs.trinity.edu/~rjensen/002cpe/Dunbar2002.htm 

      Some things that are surprising is how shy or easily intimidated students who rarely speak up in class or in face-to-face teams will assert themselves in chat rooms or other online communications, including social networking.

      There are of course dark sides of both online learning and education technology in general, and these might lend support to the negativism of your friends toward online courses ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/theworry.htm 

      If a teacher is not passionate about teaching an online course, the online course is probably doomed from the start. If the teacher is passionate about an online course then some wonderful things might happen for students that cannot happen in a college that only has onsite courses.

      Respectfully,
      Bob Jensen

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Innovations in Higher Education? Hah! College leaders need to move beyond talking about transformation before it's too late," by Ann Kirschner, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 8, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/Innovations-in-Higher/131424/?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      . . .

      (Conclusion)
      Some of the most interesting work begins in the academy but grows beyond it. "Scale" is not an academic value—but it should be. Most measures of prestige in higher education are based on exclusivity; the more prestigious the college, the larger the percentage of applicants it turns away. Consider the nonprofit Khan Academy, with its library of more than 3,000 education videos and materials, where I finally learned just a little about calculus. In the last 18 months, Khan had 41 million visits in the United States alone. It is using the vast data from that audience to improve its platform and grow still larger. TED, the nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, just launched TED-Ed, which uses university faculty from around the world to create compelling videos on everything from "How Vast Is the Universe?" to "How Pandemics Spread." Call it Khan Academy for grown-ups. The Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun's free course in artificial intelligence drew 160,000 students in more than 190 countries. No surprise, the venture capitalists have come a-calling, and they are backing educational startups like Udemy and Udacity.

      All of those are signposts to a future where competency-based credentials may someday compete with a degree.

      At this point, if you are affiliated with an Ivy League institution, you'll be tempted to guffaw, harrumph, and otherwise dismiss the idea that anyone would ever abandon your institution for such ridiculous new pathways to learning. You're probably right. Most institutions are not so lucky. How long will it take for change to affect higher education in major ways? Just my crystal ball, but I would expect that institutions without significant endowments will be forced to change by 2020. By 2025, the places left untouched will be few and far between.

      Here's the saddest fact of all: It is those leading private institutions that should be using their endowments and moral authority to invest in new solutions and to proselytize for experimentation and change, motivated not by survival but by the privilege of securing the future of American higher education.

      The stakes are high. "So let me put colleges and universities on notice," President Obama said in his recent State of the Union address. "If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down." Because of the academy's inability to police itself and improve graduation rates, and because student debt is an expedient political issue, the Obama administration recently threatened to tie colleges' eligibility for campus-based aid programs to institutions' success in improving affordability and value for students.

      Whether the president's threat is fair or not, it will not transform higher education. Change only happens on the ground. Despite all the reasons to be gloomy, however, there is room for optimism. The American university, the place where new ideas are born and lives are transformed, will eventually focus that lens of innovation upon itself. It's just a matter of time.

       

      Jensen Comment
      This a long and important article for all educators to carefully read. Onsite colleges have always served many purposes, but one purpose they never served is to be knowledge fueling stations where students go to fill their tanks. At best colleges put a shot glass of fuel in a tanks with unknown capacities.

      Students go to an onsite college for many reasons other than to put fuel in their knowledge tanks. The go to live and work in relatively safe transitional environments between home and the mean streets. They go to mature, socialize, to mate, drink, laugh, leap over hurdles societies place in front of career paths, etc. The problem in the United States is that college onsite living and education have become relatively expensive luxuries. Students must now make more painful decisions as to how much to impoverish their parents and how deeply go into debt.

      I have a granddaughter 22 years old majoring in pharmacy (six year program). She will pay off her student loans before she's 50 years old if she's lucky. Some older students who've not been able to pay off their loans are becoming worried that the Social Security Administration will garnish their retirement Social Security monthly payments for unpaid student loans.

      We've always known that colleges are not necessary places for learning and scholarship. Until 43 years ago (when the Internet was born) private and public libraries were pretty darn necessary for scholarship. Now the Internet provides access to most known knowledge of the world.  But becoming a scholar on the Internet is relatively inefficient and overwhelming without the aid of distillers of knowledge, which is where onsite and online college courses can greatly add to efficiency of learning.

