Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Κούκου! Είσαι εκεί;

Χτες το απόγευμα, κατά το απογευματινό ταξιδάκι προς το σπίτι, διάβαζα τα δημοσιεύματα του Jon, της Jenny, του Matthias και του John (αν θέλετε να τα διαβάσετε, διαβάστε τα σε αυτή την σειρά). Το γενικό θέμα σε όλα αυτά τα δημοσιεύματα είναι το πως (και πόσοι) συμμετέχουν σε ένα MOOC.

Αν παρατηρήσει κανείς τον ημερήσιο εγκύκλιο του MOOC θα δεις πως σε γενικές γραμμές τα ίδια δέκα άτομα συμμετέχουν συχνά, και που και που θα δεις κανένα καινούργιο πρόσωπο. Αυτό δεν σημαίνει πως δεν υπάρχουν άλλοι στο MOOC που διαβάζουν και επεξεργάζονται καθημερινά τα δημοσιεύματα άλλων· απλός δεν γνωρίζουμε πόσα άτομα υπάρχουν που παρακολουθούν και πόσα ήρθαν την πρώτη εβδομάδα φερ' ειπείν, είδαν κάτι και έφυγαν.

Η αλήθεια είναι το κάθε MOOC είναι διαφορετικό (όπως και το κάθε μάθημα που δεν είναι MOOC) και το πως μετριέται αυτός που είναι παρόν θα αλλάζει αναλόγως με το μάθημα και την θεματολογία. Για παράδειγμα, ένα άλλο MOOC, το ds106 (ψηφιακή διήγηση), ο κάθε συμμετέχων έπρεπε να παραδώσει κάτι στο τέλος κάθε εβδομάδας. Σε γενικές γραμμές σκέφτομαι να δημιουργήσω και εγώ ένα MOOC· ένα MOOC για την διδασκαλία της Νέας Ελληνικής για ξένους, με θεματολογία το ταξίδι. Η αλήθεια είναι πως αυτό το σκεπτικό του «έλα όποτε θες» δεν μου αρέσει και τόσο πολύ στα MOOC, οπότε σκέφτομαι να πάω με το παράδειγμα του ds106. Αναρωτιέμαι πόση ζήτηση να υπάρχει για ένα δωρεάν μάθημα ελληνικών στο διαδίκτυο...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

College Degrees and Relevance

Over the holiday, at some point I came across this blog post asking how much longer will (college) degrees mean something. It was a short, but interesting post, and something that I've thought about in the past; not in reference to how much longer will college degrees have a monopoly on accreditation of individuals, but rather I've been pondering what does a college degree mean.

The impetus for this post seem's to be Stanford's AI MOOC, which apparently will give out certificates of completion to those who participate and do the work.  Jeff, the author of the other blog posses the following questions which I wanted to tackle a bit:

When do we start hiring for the knowledge you have rather than the degree you hold?
We used to do that, and we ought to be doing that now. One of my concentrations while an MBA student was Human Resources Management, and as a student one of the key things is that the piece of paper doesn't matter, but rather it's the skills that do.  The problem is that there is a disconnect between HR and the department that's hiring.  The department writes the job description, which is ultimately what HR posts and they collect resumes/CVs for. The degree becomes one more check mark in the automation process, and your perfectly good candidate can be denied because they don't have a specific degree. This is done in the name of efficiency, but this type of efficiency overlooks qualified candidates.

When will a certificate of this open course or that open course mean as much as actually taking the college course?
Never - OK, maybe I shouldn't say never - so let's say "I wouldn't hold my breath."  In a good and thought out curriculum, there are competencies that students need to demonstrate before being allowed to graduate. Coursework is part and parcel of honing those skills so that you can qualify for those competencies.  Doing one course and getting a certificate is not the same as going through a thought-out program, with a set of competencies, that you can easily demonstrate.  Even if you strung together a number of open courses (MOOCs) each giving you a certificate, since the certificates are all issued by different authorities, with different standards and measures, it's still not the same as a college degree.

