MOOCs, TED, and Online Courses

I’ve been following the development of online education and MOOCs, in part because I hope someday soon there will be a way for me to earn a certificate or degree in structural engineering using an online format.  I’d love to learn from the very best professors in the field! The tools for assessment are developing beautifully.

Salman Khan’s TED talk, about the Khan Academy, blew my mind. What this man is achieving and offering to society is absolutely amazing.

I’ve been intrigued to learn, also by watching TED videos, about Corsera‘s new achievements. Five of Corsera’s programs were recently endorsed for meeting the standards of university coursework.

The image below illustrates what I’d already heard: college costs six times more than it did the day I started.  This spike began while I was in college, and I faced mid-year tuition hikes. How do students in the US manage to repay their loans?

TED’s website explains:

Daphne Koller is enticing top universities to put their most intriguing courses online for free — not just as a service, but as a way to research how people learn. With Coursera (cofounded by Andrew Ng), each keystroke, quiz, peer-to-peer discussion and self-graded assignment builds an unprecedented pool of data on how knowledge is processed.

I recently received a request via email to share some images with you — I’ve included a thumbnail below that you can click to view.

Hi Dr. Chance,

I wanted to reach out to connect with you about a graphic that I helped create which takes a closer look at MOOCs and their recent growth in the education space.

I came across this post on your site: – and given that you might have an interest in the topic, I wanted to see if you’d be interested in taking a look and/or sharing the piece with your readers. If so, let me know and I’d love to pass it along!

Allison M.

Envisioning the Future of Education with Brian MacCraith

The president of Dublin City University (DCU), Prof. Brian MacCraith, delivered  a lively and informative lecture Monday night at St. Patrick’s College. His topic was Envisioning the Future of Education. And what a visionary President MacCriath is — I learned so much from his talk! I’ve not got time enough to explain all I learned; I’ll include snapshots of some interesting slides at the end of this post. I’ll explain a little in each caption.

I did look up one of the sources he used, as it ties to my map-tracking.

Internet usage by continent.

Internet usage by continent (downloaded from Internet World Statistics).

One chart he showed (above) helped explain why my blog gets fewer visitors from Africa than Europe and North America. In Africa, just 15.6% of people have Internet access. In Asia, though, there are more people with Internet than on any other continent, so why is my Asia map so blank? Still no one from China…. and of the world population of Internet users, most are in Asia.

Internet distribution

Internet distribution

The population of North America  (shown in blue on the pie chart) is tiny. As you can see above, not that many people live in North America, even though 78.6% of them use the Internet.

What’s a MOOC? (And can it help us save humanity?)

A diagram from Dave Cormier’s video.

I’ve been scratching my head, wondering “what’s a MOOC?”

Someone at SCUP sent me a helpful link to a succinct four-minute video by Dave Cormier that describes MOOCs and explains that the acronym stands for “Massive Open On-line Course.”  I also found a helpful blog posted by Lou Mcgill titled  What is a mooc? Massive Online Open Course and the learner perspective.

SCUP is using a MOOC to facilitate communication among its members.  I’ve been visiting SCUP’s MOOC for weeks now but I haven’t been able to “see the forest for the trees.”  I haven’t understood what’s going on all around me.  I find my way to some places that seem like classrooms and other places where discussion is going on, but I don’t yet understand how to navigate effectively.

Thanks to Dave and Lou I can finally stop scratching my head!  And, once I understand how the platform works, I can start using it to generate knowledge about planning and sustainability — rather that just about how to use MOOCs and the internet more effectively.

In any case, I believe that this on-line communication platform (i.e., SCUP’s MOOC) is the reason that my article got so many downloads so quickly after it went “live” on the internet.  The splash page for the article was viewed 644 times between November 9 and November 12.

To be honest, up until now I didn’t actually think people read the academic articles I’d published.  But now that I think about it, several people did contact me regarding an article I published with SCUP in 2010 titled Strategic by Design: Iterative Approaches to Educational Planning.  So perhaps SCUP’s audience reads and communicates more about its publications than is the case with many other organizations!

MOOCs provide a platform for learning that can help communities develop new knowledge quickly.  SCUP’s is aimed toward generating knowledge about how universities run and how they can improve their approaches over time.

Perhaps humanity will develop viable paths to achieving sustainability by using tools like MOOCs to share and build knowledge.  That’s part of the focus of my article just published by SCUP and something I think society MUST focus on if we are to persist on this planet.

But I’m quite interested in knowing more about how people work together to generate new knowledge.  The research project I’m conducting right now with Gavin Duffy and Brian Bowe (as part of my Fulbright) investigates how a group of teachers here at the DIT (i.e., a learning community) has been able to implement changes in the way DIT teaches Electrical Engineering.  These are topics I learned a lot about in the Ph.D. program I completed at The College of William and Mary on educational policy, planning, and leadership.

And interestingly, so many of the women I’ve bumped into recently–Esther, Joan, Máirtín’s wife, and myself–have been studying topics of leadership and change management.  Now that I’ve joined SCUP’s MOOC, I have found a whole new community discussing change, strategy, and the university’s role in addressing social and environmental issues. I hope we can elicit the types of sweeping change that this world needs, and do it fast enough to save ourselves.