      But college courses can be terribly disappointing as distillers of knowledge. For one thing, grade inflation disgracefully watered down the amount of real fuel in that shot glass of knowledge provided in a college course ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#GradeInflation
      Grades rather than learning became the tickets to careers and graduate schools, thereby, leading to street-smart cheating taking over for real learning perspiration ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Plagiarism.htm

      When 80% of Harvard's graduating class graduates cum laude, we no longer identify which graduates are were the best scholars in their class.

      Soon those graduates from Harvard, Florida A&M University, Capella University, and those who learned on their own from free courses, video lectures, and course materials on the Web will all face some sort of common examinations (written and oral) of their competencies in specialties. Competency testing will be the great leveler much like licensure examinations such as the Bar Exam, the CPA exam, the CFA exam, etc. are graded on the basis of what you know rather than where you learned what you know. It won't really matter whether you paid a fortune to learn Bessel Functions onsite at MIT or for free from the MITx online certificate program ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

      If you are an educator or are becoming an educator, please read:
      "Innovations in Higher Education? Hah! College leaders need to move beyond talking about transformation before it's too late," by Ann Kirschner, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 8, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/Innovations-in-Higher/131424/?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en 

      Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Online-Education Start-Up Teams With Top-Ranked Universities to Offer Free Courses," by Nick DeSantis, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 18, 2012 --- Click Here
      http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/online-education-start-up-teams-with-top-ranked-universities-to-offer-free-courses/36048?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

       

      Bob Jensen's threads on free online courses, lectures, videos, tutorials, and course materials from prestigious universities ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

    • Robert E Jensen

      April 29, 2012 message from Mark Lewis

      This is an interview with Sebastian Thrun, formerly of Stanford and still associated with Google. In my ideal world, every faculty member and a large fraction of the administration and staff would watch the last half of this video. The first half is worth watching if you have an interest in Google Glass, autonomous cars, or Google X projects in general. The second half talks about his views and what he is doing in education. He is the person who taught an AI course online that had 160,000 students enroll and had 23,000 students complete it. In this interview he describes how this impacted him so much that he left his tenured position at Stanford. The lack of personal contact he talks about in his classroom does not apply in most Trinity classrooms, however, a cost of $0 for something that many students find as more personal than a large lecture hall does have the potential to change the economics of higher education.

       

       

      Bob Jensen's threads on these issues are at
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm

      Especially note
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#MITx

    • Robert E Jensen

      The MOOC Model Revisited
      "Massive Open Online Courses: How: 'The Social” Alters the Relationship Between Learners and Facilitators'," by Bonnie Stewart, Inside Higher Ed, April 30, 2012 --- Click Here
       http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university-venus/massive-open-online-courses-how-%E2%80%9C-social%E2%80%9D-alters-relationship-between

      We're getting close to the tail end of the 36-week-long experiment called #change11, or “the mother of all MOOCs.”

      How can I tell?

      First, I'm getting ready to facilitate my week, exploring Digital Identities. I'm second-last in the lineup, so the fact that I'm on deck means the whole undertaking is drawing to a close.

      But it's also clear we're winding down because the #change11 conversation hubs have begun to resemble, uh, ghost-towns.  Once there were lively debates and intense exchanges. As the winter wore into the spring of the year, though, the tumbleweeds began to tickle.

      Note to self: next time you facilitate a MOOC module, pick Week #2, not Week #35.

      Any course that runs from September through May requires stamina. When that course is voluntary on the part of both learners and facilitators, and runs as a series of totally separate modules, the drop-off can be fairly significant. Erm, even my own participation as a student has crawled to a stop over the last month or two.

      I find myself wondering if the other learners will be keener than I've been? Am I going to throw a MOOC and have nobody show up?

      I suppose it doesn't matter. I'm a teacher at heart. I'll put the work into developing my one-week course whether there are going to be 3 students or 300. But as I'm preparing, I'm thinking about what it means to facilitate in a truly social, networked, voluntary environment like #change11.

      Or the internet.

      As the awareness of the MOOC experiment grows, the term is being increasingly applied to grand-scale enterprises like the Stanford AI course and MITx. While heady, this blurs some very important distinctions.