What happens when a college degree really doesn't mean anything other than you spent x amount of hours with your butt in a seat somewhere for four five six years?
You know, a college degree is more than the sum of the courses you took and how much time you spent in class. A college degree, especially today, should set you up to be a critical, reflective, life-long learner who can cope with anything that life or work throws at them. Content is important so far as  it gets you your first job. You can't be a java programmer unless you've spent so many hours programming and learning the language and learning its kinks.  You can do this as part of a degree program...or you can do it on your own.  Time on task however does not change.
What happens when you're hired for what you know not what courses you took?
I've never had anyone hire me for the courses I took; and I honestly don't know anyone who does hire people based on courses they took. Hiring managers are looking for people who can synthesize knowledge from their entire curriculum.
What happens when the skills you have become more important than the content you know?
Again, in practice it is the skills that matter, not content - this is reality today, but it's not seen as key based on our hiring practices. Employers do want  individuals who can look things up as needed.  Some content is important: you can't hire a biologist of physicist if that person has little exposure and hands-on time with the actual subject matter. Would YOU want your surgeon to look things up during surgery?  Medical students, before they become doctors have both content area knowledge and skills developed through simulations and practice - hey, nice tie-in to the topic of this week: simulations, lol - not all professions are like this, but some are. In any case, you need both content area knowledge and skills. One is not interchangeable for the other, but as you grow up as a professional, skills are more important because content gets stale and needs updating.

What happens when a college degree no longer means anything?
I think we will cross that bridge when we get to it, but it's still a long long way down the road. Colleges are accredited institutions (now how far that accreditation goes is up for debate, as I and others have written in the past), but there is a measure of some sort.  Even with Mozilla's open badge initiative it will be a while before any self-reliant, self-motivated individual can put together a cohesive set of courses (if we are measuring in terms of courses!) to qualify as a college degree alternative.

What I think is amiss here is the questioning of what a college degree signifies - and that is "Expertise" in something that someone else with expertise is willing to vouch for someone else.  People have, and do, get street cred for their work and expertise through alternate means (example: portfolios of their work), but those individuals are also people who don't get their jobs through "normal" means (i.e. through the HR department). When alternatives to showing off one's expertise become more relevant and used by hiring managers and HR departments, then the college degree will be dethroned as the measurement by which people are hired.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Using mLearning and MOOCs to understand chaos, emergence, and complexity in education

This paper seems to have made the rounds while I was away from blogging last week, but I thought it would be worthwhile  posting it on my blog just the same :-)

The second paper of the MRT (mobiMOOC research team) is now available through the  International Review of Research in Online and Distance Learning (IRRODL) and is titled "Using mLearning and MOOCs to understand chaos, emergence, and complexity in education."  Here's the abstract:

In this paper, we look at how the massive open online course (MOOC) format developed by connectivist researchers and enthusiasts can help analyze the complexity, emergence, and chaos at work in the field of education today. We do this through the prism of a MobiMOOC, a six-week course focusing on mLearning that ran from April to May 2011. MobiMOOC embraced the core MOOC components of self-organization, connectedness, openness, complexity, and the resulting chaos, and, as such, serves as an interesting paradigm for new educational orders that are currently emerging in the field. We discuss the nature of participation in MobiMOOC, the use of mobile technology and social media, and how these factors contributed to a chaotic learning environment with emerging phenomena. These emerging phenomena resulted in a transformative educational paradigm.

Our first paper is in the Proceedings of mLearn 2011 (but you may actually see it in a journal as well). The MRT is now working on another paper (which we hope to have done before the end of the year) looking at affective language use in MOOCs as a predictor of participation. One thing that we keep coming across is the issue of lurkers and drop-outs (and how to distinguish between the two).

