Free Massive Online Education Provider, Coursera, Begins To Find A Path To Profits


Online education providers may very well disrupt the higher-education establishment, but first, these for-profit companies need to find a way to finance the mammoth technical infrastructure needed to support millions of students. It’s a challenge that all mission-based businesses wrestle with, and why many have wondered whether Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) providers will ever become big business — or be around in five years — let alone “transform higher education,” as they’ve so often promised.

Today, one of the biggest MOOC providers on the web, Coursera, showed skeptics that it has indeed found a way to monetize free educational content and may just be on the road to riches. In a blog post this afternoon, Coursera announced that it has raised over $1 million for paid certifications, which verify that students passed (an otherwise free) online college course.

For those unfamiliar, Coursera partners with top-tier universities — more than…

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‘Teaching with Moodle’ MOOC stats

Just heard that about 8000 people are participating in the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) ‘Teaching with Moodle’. In its 1st week now, the course has generated 6000 forum posts, nearly 2500 badges have been awarded and almost 2000 courses have been requested. What do MOOCs have going for them?

Here are a few things:

1. Free (Almost, unless one wants certification, or verification)

2. Content of interest (People have a choice to participate in the subject of their choice- there is immense intrinsic motivation )

3. Recognition (Peer and professional through Badges and boards )

4. Social (6000 forum posts? No standalone elearning, book, or ILT will generate this much interaction).

Again, how will corporations leverage this shift in how people choose to learn? The shift will neither be instantaneous, nor easy. A smooth, successful migration / inclusion will require a framework.

What do you think are the considerations?


MOOCs are here- let’s leverage them thoughtfully!

Uwituze and her family live in Rawanda.  They have $75 in savings. Although it is unlikely that Uwituze will ever be able to afford college, she aspires for a career in finance / banking.

She might just get what she dreamed for!  She will get the required knowledge through the Kepler project initiated by a non profit Generation Rawanda. Briefly, the Kepler project will leverage the MOOC ( Massive Open Online Course) model of education, and blend online content from best universities of the world with in-person instruction to help Uwituze realize her dream.

In 2007,  at the AERA Conference in New York, a professor from Yale demonstrated the first open access course ( earlier name for MOOC).  What began as bootstrapping has now grown into a blossoming industry. Harvard and MIT started a $60 million dollar non-profit and created edX. Likewise, Udacity raised $21.1 million with venture capital funding! (Source)

The power and reach of MOOC is undeniable.  Reasonably small sums of American dollars deliver immense value for people all around the globe.  The cost of one hundred cappuccinos could mean a student earns a CS101 or is able to take a class on Teaching, and sign up for the signature track and get verified as a successful candidate from Stanford, or other such university!

From a corporate L&D point-of-view, Jeanne Miester has shared a very useful article with the community.  Here, I note some additional considerations, and few reasons to use  MOOCs.

1.    Most organizations are not necessarily training content creators.  Even though some content is generated in-house, most is procured from third parties (trainers, training companies, or publishers).  MOOCs could be a great source to procure content (all in one place if no customization is required).

2.     MOOCs are mostly free and can enable professional development, up-skilling, or re-skilling.  Resources thus freed-up can be allocated elsewhere.

3.   Verification and certification becomes possible for $39- $100 per course.

4.  Learning on-line is convenient and easily accessible for employees / participants with internet access.

5.  Learning on-demand means that work time can we used for working which is a benefit to both the employee and the employer.

6.   MOOCs provide context-free situations ( are not organization, or industry specific), skill development, and add to the knowledge base.

MOOCs offer a good deal of benefits but there are challenges to consider as well.

1.    What’s the incentive to complete the program?  Only 5% of participants completed a MITX’s MOOC. (Source)

2.    How will we evaluate knowledge transfer and measure achievement?

3.     70:20:10- Do MOOCs currently address the need for peer-peer, informal, and formal social learning?

MOOC’s are not a perfect fit in every instance but they offer rich possibilities creating opportunity and flexibility in the L & D space.  I think of these considerations- will MOOC platforms  by Coursera, Udacity or others allow for creation of bespoke content?