      The MOOC model from which #change11 originates was built on the connectivist learning theory of George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Highly social in format, these courses tend to be experimental, non-linear, and deeply dialogic and participatory. Contributions from participants frequently direct the course of discussion, and the connections and ideas built between learners can be considered as valuable as the knowledge expounded by the facilitator.

      On the other hand, the MOOC models offered by the big universities tend towards formalized curricula, content delivery, and verification of completed learning objectives.

      Far more embedded in traditional paradigms of knowledge and teaching, these courses only harness the connectivity of social media insofar as they enable masses of people to link themselves to the prestige of a big-name institution. They offer discussion boards, but their purpose is content-focused, not connection-focused.

      If I were teaching in an MITx-style course, I'd have a very different module ahead of me, one far more familiar to me as a higher ed instructor.

      I've been teaching for eighteen years. I profess to be in favour of learner-centered classrooms. But until this MOOC module, every single course I've taught has on some level obliged the students to be there. I am accustomed to having the institutional powers of status, credentialism, and grading backing me in the classroom.

      In the connectivist MOOC model, I don't.

      There is no bonus for learners who participate in my week of #change11. They won't get a badge at the end, and there is no certification announcing they completed anything. There's nothing specific for them to complete, unless I design an exit goal as part of the week's activities. But that would be MY exit goal: not theirs. They don't get to put the word MIT on their CV. And while some weeks of the #change11 MOOC have allowed participants to connect with leaders in the learning and technologies field – Howard Rheingold, Pierre Levy – I'm among the less well-known of the 30-plus facilitators in the year's lineup. They won't even get the relational perk of engaging with somebody famous.

      Continued in article

      Bob Jensen's threads on MOOC-type courses ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#MITx

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Score One for the Robo-Tutors," by Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed, May 22, 2012 ---
      http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/05/22/report-robots-stack-human-professors-teaching-intro-stats

      Without diminishing learning outcomes, automated teaching software can reduce the amount of time professors spend with students and could substantially reduce the cost of instruction, according to new research.

      In experiments at six public universities, students assigned randomly to statistics courses that relied heavily on “machine-guided learning” software -- with reduced face time with instructors -- did just as well, in less time, as their counterparts in traditional, instructor-centric versions of the courses. This largely held true regardless of the race, gender, age, enrollment status and family background of the students.

      The study comes at a time when “smart” teaching software is being increasingly included in conversations about redrawing the economics of higher education. Recent investments by high-profile universities in “massively open online courses,” or MOOCs, has elevated the notion that technology has reached a tipping point: with the right design, an online education platform, under the direction of a single professor, might be capable of delivering meaningful education to hundreds of thousands of students at once.

      The new research from the nonprofit organization Ithaka was seeking to prove the viability of a less expansive application of “machine-guided learning” than the new MOOCs are attempting -- though one that nevertheless could have real implications for the costs of higher education.

      The study, called “Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities,” involved students taking introductory statistics courses at six (unnamed) public universities. A total of 605 students were randomly assigned to take the course in a “hybrid” format: they met in person with their instructors for one hour a week; otherwise, they worked through lessons and exercises using an artificially intelligent learning platform developed by learning scientists at Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative.

      Researchers compared these students against their peers in the traditional-format courses, for which students met with a live instructor for three hours per week, using several measuring sticks: whether they passed the course, their performance on a standardized test (the Comprehensive Assessment of Statistics), and the final exam for the course, which was the same for both sections of the course at each of the universities.

      The results will provoke science-fiction doomsayers, and perhaps some higher-ed traditionalists. “Our results indicate that hybrid-format students took about one-quarter less time to achieve essentially the same learning outcomes as traditional-format students,” report the Ithaka researchers.

      The robotic software did have disadvantages, the researchers found. For one, students found it duller than listening to a live instructor. Some felt as though they had learned less, even if they scored just as well on tests. Engaging students, such as professors might by sprinkling their lectures with personal anecdotes and entertaining asides, remains one area where humans have the upper hand.

      But on straight teaching the machines were judged to be as effective, and more efficient, than their personality-having counterparts.

      It is not the first time the software used in the experiment, developed over the last five years or so by Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative, has been proven capable of teaching students statistics in less time than a traditional course while maintaining learning outcomes. So far that research has failed to persuade many traditional institutions to deploy the software -- ostensibly for fear of shortchanging students and alienating faculty with what is liable to be seen as an attempt to use technology as a smokescreen for draconian personnel cuts.

