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Friday, October 30, 2015

Here come the "Micromasters!"

What is a "MicroMaster's" qualification? It is a new approach to 'credentialling' for the digital age; a "re-imagination of the admissions process" being introduced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as that institution launches a new 'blended/online' one-year Masters  in Supply Chain Management (SCM).  

One of the founding institutions (along with Harvard) involved in the EdX Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform, MIT has taken a bold leap into the for-credit online degree world with this pilot programme.  MIT News announced this week that the program will allow learners worldwide to take "a semester’s worth of courses in its top-ranked [SCM] master’s program, completely online, then complete [the] MIT master’s degree by spending a single semester on campus."  Worthy of note, there will be no admissions requirements, the online coursework will be available for free, and "will be open to anyone".  Students who do exceptionally well in the courses and in a comprehensive examination upon the successful completion of the online courses, and who opt to pay "a modest fee" for verified certificates, will be awarded the new "MicroMaster's" qualification which puts them in line to progress to the full masters.  

Inverted admission has the potential to disrupt traditional modes of access to higher education,” Professor Sanjay Sarma, MIT’s dean of digital learning and Professor in Mechanical Engineering is quoted as saying, adding “We’re democratizing access to a master’s program for learners worldwide.”

Here at Cave Hill, in a presentation to the Faculty of Social Science's Postgraduate Studies Retreat held earlier this year, I quoted the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland who suggested that universities in the 21st Century have to be "fast, flexible and fluid" in their efforts to meet the changing needs of learners and be competitive in this digital age.  This move by MIT is a small step with big implications.  MIT Professor and CEO of EdX, Anant Agarwal described the new MicroMaster’s  as "an important modular credential for the digital age, [which] promises to serve as academic currency in a continuous, lifelong-learning world.”  He suggested that "It also affords an evolutionary path for universities in the face of mounting costs, and a way to leverage technology to blend online and on-campus learning pathways.”

You can read the full article from MIT News HERE.

Monday, October 12, 2015

From Content Expert to Content Curator

Source: Creating a Learning Culture Blog
The problem of content overload in courses continues to be a issue with which both faculty and students struggle. In this insightful article ( More Content Doesn't Equal More Learning), Nicki Monahan, faculty advisor in staff and organizational development at George Brown College, Toronto, Canada questions whether the perception of faculty as "content experts"is not part of the problem.  She makes a case instead for the notion of "content curators" "who judiciously select the best 'artifacts' for learning, much like the museum curator analyzes and documents all of the materials available before selecting the best representations for any given collection." Monahan calls for a greater focus on the development of the skills "necessary to review and evaluate various sources of information to determine "what’s relevant, accurate, and reliable, and why". "If we teach research and critical thinking skills, our learners will develop the capacity to cope with information overload, a problem that is unlikely to disappear in the near future," Monahan posits.
"What would you like to have that student remember from the course? Rather than being able to cite specific facts or information, I think we’d all much rather prefer that our former students remember key concepts, ones that transformed their thinking. Often referred to as “threshold concepts,” these critical ideas can become the cornerstones on which we organize our curriculum. "

As a firm believer in the value of the "backward" approach to curriculum and instructional design with its focus on teaching for understanding and long-term transfer of knowledge, I find Monahan's article a timely reminder for faculty who struggle with the challenge of helping students develop the knowledge AND skills they need for success in the digital/information age. A focus on identifying and helping students to grasp disciplinary threshold concepts as the core of course content can guide faculty towards carefully selecting essential content and create space for teaching and learning strategies that help students to develop the skills of their discipline or their profession, rather than a consuming focus on “covering” content, much of which most students would have forgotten a few weeks after the final exam. Read the full article here.  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Could a Machine Teach Like You Do?

Dan Butin
Last month I attended the Institutionalising Best Practice in Higher Education Conference at the UWI St. Augustine Campus.  I was part of the organizing committee as the CETLs were co-hosts along with the Quality Assurance Units.  It was a great conference, with some excellent keynote speakers.  One of them was Dan Butin, Associate Professor and Founding Dean of the School of Education at Merrimack College and executive director of the Center for Engaged Democracy, USA. He gave a rousing address on the need to flip the university, and create an impact-centred, engaged institution; an institution that is transformative; that scaffolds deep, authentic learning; that provides students with rich experiences of learning.

Now here I am looking back at a few "draft" post on this blog that never made it to the light of publication, and among them is a link to this tongue-in-cheek article, penned in the early days of the arrival of the MOOCs (massive open online courses), an article in which the same Dan Butin wonders if his student would be better served taught by a machine! Take a read, and ask yourself the same question!!!   .
"Most of what we do is based on a transmission model of education, and most of what we transmit is low-level content knowledge to help students just get the basics. This is why MOOCs have become such a sensation. If all we have experienced is being lectured at, then, sure, Wikipedia, the Khan Academy and MOOCs should replace us. I hope, instead, that MOOCs will prompt us to refashion what we do in the college classroom and how we do it."  