The other papers in the current edition of IRRODL also look interesting, but I thought I would highlight the paper titled "A pedagogy of abundance or a pedagogy to support human beings? Participant support on massive open online courses"since it is co-authored by fellow Change11 and Research_MOOC participants Rita Kop and John Sui Fai Mak (Hélène Fournier may also be here, but I don't remember seeing her)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Publishing,copyright, and pay walls...

The MobiMOOC research team has been working on our third paper, further analyzing aspects of MOOCs, and MobiMOOC in specific.  Our forthcoming paper tackles the topic of emotive language usage in MOOC discussions as a predictor of continued, or future, participation in the course. We are currently in the process of going over and refining the paper, but I don't want to give away the punchline before it's done in its totality :-)

In any case, I've taken the lead on this project to see which journal we can publish our findings in.and I have found a journal whose theme is online learning and asynchronous networks, which fits in with MOOCs and MOOC pedagogy (although, to be honest I don't know how much MOOC pedagogy there is out there...perhaps something to put our heads together about). Anyway, I was looking over the author submission guidelines to see what sort of format they wish to have us submit our paper in terms of citations, footnotes* and text formatting; and here is where I noticed that we, the authors, have to (explicitly) hand over copyright to the journal in order to have it published. The journal is also behind a pay-wall which is another consideration.  My previously published work required neither transfer of copyright, nor were there paywalls.

This gave me pause for thought.  I am interested (as is the MobiMOOC research team) in having this paper published, but I am not sure if I want my work to be behind paywalls and not retain copyright.  I get the feeling that this is the norm in academic publishing, but it doesn't really sit right.  What do fellow academics think?  I am relatively new to this, I just have a couple of articles published, and I don't have a PhD yet, so I'd like to hear back from more experienced people out there who've been in the game longer. Is the lure of a big name journal justification to put aside your philosophical stance on open publishing?  With the exception of IRRODL and JOLT, are there open access journals that you'd recommend?

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Issues?


* note to journal editors: please bring back the footnote...informational (and other) footnotes are awesome, no need to get rid of them because we're online! :-)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lurkers, Lurking, Learners, Learning, what is learning?

I tried making that rhyme, to come up with a catchy title, but it didn't really work out... Oh well, maybe next time ;-)

In any case, in the Research_MOOC Mailing list Alan Selig had an interesting question which I thought I would poke at for a while until I came to an answer (or at least something to add to the discussion)

Alan Selig
One final "wonderment" from my limited understanding of Connectivist Learning theory:  If the reflecting and remixing never leaves the head of the lurker, except perhaps in their own behavior, is it still learning? If the wider community never receives a benefit does that disqualify the experience as being learning?

Well...I think that there are different levels of looking at this. First of all, is it learning if it never leaves the brain/mind of the lurker? Strictly speaking, if the "learning" never manifests itself outside of the mind, I don't think it's learning. This manifestation doesn't have to involve other people, but there needs to be some externalization of the learning.  For instance. Let's say that I am learning to program databases in SQL.  I pick up a book and I read all about it. Let's also say, that I have convinced myself that I have learned SQL.  Is this learning?  Well, if placed in front of a computer with SQL, can I create and manage databases that run on SQL? If yes, then I have learned SQL (and no one else knows) and if no, then I haven't learned SQL.

My father is a good example of this - he reads a lot, in a variety of subjects, mind you he only finished middle school as far as I know and completed a technical degree back in his day (I guess the closest equivalent would be an Associate's degree, but only focusing on his trade and not the general education courses). He goes through phrases, reading classical fiction, history, biology, chemistry, and theology texts, just to mention a few topics and he synthesizes this information.  He brings up stuff he's learned when he is out with friends and colleagues - so in his case there are others around, but then again it would be a bit weird to speak to yourself about the things you've learned.