      But the authors of the new report, led by William G. Bowen, the former president of Princeton University, hope their study -- which is the largest and perhaps the most rigorous to date on the effectiveness of machine-guided learning -- will change minds.

      “As several leaders of higher education made clear to us in preliminary conversations, absent real evidence about learning outcomes there is no possibility of persuading most traditional colleges and universities, and especially those regarded as thought leaders, to push hard for the introduction of [machine-guided] instruction” on their campuses.

      Continued in article

      "‘Free-Range Learners’: Study Opens Window Into How Students Hunt for Educational Content Online," by Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 25, 2012 --- Click Here
      http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/free-range-learners-study-opens-window-into-how-students-hunt-for-educational-content-online/36137?sid=wc&utm_source=wc&utm_medium=en

      Bob Jensen's threads on Tools and Tricks of the Trade are at
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/thetools.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on the explosion of distance education and training ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm#DistanceEducation

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Online Classes See Cheating Go High-Tech," by Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 3, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/Online-Courses-Can-Offer-Easy/132093/?sid=wb&utm_source=wb&utm_medium=en

      Easy A's may be even easier to score these days, with the growing popularity of online courses. Tech-savvy students are finding ways to cheat that let them ace online courses with minimal effort, in ways that are difficult to detect.

      Take Bob Smith, a student at a public university in the United States. This past semester, he spent just 25 to 30 minutes each week on an online science course, the time it took him to take the weekly test. He never read the online materials for the course and never cracked open a textbook. He learned almost nothing. He got an A.

      His secret was to cheat, and he's proud of the method he came up with—though he asked that his real name and college not be used, because he doesn't want to get caught. It involved four friends and a shared Google Doc, an online word-processing file that all five of them could read and add to at the same time during the test.

      More on his method in a minute. You've probably already heard of plenty of clever ways students cheat, and this might simply add one more to the list. But the issue of online cheating may rise in prominence, as more and more institutions embrace online courses, and as reformers try new systems of educational badges, certifying skills and abilities learned online. The promise of such systems is that education can be delivered cheaply and conveniently online. Yet as access improves, so will the number of people gaming the system, unless courses are designed carefully.

      This prediction has not escaped many of those leading new online efforts, or researchers who specialize in testing. As students find new ways to cheat, course designers are anticipating them and devising new ways to catch folks like Mr. Smith.

      In the case of that student, the professor in the course had tried to prevent cheating by using a testing system that pulled questions at random from a bank of possibilities. The online tests could be taken anywhere and were open-book, but students had only a short window each week in which to take them, which was not long enough for most people to look up the answers on the fly. As the students proceeded, they were told whether each answer was right or wrong.

      Mr. Smith figured out that the actual number of possible questions in the test bank was pretty small. If he and his friends got together to take the test jointly, they could paste the questions they saw into the shared Google Doc, along with the right or wrong answers. The schemers would go through the test quickly, one at a time, logging their work as they went. The first student often did poorly, since he had never seen the material before, though he would search an online version of the textbook on Google Books for relevant keywords to make informed guesses. The next student did significantly better, thanks to the cheat sheet, and subsequent test-takers upped their scores even further. They took turns going first. Students in the course were allowed to take each test twice, with the two results averaged into a final score.

      "So the grades are bouncing back and forth, but we're all guaranteed an A in the end," Mr. Smith told me. "We're playing the system, and we're playing the system pretty well."

      He is a first-generation college student who says he works hard, and honestly, in the rest of his courses, which are held in-person rather than online. But he is juggling a job and classes, and he wanted to find a way to add an easy A to his transcript each semester.

      Although the syllabus clearly forbids academic dishonesty, Mr. Smith argues that the university has put so little into the security of the course that it can't be very serious about whether the online students are learning anything. Hundreds of students took the course with him, and he never communicated with the professor directly. It all felt sterile, impersonal, he told me. "If they didn't think students would do this, then they didn't think it through."

      A professor familiar with the course, who also asked not to be named, said that it is not unique in this regard, and that other students probably cheat in online introductory courses as well. To them, the courses are just hoops to jump through to get a credential, and the students are happy to pay the tuition, learn little, and add an A.