There will be other considerations around:

1. Interoperability

2. Technical specifications

3. Reporting

4. Content assimilation, and curation from multiple providers

The future  is bright, and every organization needs to leverage this emerging trend in learning, and teaching to the extent they can ( just as McAfee did by ‘flipping the classroom’).

Education and Incentives: A woman’s perspective

In an effort to share good/great writing, this week I have choosen a blog by Jo Aggarwal. Jo  is my former manager, and a very highly regarded and respected mentor.  In this post Jo speaks to incentives for higher education in a specific circumstance!

Education and Incentives: A woman’s perspective.

The Play’s The Thing

The Play’s The Thing  – An interesting blogpost from David Samuelson, the EVP of games and simulations at Pearson.

Other references for games in education:

Questions to ask when recommending a Learning Environment/Learning Management Systems

For a while now, my colleagues wanted me to give them pointers on questions to ask of their clients when helping them identify a Learning Environment/Learning Management System. I consider the below questions critical for repeated success. Repeated success is assured once you identify the client’s needs and the outcomes the business would like to achieve.

    1. Goals: What are the learning/teaching/training goals of the client? This will impact not only the course design but also the choice of LMS-e.g only self-paced, hybrid, totally facilitated (virtually ofcourse when talking about a Learning Environment/LMS).
    2. Nos. of Users: How many learners/students does the customer expect over the next 2-3 years?
    3. Nos. of Courses: How many different courses and cohorts do you expect over the next year or two?
    4. Source of the Content: Ask for the source of all their content, and not just what you are producing or designing for them i.e. produced in-house, or bought from other vendors as well.
    5. Ask what would be the revision cycle for the content. You will want to gauge how easy will it be on the LMS you recommend, and how will your LMS vendors take that change? There will be a minimal cost or sometimes even a significant cost associated with it.
    6. See if the customer would like to bring additional content onto the LMS.
    7. Ask for their go-live date. Critical information in case of customizations.
    8. Ask for need of an auto-generated certificate.
    9. Determine the design of the course or curriculum that needs to go onto the LMS at the outset. That will also determine the choice. If there are more than course/curriculum understand design of all.
    10. Ask if customer needs language support beyond English.
    11. Does the LMS need to be SCORM compliant?  If customer is not informed on SCORM, recommend SCORM compliant content, and SCORM 1.2 for now. Only a few LMSs are SCORM 2004 compliant.
    12. What would you like to track? E.g start/finish/in progress, grades ( which activities), time spent in the program, time spent on an activity, peer-peer interaction (assuming the LMS has those features of social learning) and time spent by coach or mentor
    13. How robust should the management reporting capability be? Worry about this a lot when they start talking of integration with People soft, CRM software and the likes.
    14. Check for any other IT systems integration requirements. Sometimes the customer may not realize the need for it until you start asking them questions around enrollment process, grade passing process into a MIS etc.
    15. Check importance of security of content, and user data. Will determine preference for Software as a service (SAAS) or on-site hosting of LMS.
    16. Determine if they have administration and management personnel, or you need to provide that service?

Finally, hear very closely their aspirations to include social learning. Not all LMSs have all the features to facilitate social learning per your client’s vision. Again, make all effort to penetrate the invisible layer.

Web 2.0 for Learning?

Really enough has been said about using Web 2.0 technology apps for learning. Enough especially when it is suggested that Flickr, Zing, Posterous, Slideshare and others are all Web 2.0 apps for learning. So, I want to examine what makes a software program, an app for learning.

Let us start by thinking-

1. Is it an app that facilitates learning, or is it the learning design that facilitates learning?
2. Can an app inspire creative, and sound learning design principles in the creator?

This is not to say that the above mentioned apps, and others mentioned in this league cannot foster learning. They sure can, but what they need is a design hand to work on it. Exceptions to this rule are collaboration tools such as googlewave, or Etherpad which have been designed with the express intent of collaboration, either in learning formally, or fostering informal learning at work, or school.

As a learning sciences student for life, I therefore beg to differ with bloggers and presenters who wish to collate names of apps/tools and call them apps for learning. Learning design is the key, and technology is an enabler. Technology is also a driver for design, however, technology in and of itself does not promote/ enhance learning.