Getting back to connectivism, MOOCs, and dip-in and jump-out, MOOCs simply don't work if people are lurkers. Let's say that everyone in this MOOC were lurkers, what would you have? You'd have weekly seeding posts from the facilitators and that's it.  This in essence is the modern equivalent of mail-away education. Every week you'd get a care package of readings and activities that you do alone.  You aren't connecting with others, you aren't even connecting (that much) with the facilitators because lurking means one-way communication.  I don't know what the stats are for Change, but I would guess that there is a small core group of participants (who blog in several languages! yay!) that expand on the seed materials and spark additional learning conversations where everyone benefits.

So is there learning if people are lurking? Yes there is! But without some people to spark conversation and learning in MOOCs, you'd have much less to think about, and potentially much less to learn. The learning, when people participate, is thus much more than the sum of all participant's contributions :-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Soft & Hard Technologies...

This week in Change11 our host is Jon Dron (rhymes with Tron ;-) )and to topic is Soft technologies, hard technologies and everything in between. While reading the seed post I got a distinct mental image of Steve Job's voice reading Jon's initial post - it had a jobsian feel to it.

The article is an interesting epistemological view of technology; technology being very broad by definition since pedagogy is also taken to be a technology. I honestly don't know what to make of this week, just yet anyway. It was an interesting read, it did engage me mentally, but where to go from here?  I suppose the activity itself might be a good starting point...

So Jon asks us to ...

Provide at least one possible educational use for an unenhanced standard email client such as Thunderbird or Outlook Express that requires nothing more than that email client and its usual supporting infrastructure (network connection, operating system etc are fine, but no other distinct applications like web browsers, word processors, shared storage, listservs, schedulers or calendars). Provide this in a form that may be aggregated with grsshopper and shared with others on the MOOC.

The intention here is to focus on what phenomena are being orchestrated to what purpose in each case and (most importantly) how that orchestration occurs. The more complex, bizarre, interesting and ingenious the ways of using these better.
Honestly, it's been quite a while since I've used an email client (on the desktop) and even longer when I've used a web client that has been un-enhanced by rich text formatting, images, and HTML... hmmmmm...so, without putting way to much thought into this I will draw from my own past (and snail mail!)  Back in the good ol' days of slow interner (remember those?) I used to actually write to friends via snail mail (aaahhh, those were the days! the excitement of getting a letter in the mail!). In any case, when corresponding with a friend from England, we started a story by mail. No pre-conceived plot (I guess sort of like a never ending story), and each time we wrote, along with any news that accumulated we'd work on our epic masterpiece.

Wikis and Google Docs these days have taken over this collaborative creative writing exercise, but a plain text email client could be used in an English class to write a collaborative fiction. The idea is that you couldn't go back and edit other people's work, but you'd have to build on it.  I can see this in psychology or organizational behavior classes as well...

I do wonder how many people these days would go for this though, considering the "send this to 10 people and back to me if you really care about our friendship" BS type of emails that we get, would people really respond to such an exercise?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Adjuncts, accreditation and academic quality

The other day I posted some thoughts based on Leahgrrl's original post on adjuncts and technology. Tony Bates also posted thoughts on the issue around the topic of accreditation. Between these blog posts, and comments to all three of them, the mental gears started to slowly turn and think of additional thoughts around the issue.  The first one being accreditation.

Tony writes that through his experiences being part of an accreditation agency, adjunct labor is something that they pay attention to when new programs apply to become accredited, but then there is no follow up.  I know our campus had a recent AQUAD review* for all programs on our campus, and  both internal and external reviewers viewed departmental submissions of the resumes of these departments (history of department, course offerings, student information, course reviews, faculty reviews, student evaluations of courses and instructors,  etc.), in short everything an accreditor would need to see in order to approve or disapprove a program.