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Why do students fail at maths - The Power of Myths? or Reality Check?

The "Math Person" Myth 
"I'm just not a maths person."    We hear it all the time. And we’ve had enough. Because we believe that the idea of “math people”is the most self-destructive idea in America today. The truth is, you probably are a math person, and by thinking otherwise, you are possibly hamstringing your own career. Worse, you may be helping to perpetuate a pernicious myth that is harming underprivileged children—the myth of inborn genetic math ability....   For high school math, inborn talent is just much less important than hard work, preparation, and self-confidence.  How do we know this? First of all, both of us have taught math for many years—as professors, teaching assistants, and private tutors. Again and again, we have seen the following pattern repeat itself:.......
There was a lengthy and interesting discussion at Academic Board last Friday on the problem of poor performance in mathematics across the educational system.  Clearly, this problem is not unique to Barbados.  The quote above is from an article in which two seasoned academics suggest a major cultural contributor to the problem, and why it is less an issue in Asia schools - the belief in some societies that mathematical ability is genetic as against societies that stress that anything can be learned through effort and hard work.  You can read the article HERE.  

 Reality Check

The article quoted above suggests that what students need is "more maths", more time on task.   But then there is another even more interesting perspective, presented in an article by Carol LLoyd  (available HERE ) which locates the problem squarely on the way maths is taught in schools, in some cases creating well-drilled "high-flyers" who succeed on rote learning even in prestigious high schools,  and  then enter universities, even those in the ivy league, where they "hit a wall" when they find that rote learning no longer works.  The result she says is large scale disillusionment as dreams of careers in STEM fields are dashed by a sudden downward spiral in performance in mathematics which sees many students transferring into the humanities and social sciences.  Sounds familiar?
"Call it the mathematical reality check. Suddenly, Rusczyk recalls, formerly accomplished students were faced with a new idea: that math required more than rote learning — it required creativity, grit, and strenuous mental gymnastics. “They had been taught that math was a set of destinations and they were taught to follow a set of rules to get to those places,” he recalls. “They were never taught how to read a map, or even that there is a map.”

The article goes on to highlight the important role of initiatives such as after-school maths clubs and maths competitions that help students to see the utility and "fun' side of maths, and develop skills of problem solving.

Instead of just learning how to follow rules, he explains, "In math competitions, I learned how to solve problems that I hadn’t seen before.” Instead of math becoming something he accomplished in return for a perfect score, he came to see math as problem solving — an exciting pleasure that was a distant relation to the rote drudgery of memorizing algorithms.

Both articles give good food for thought as we contemplate ways in which the university might partner with external agencies in seeking to solve the problem of poor performance in mathematics, and its critical impact on advancing the Campus' Technology Initiative and achieving the national STEM agenda.   Should we consider promoting and supporting the development of math clubs in schools?  Or organise a national maths competition???

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Flipping a Calculus Course - and self directed learning?

I have posted in this blog a couple times on the "flipped classroom" teaching strategy (check the categories on the right).  In this entry I want to share a series of posts in which a mathematics lecturer at the Grand Valley State University in Michigan, Robert Talbert, chronicles his experiences with "flipping" a calculus course.  In the process he illustrates the potential of the flipped approach for developing self-regulating students, an important goal in the preparation of 21st century graduates.

The following post entitled The inverted calculus course and self-regulated learning is a good place to start - .  You can  use the “previous and “next links at the top of the post to see his earlier and later posts if it gets interesting.  He is writing about his experience “flipping” a calculus course, but the concepts introduced and the lessons learned are  relevant to most disciplines.  I particularly like the post on Creating Learning Objectives, flipped classroom style which really gets you thinking about how you develop and sequence learning outcomes .   The posts are certainly worth a read.  

Don't forget to leave me a comment!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Georgia Tech Launches a "Masters Mooc" in Computer Science!


The higher education world is watching as Georgia Tech launches a "Master MOOC"! ... the Master of Science in Computer Science costing a mere $6600.00, less than one sixth of the cost of their residential programme.  READ HERE about the programme and the kinds of people who have signed up. (Check the comments section too.)  What do you think of that?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Teen to Government...Change Your Typeface and Save Millions!

14-year-old science student hits upon a simple strategy for saving big on printing costs.

What really excites me about this story is what it suggests about the power and potential of authentic learning and assessment.  CLICK HERE to check it out and leave a comment.