      "This is the gamification of education, and students are winning," the professor told me.

      Of course, plenty of students cheat in introductory courses taught the old-fashioned way as well. John Sener, a consultant who has long worked in online learning, says the incident involving Mr. Smith sounds similar to students' sharing of old tests or bringing in cheat sheets. "There is no shortage of weak assessments," he says.

      He cautions against dismissing online courses based on inevitable examples of poor class design: "If there are weaknesses in the system, students will find them and try to game it."

      In some cases, the answer is simply designing tests that aren't multiple-choice. But even when professors assign papers, students can use the Internet to order custom-written assignments. Take the example of the Shadow Scholar, who described in a Chronicle article how he made more than $60,000 a year writing term papers for students around the country.

      Part of the answer may be fighting technology with more technology, designing new ways to catch cheaters.

      Countering the Cheaters

      When John Fontaine first heard about the Shadow Scholar, who was helping students cheat on assignments, he grew angry. Mr. Fontaine works for Blackboard, and his job is to think up new services and products for the education-software company. His official title is senior director of technology evangelism.

      "I was offended," he says. "I thought, I'm going to get that guy." So he started a research project to do just that.

      Blackboard's learning-management software features a service that checks papers for signs of plagiarism, and thousands of professors around the country use it to scan papers when they are turned in.

      Mr. Fontaine began to wonder whether authors write in unique ways that amount to a kind of fingerprint. If so, he might be able to spot which papers were written by the Shadow Scholar or other writers-for-hire, even if they didn't plagiarize other work directly.

      "People tend to use the same words over and over again, and people have the same vocabulary," he says. "I've been working on classifiers that take documents and score them and build what I call a document fingerprint." The system could establish a document fingerprint for each student when they turn in their first assignments, and notice if future papers differ in style in suspicious ways.

      Mr. Fontaine's work is simply research at this point, he emphasizes, and he has not used any actual student papers submitted to the company's system. He would have to get permission from professors and students before doing that kind of live test.

      In fact, he's not sure whether the idea will ever work well enough to add it as a Blackboard feature.

      Mr. Fontaine is not the only one doing such research. Scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they are looking for new ways to verify the identity of students online as well.

      Anant Agarwal is head of MIT's Open Learning Enterprise, which coordinates the university's MITx project to offer free courses online and give students a chance to earn certificates. It's a leading force in the movement to offer free courses online.

      One challenge leaders face is verifying that online students are who they say they are.

      A method under consideration at MIT would analyze each user's typing style to help verify identity, Mr. Agarwal told me in a recent interview. Such electronic fingerprinting could be combined with face-recognition software to ensure accuracy, he says. Since most laptops now have Webcams built in, future online students might have to smile for the camera to sign on.

      Some colleges already require identity-verification techniques that seem out of a movie. They're using products such as the Securexam Remote Proctor, which scans fingerprints and captures a 360-degree view around students, and Kryterion's Webassessor, which lets human proctors watch students remotely on Web cameras and listen to their keystrokes.

      Research Challenge

      Researchers who study testing are also working on the problem of cheating. Last month more than 100 such researchers met at the University of Kansas at the Conference on Statistical Detection of Potential Test Fraud.

      One message from the event's organizers was that groups that offer standardized tests, companies developing anticheating software, and researchers need to join forces and share their work. "Historically this kind of research has been a bit of a black box," says Neal Kingston, an associate professor of education at the university and director of its Center for Educational Testing Evaluation. "It's important that the research community improve perhaps as quickly as the cheating community is improving."

      Continued in article

      Bob Jensen's threads on cheating issues somewhat unique to distance education ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Plagiarism.htm#OnlineCheating

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Online Classes See Cheating Go High-Tech," by Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 3, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/Online-Courses-Can-Offer-Easy/132093/?sid=wb&utm_source=wb&utm_medium=en

      Easy A's may be even easier to score these days, with the growing popularity of online courses. Tech-savvy students are finding ways to cheat that let them ace online courses with minimal effort, in ways that are difficult to detect.

      Take Bob Smith, a student at a public university in the United States. This past semester, he spent just 25 to 30 minutes each week on an online science course, the time it took him to take the weekly test. He never read the online materials for the course and never cracked open a textbook. He learned almost nothing. He got an A.