It's great that scrutiny is placed on new programs as far as adjuncts go, but I would like to see more information about adjunct use for re-accreditation purposes.  If I were an accreditor here are some questions I would ask and things that I would be looking for (in no particular order):

  • What is the ratio of tenured/tenure track to adjunct instructors and lecturers?†
  • What percentage of courses are taught by adjuncts?
  • What percentage of core courses are taught by adjuncts?
  • What is the longevity of your department's adjuncts?
    • both in aggregate, and per-adjunct, so I want to see how long, on average do your adjuncts stay with you, and then I want to see how long each adjunct has been with the department.  for me, a 1 year hiatus from teaching would be acceptable (scenario: you teach 1 specialist course every summer)
  • Do you adjuncts teach only for you, or do they teach elsewhere?
  • Do your adjuncts only teach, or do they also work in industry?
  • What is the conversion rate for
    • adjunct-to-lecturer
    • adjunct-to-tenure
    • lecturer-to-tenure
  • What other duties do you require of your lecturers and adjuncts (i.e. service requirements to the institution, advising and so on)
  • How do adjunct and tenured faculty reviews and grades compare?

This isn't an exhaustive list, but it's a start. If institutions were required to maintain a 70-30, 80-20, or 90-10 ratio of tenured/tenure track to adjunct ratio, and were required to have all core courses taught by tenured or tenure track faculty I think that we would see some changes.

Sarah, did bring up the point that not all adjuncts are sub-par.  And I agree. I happen to know many adjuncts who are awesome and put in a lot of love, care, and time in preparation. They really want to help their students.  Sarah brings up the point that money isn't always an issue since adjuncts may have other jobs or may be retired so they are doing it for the love of teaching.  Perhaps this was true at one point when adjuncts were employed to bring industry expertise into the classroom, and the payment was more of a stipend than a salary, a "thank you." Things are different now however.  I believe that most adjuncts are out-of-work academics that are willing to patch together many teaching gigs to make ends meet. They may still be dedicated and put in a lot of hours, and pull feats of herculean proportions, but just because you can pay them peanuts, doesn't mean that you ought to.

As Barry wrote, it's a dignity issue.  Money may not be the issue for some people, but it is an issue for others◊ . Even if money weren't the issue, money is an indicator of your perception of worth and appreciation for someone in this case, and paying them peanuts indicates that you don't perceive them to be worth much because you aren't paying them much. Ethically, too, even if people are willing to settle for what little they can get, should you as an organization pay them that little? Should you string them along with a carrot of tenuretrackdom even if you know that you are probably not going to hire someone on tenure track if they've been adjuncting•?

If adjuncts have longevity at your institution, if they've been with you for a number of years, pay increases and other perks should come their way.  Why, if you've hired someone for the past six semesters consecutively would you not want to give them a 3-5 year contract with increased salary?  You obviously value them and their work enough to keep hiring them back semester after semester, why not make it official and give them a longer stint, with job protection and better pay?  Why not have a career ladder of
adjunct --> lecturer (3 year contract) --> senior lecturer (5 year contract) --> tenure track --> tenure?



* Academic Quality and something something something...
† At my campus a lecturer is someone with a 3 year contract, a senior-lecturer someone with a 5 year contract. The pay still doesn't compare to tenure track/tenured faculty but it's a start.
◊ Tapping into contemporary sentiment, money may not be an issue for the 1% of adjuncts who have other jobs to sustain them, but it is an issue for the 99%
• I've read elsewhere that being an adjunct signals to employers that they shouldn't hire you for a tenured position. Sort of similar to the concept of if you are already employed you can get a job, but if you aren't you are out of luck...so silly, waste of good talent!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Abundance: A tale of student usage

I was reading the blog posts that were posted yesterday on Change MOOC on the topic of Learning in times of Abundance and it suddenly hit me*, this learning in times of abundance reminds me a lot of the research I did on digital natives (article forthcoming). Yes technology (seems to be) ubiquitous, and so is information, but as  Eric Duval admitted in his intro post:
Really big caveat: of course, all of this abundance talk is only relevant to us who are the privileged few, who do not need to worry about where we will sleep this evening, or how we will feed our children…

I thought of a few more caveats, one of which I mentioned before, that of literacy. Abundance is almost useless without the literacy to use it...sort of like the old saying: so much sea and yet I am thirsty (OK, I paraphrased a bit right there). The other thing that I was reminded of is actual usage of this abundance.  In a lot of the good digital native research† that I came across looked at factors such as how technologies are used (social versus academic and the chasm between), and whether students bring those devices to the classroom.

