Hack Education Weekly News: Anti-MOOCs, Gates Foundation Money for MOOCs, and MOOCs for Credit

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Online Classes, Credits, and Tests 

The American Council on Education announced this week that it will review several Coursera classes to see if they’re eligible for inclusion in the its “College Credit Recommendation Service.” As The Chronicle of Higher Education writes, “That service has been around since the 1970s and focuses on certifying training courses, offered outside of traditional colleges, for which students might want college credit. McDonald’s Hamburger University, for example, is among the hundreds of institutions with courses certified through ACE Credit, as the service is known.” There’s a BigMac MOOC joke in here somewhere, but I’m not feeling clever enough to make it.

consortium of 10 universities announced this week what I’m labeling the anti-MOOC: small (enrollment capped ~20) online, for-credit courses that any students at their respective schools can enroll in (and pay for). The participating schools in “Semester Online” are Brandeis University, Duke University, Emory University, Northwestern University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, and Washington University in St. Louis. The consortium will be run through 2U (formerly 2tor), which if the press conference is any indication, is one part Adobe Connect. Awesome how all this hype about the disruptive potential online learning is just reinscribing the webinar and the LMS, don’t you think?

The BBC reports that students in Denmark will be able to access the Internet when they sit their final school exams. They’ll be able to access any website they want, but just not communicate with others.

Launches and Upgrades

The digital music education platform Chromatik officially launched this week with an iPad and a Web-based application that stores digital sheet music, as well as helps you learn, practice, share, collaborate, and record music — with friends, band-mates and teachers alike. The app has been in private beta up ’til now, but with some fairly high profile early testers, including American Idol.

At its annual “Mozfest,” Mozilla unveiled two important education projects: Webmaker Badges and Popcorn Maker. The former aim to showcase people’s Web skills; the latter is a tool that makes it easier to remix video on the Web.

Google announced this week that it’s expanding the number of people who can fit into a Google Hangout (15). It also says that it’s rolling out Google+ access (and by extension Google Hangouts) to all Apps for Education schools. (Up ’til now, Google+ had only been available at universities.)

The language-learning/Web-translation startup Duolingo (one of my favorite education companies of 2011) has just released its first mobile app.

In news I missed last week, 4 math-learning games developed in part by Maria Andersen, former math instructor and now the Director of Learning and Research at Instructure, have been released for iOS: Algeburst Lite (iTunes link), Algeburst: Topics in Arithmetic (iTunes link), Algeburst: Topics in Algebra (iTunes link), and Algeboats Lite (iTunes link). I asked Anderson about how casual, mobile gaming works with learning math. Her response: “The casual-style games provide an easy interface to learn and practice, helping students to develop a level of mastery of the basics. When students are able to do this outside of traditional class time, then teachers and students can work together to focus on higher-level thinking in the classroom — more project-based learning and real world explorations.”

Grockit’s “Pinterest for Education” site Learnist has launched a school-oriented version of the tool. The big change: no need to authenticate via Facebook, something that many other education-oriented tools are realizing just doesn’t work due to firewalls on most campuses.

Techcrunch’s Sarah Perez examines the re-launch of children’s iPad magazine app Timbuktu. The app has been redesigned and offers daily content for kids and parents to read together, but as Perez notes the in-app purchase model is not ideal. (Timbuktu says that a subscription service is in the works.)

Google has opened sourced the designs for its book scanner. Take that, Authors Guild!

Research and Data

Everest College and Harris Interactive released their “2012 High School Dropouts in America” survey this week, detailing the reasons why students don’t complete their high school education. According to the survey, 23% cited the lack of parental support as their reason for not finishing high school; 21% said that their becoming a parent prevented them from finishing school. 15% said classes were uninteresting and 15% said they suffered from a mental illness, like depression. As to why they hadn’t opted to complete the GED, respondents listed time (34%) and cost (26%) as prohibitive factors.

Via the School Library Journal, an interesting report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center about kids’ use of social media. “Kids Online” argues that we are failing to design good social networking sites for kids in part because we have little research about how kids use what’s already out there. That’s particularly true because research tends to focus on teens. That’s a result, in turn, of COPPA, which supposedly keeps those under 13 from participating in many sites, but also leads many kids to lie about their ages.

Funding, Mergers, and Acquisitions

The Gates Foundation is giving $1.4 million to the research group Ithaka S+R to study the impact of MOOCs at public universities in Maryland. (The same research group published a study earlier this year about students’ learning statistics from automated software — so I bet this research prove to be a big win for robo-teachers.)

The National Science Foundation has awarded Georgia Tech and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a five-year $6.24 million grant to help expand computer science education at both the K–12 and postsecondary levels. Georgia Tech professor Mark Guzdial has more details on his blog.

The education data dashboard startup Always Prepped has raised $650,000 in seed funding

TinyTap, an iPad app that lets kids build playable books and games, has raised $500,000 in a seed round, reports Techcrunch.

The web video show Higher Ed Live announced this week that it will merge with the marketing platform EDUniverse. Details on what exactly this merger will look like are still to come.

Hires and Fires News from the HR Department

Karen Cator, the director of education technology at the U.S. Department of Education, is stepping down at the end of the year, reports EdSurge. No word yet on Cator’s replacement, nor on what she’ll do next (although there's plenty of speculation).

One of the academic bloggers that I’ve followed since I began blogging myself (way back in 2004) has finally revealed his identity. Like myself, Dean Dad began blogging under a pseudonym, but with a book about to come out based on his blog’s name, we now know where all these Confessions of a Community College Dean come from: Matt Reed, vice president for academic affairs at Holyoke Community College. Congrats to him on the book and the “big reveal.” And congrats to academia for beginning -- some 7 years after Ivan Tribble's infamous screed -- to make it a safer place for us all to blog under our real names.

Scandals (Overted)

A young man accused Sesame Street puppeteer Kevin Clash of engaging in a sexual relationship with him while he was underage. Clash, who’s best known as performing Elmo, denied the claims. Sesame Street responded, saying they had investigated the issue and had found the claims untrue. The accuser later retracted. No word yet if the FBI violated Clash's electronic privacy the same way it did CIA Director David Petraeus's.

Photo credits: Mikel Ortega



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