      His secret was to cheat, and he's proud of the method he came up with—though he asked that his real name and college not be used, because he doesn't want to get caught. It involved four friends and a shared Google Doc, an online word-processing file that all five of them could read and add to at the same time during the test.

      More on his method in a minute. You've probably already heard of plenty of clever ways students cheat, and this might simply add one more to the list. But the issue of online cheating may rise in prominence, as more and more institutions embrace online courses, and as reformers try new systems of educational badges, certifying skills and abilities learned online. The promise of such systems is that education can be delivered cheaply and conveniently online. Yet as access improves, so will the number of people gaming the system, unless courses are designed carefully.

      This prediction has not escaped many of those leading new online efforts, or researchers who specialize in testing. As students find new ways to cheat, course designers are anticipating them and devising new ways to catch folks like Mr. Smith.

      In the case of that student, the professor in the course had tried to prevent cheating by using a testing system that pulled questions at random from a bank of possibilities. The online tests could be taken anywhere and were open-book, but students had only a short window each week in which to take them, which was not long enough for most people to look up the answers on the fly. As the students proceeded, they were told whether each answer was right or wrong.

      Mr. Smith figured out that the actual number of possible questions in the test bank was pretty small. If he and his friends got together to take the test jointly, they could paste the questions they saw into the shared Google Doc, along with the right or wrong answers. The schemers would go through the test quickly, one at a time, logging their work as they went. The first student often did poorly, since he had never seen the material before, though he would search an online version of the textbook on Google Books for relevant keywords to make informed guesses. The next student did significantly better, thanks to the cheat sheet, and subsequent test-takers upped their scores even further. They took turns going first. Students in the course were allowed to take each test twice, with the two results averaged into a final score.

      "So the grades are bouncing back and forth, but we're all guaranteed an A in the end," Mr. Smith told me. "We're playing the system, and we're playing the system pretty well."

      He is a first-generation college student who says he works hard, and honestly, in the rest of his courses, which are held in-person rather than online. But he is juggling a job and classes, and he wanted to find a way to add an easy A to his transcript each semester.

      Although the syllabus clearly forbids academic dishonesty, Mr. Smith argues that the university has put so little into the security of the course that it can't be very serious about whether the online students are learning anything. Hundreds of students took the course with him, and he never communicated with the professor directly. It all felt sterile, impersonal, he told me. "If they didn't think students would do this, then they didn't think it through."

      A professor familiar with the course, who also asked not to be named, said that it is not unique in this regard, and that other students probably cheat in online introductory courses as well. To them, the courses are just hoops to jump through to get a credential, and the students are happy to pay the tuition, learn little, and add an A.

      "This is the gamification of education, and students are winning," the professor told me.

      Of course, plenty of students cheat in introductory courses taught the old-fashioned way as well. John Sener, a consultant who has long worked in online learning, says the incident involving Mr. Smith sounds similar to students' sharing of old tests or bringing in cheat sheets. "There is no shortage of weak assessments," he says.

      He cautions against dismissing online courses based on inevitable examples of poor class design: "If there are weaknesses in the system, students will find them and try to game it."

      In some cases, the answer is simply designing tests that aren't multiple-choice. But even when professors assign papers, students can use the Internet to order custom-written assignments. Take the example of the Shadow Scholar, who described in a Chronicle article how he made more than $60,000 a year writing term papers for students around the country.

      Part of the answer may be fighting technology with more technology, designing new ways to catch cheaters.

      Countering the Cheaters

      When John Fontaine first heard about the Shadow Scholar, who was helping students cheat on assignments, he grew angry. Mr. Fontaine works for Blackboard, and his job is to think up new services and products for the education-software company. His official title is senior director of technology evangelism.

      "I was offended," he says. "I thought, I'm going to get that guy." So he started a research project to do just that.

      Blackboard's learning-management software features a service that checks papers for signs of plagiarism, and thousands of professors around the country use it to scan papers when they are turned in.

      Mr. Fontaine began to wonder whether authors write in unique ways that amount to a kind of fingerprint. If so, he might be able to spot which papers were written by the Shadow Scholar or other writers-for-hire, even if they didn't plagiarize other work directly.

