education's digital future

in the news

A new business landscape is emerging wherein a multitude of small entities will bring products and services to market using the infrastructure and platforms of large, concentrated players. The forces driving this are putting new and mounting pressures on organizations and individuals while also opening up new opportunities. But traditional postsecondary educational institutions are not supporting individuals in successfully navigating this not-too-distant future, nor are the educational institutions immune to these forces.

In recent years, massive open online courses (MOOCs) have enabled millions of people across the world to have access to free higher education. While the original purpose of the MOOC model may have been to make higher education more democratic, it is increasingly being used as a tool to foster mutual understanding between the United States and other countries, and provide an opportunity for students across the world to “test drive” a U.S. higher education experience.

Coursera, the online education company, announced on Wednesday that it was expanding a program that awards special certificates to students who pass multiple MOOCs.

The company unveiled the program, called Specializations, earlier this year. The idea was to create certificates that, while not supplanting traditional degrees, carry more weight than a certificate of completion from a single massive open online course.

I won’t spend the whole week recapitulating Rice’s De Lange conference on “Teaching in the University of Tomorrow” (see yesterday’s post on “Seeding Social Media”) but I did want to draw folks’ attention to one more thing: William Bowen’s talk on technology and changing American priorities related to higher education.

SAN FRANCISCO — A new educational institution, the coding boot camp, is quietly emerging as the vocational school for the digital age, devoted to creating software developers.

These boot camps reflect the start-up ethic: small for-profit enterprises that are fast (classes are two to four months), nimble (revising curriculum to meet industry needs) and unconcerned with SAT scores or diplomas. Most are expensive, but some accept a share of the graduates’ first-year earnings or a finder’s fee from employers as payment.

LinkedIn has officially joined the jam-packed college rankings party. And with 313 million users, the job networking site has a big data sample both for creating the rankings and for marketing them.

The new ranking system tracks the success of college graduates in eight broad career paths, adding weight for jobs deemed “desirable.” It lists the top 25 institutions in each career category.

Three years ago, this headline appeared in The New York Times: "Virtual and Artificial, but 58,000 Want Course." We all know the rest of the story. When the artificial-intelligence class at Stanford University started that fall, 160,000 students in 190 countries had signed up, touching off MOOC mania on campuses around the world.

Massive open online courses were heralded as the invention that would disrupt higher education’s expensive business model and would become the next big innovation in the tech world. By the end of 2012, the Times declared it "the year of the MOOC."

More than 7.1 million students are currently taking at least one online course. Despite the apparent popularity, however, educators have given the trend low marks.

But a new study from MIT suggests naysayers should think otherwise. Massive open online courses are not only effective, researchers have discovered, they are as effective as what's being traditionally taught in the classroom — regardless of how prepared or in the know students are.

The federal government’s long-awaited data on the students enrolled in distance education courses nationwide provide a dubious baseline, a new study suggests, as confusing instructions, inflexible design and a lack of coordination have led colleges and universities to under- or overreport thousands of students.

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