      "People tend to use the same words over and over again, and people have the same vocabulary," he says. "I've been working on classifiers that take documents and score them and build what I call a document fingerprint." The system could establish a document fingerprint for each student when they turn in their first assignments, and notice if future papers differ in style in suspicious ways.

      Mr. Fontaine's work is simply research at this point, he emphasizes, and he has not used any actual student papers submitted to the company's system. He would have to get permission from professors and students before doing that kind of live test.

      In fact, he's not sure whether the idea will ever work well enough to add it as a Blackboard feature.

      Mr. Fontaine is not the only one doing such research. Scholars at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they are looking for new ways to verify the identity of students online as well.

      Anant Agarwal is head of MIT's Open Learning Enterprise, which coordinates the university's MITx project to offer free courses online and give students a chance to earn certificates. It's a leading force in the movement to offer free courses online.

      One challenge leaders face is verifying that online students are who they say they are.

      A method under consideration at MIT would analyze each user's typing style to help verify identity, Mr. Agarwal told me in a recent interview. Such electronic fingerprinting could be combined with face-recognition software to ensure accuracy, he says. Since most laptops now have Webcams built in, future online students might have to smile for the camera to sign on.

      Some colleges already require identity-verification techniques that seem out of a movie. They're using products such as the Securexam Remote Proctor, which scans fingerprints and captures a 360-degree view around students, and Kryterion's Webassessor, which lets human proctors watch students remotely on Web cameras and listen to their keystrokes.

      Research Challenge

      Researchers who study testing are also working on the problem of cheating. Last month more than 100 such researchers met at the University of Kansas at the Conference on Statistical Detection of Potential Test Fraud.

      One message from the event's organizers was that groups that offer standardized tests, companies developing anticheating software, and researchers need to join forces and share their work. "Historically this kind of research has been a bit of a black box," says Neal Kingston, an associate professor of education at the university and director of its Center for Educational Testing Evaluation. "It's important that the research community improve perhaps as quickly as the cheating community is improving."

      Continued in article

      Bob Jensen's threads on cheating issues somewhat unique to distance education ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Plagiarism.htm#OnlineCheating

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      Coursera --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coursera

      Coursera, Sera, Whatever Will Be Will Be
      Free Online Courses From More and More Prestigious Universities

      "Into the Fray," by Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed, July 17, 2012 ---
      http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/07/17/uva-and-11-others-become-latest-plan-moocs

      A dozen more universities have signed partnerships with Coursera, a company that provides hosting services for massively open online courses (MOOCs), the company announced today. Coursera’s new partners include the University of Virginia, whose highly publicized administrative ballyhoo last month made it the epicenter of the debate over how traditional universities should adapt to the rise of online education in general and MOOCs in particular.  

      In addition to U.Va., Coursera will also be serving as a platform for open online courses from the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (in Switzerland), Georgia Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, and the Universities of California at San Francisco, Edinburgh (U.K.), Illinois, Toronto and Washington.

      Sticking to its theme of hosting “elite” MOOCs, Coursera plans to adapt the most highly reputed parts of each new partner’s curriculum -- medicine and public health courses from UCSF and Johns Hopkins, biology and life sciences courses from Duke, business and software courses from Washington, and so on. Those institutions join Princeton University, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania as Coursera partners.

      Continued in article

      Bob Jensen's threads on free courses, tutorials, videos, and course materials from prestigious universities ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

       

    • Robert E Jensen

      Guide to MIT Open Courseware, July 6, 2012 ---
       http://diyscholar.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/guide-to-mit-open-courseware/

    • Robert E Jensen

      "An Architect and Scholar Weighs the Value of the Physical Campus," by Scott Carlson, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 23, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/Why-We-Need-the-Physical/133041/?cid=wb&utm_source=wb&utm_medium=en

      Jensen Comment
      I don't think it comes as a surprise to parents and anybody connected with higher education that a whole lot is gained by having students, especially students recently graduated from high school, learn and live on campus while enrolled as full-time students. Parents like this cushion between having their children live at home and live on the mean streets. Young students, especially male students, are still immature for their age when they graduate from high school. Many are not yet prepared for living and learning completely on their own. And then there's the on-campus social and sexual interactions. How many marriages emerge from campus living versus living in the virtual world of education?

      And I still think students learn as much or more from each other as they learn from their instructors. This is possible in online communications, but online interactions are somewhat more formalized by taking a class together. Online campus interactions are more serendipitous in dorm lounges, libraries, student commons, dining halls, sports events, sports team participation, music group participation, chapel participation, etc.

      Having said this there can also be some advantages gained from online learning such as in an online tax accounting course at the University of Connecticut where students in the course are mostly full time professionals, many working for insurance companies, who share their career experiences with other students. This is less likely to happen in onsite courses where students tend to be not working full time as professionals and are often not as street smart as the older online working stiffs.

      The Dark Side of the 21st Century: Concerns About Technologies in Education ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/theworry.htm

      Are Universities Becoming EMOs (Educational Maintenance Organizations)? ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/theworry.htm#EMOs

    • Robert E Jensen

      MOOC --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mooc

      "Who Takes MOOCs?" by Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed, June 5, 2012 ---
       http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/06/05/early-demographic-data-hints-what-type-student-takes-mooc

      "Coursera Tops 1 Million Students," Inside Higher Ed, August 10, 2012 ---
      http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2012/08/10/coursera-tops-1-million-students

      Coursera, the company that provides support and Web hosting for massive open online courses at top universities, announced Thursday that more than 1 million students have registered for its courses. The company now serves as a MOOC platform for 16 universities and lists 116 courses, most of which have not started yet. The students registering for the courses are increasingly from the United States. Coursera told Inside Higher Ed earlier this summer that about 25 percent of its students hailed from the United States; that figure now stands at 38.5 percent, or about 385,000 students. Brazil, India and China follow, with between 40,000 to 60,000 registrants each. U.S. students cannot easily get formal credit through Coursera or its partners institutions, but some universities abroad reportedly have awarded credit to students who have taken the free courses.

      Bob Jensen's threads on educating the masses ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

    • Robert E Jensen

      "Cheating in Online Courses," Dan Ariely, August 2012 ---
      http://danariely.com/2012/08/10/cheating-in-online-courses/

      Jensen Comment
      f there is more cheating in online courses, the fault lies with the internal controls of the online system rather than the difference between online versus onsite systems per se. Cheating is largely the fault of the online and onsite instructors and their universities. There are controls (not costless) to reduce online cheating to levels below those of onsite courses ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Assess.htm#OnlineOffCampus
      For example, observing a student taking an online test can be more one-on-one observation with the proper Webcam procedures or with hiring the Village Vicar to or a Sylvan Systems to proctor the examination.

    • Robert E Jensen

      "What You Need to Know About MOOC's," Chronicle of Higher Education, August 20, 2012 ---
      http://chronicle.com/article/What-You-Need-to-Know-About/133475/

      . . .

      Who are the major players?

      Several start-up companies are working with universities and professors to offer MOOC's. Meanwhile, some colleges are starting their own efforts, and some individual professors are offering their courses to the world. Right now four names are the ones to know:

      edX

      A nonprofit effort run jointly by MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley.

      Leaders of the group say they intend to slowly add other university partners over time. edX plans to freely give away the software platform it is building to offer the free courses, so that anyone can use it to run MOOC’s.

      Coursera

      A for-profit company founded by two computer-science professors from Stanford.

      The company’s model is to sign contracts with colleges that agree to use the platform to offer free courses and to get a percentage of any revenue. More than a dozen high-profile institutions, including Princeton and the U. of Virginia, have joined.

      Udacity

      Another for-profit company founded by a Stanford computer-science professor.

      The company, which works with individual professors rather than institutions, has attracted a range of well-known scholars. Unlike other providers of MOOC’s, it has said it will focus all of its courses on computer science and related fields.

      Udemy

      A for-profit platform that lets anyone set up a course.

      The company encourages its instructors to charge a small fee, with the revenue split between instructor and company. Authors themselves, more than a few of them with no academic affiliation, teach many of the courses.

      "The Future Is Now?" by Joe Hoyle, Teaching Blog, August 13, 2012 ---
      http://joehoyle-teaching.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-future-is-now.html

      Bob Jensen's threads on MOOCs, MITx, and Courses from Prestigious Universities ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

      Bob Jensen's threads on distance education and training alternatives in general ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Crossborder.htm

      Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies ---
      http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/HigherEdControversies.htm