Research has shown that there is a chasm between social use and academic use, and that students can't necessarily bridge this on their own. So abundance isn't really helpful when you can't use those devices, services, information providers to your advantage without being instructed to do so.  Other research‡ also shows that students were unwilling to mix their social lives with their academic lives, so in order to use this type of abundance one would need a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde approach to social media (abundance) in the classroom. I think that we Change MOOCers are probably an exception to this.

Finally, I was reminded of a recent Educause annual survey of incoming freshmen that indicated that about 80% of them had a laptop.  Now the question is do these students bring these devices to school?  If they do, how often and for what purpose.  My personal feeling◊ is that a "laptop" is semioticaly the same as a desktop computer for these students. When laptops became portable, they didn't just allow people to take them from one place to another but this also allowed for home users to take up much less space on their desks for the computer. A desktop, monitor, keyboard and mouse take up way more space than a laptop that has everything all in one place.  Thus, students living in dorms or  apartments shared with other people would be more likely to buy a laptop because it can fit in smaller spaces, it can move around the apartment when it gets noisy, and if needed, it can be locked in a drawer when you have parties or get-togethers. The semiotics of a laptop in this case aren't the same as the semiotics of a portable machine that you take everywhere, but rather of a machine that take up less space and if needed can be moved to another place of study• .

Why do I mention this?  Earlier this semester a colleague of mine and a former professor wanted to use Google Moderator for a large class.  Moderator works well on computers but in reality it sucks big time for mobile devices. The experiment, as I understand it, was not so encouraging. Why?  Well, people didn't bring their computers, or just didn't participate. While laptop ownership was abundant in the class, and pretty much everyone had a smartphone or tablet, it was hard to use such a service because of the semiotics of the laptop and the non-usability of mobile devices on this service.  The one thing that wasn't abundant in this case: tabletop real-estate!  Technology was available, but if a computer or tablet were to be placed on the desk, that would be all that could go on there. No books, notebooks or any other type of writing or reading implement (or beverage for that matter) could be placed on the desk, which made learning feel cramped and not that comfortable• . Learning can't take place when a learner is uncomfortable - so, guess what, people didn't use back-channel tools, because they didn't fit in with the overal environment! Abundance is great, but it can't be an island in and of itself - it needs to connect with the other aspects of student learning (in this case the spatial configuration of the classroom).



* idea for iOS developers: develop connections between ReadItLater and blogging software so I can just send links to my blogging software from ReadItLater to be able to cite things...
† good research being actual research, not "fluff research" that just mindlessly repeats "common wisdom"
‡ Apologies for my laziness in not providing citations...I promise to post my paper on digital natives once done :)
◊ I have no way of proving this, but it would make for an interesting study (if not done already)
• I should say that these are my interpretations of the situation

Learning in times of abundance...for quite some time now!

This week's topic, as I mentioned in my initial post, is learning in times of abundance. Eric Duval, in his definition of abundance, goes for the digital element, but I wanted to focus on something  a little more mundane - the "disconnected" world of the library.  The fact of the matter is that our abundance of information is no new thing. Some may go back as far back as the invention of the printing press, but I won't since buying books still costs money to the individual and thus, while there is an abundance in materials, it's not abundant to you because you've got limited money.  Instead I want to focus on something quaint - the library.

The library has provided us with a lot of abundant information, for both learning and pleasure.  Through various consortia, if your own town library (or libraries) don't carry the item you want, they can get it for you, usually for no extra charge, so you can have access to whatever material you need. In high school I almost never used the library; except to borrow the original Star Trek movies and to do some required summer reading*...both of these activities happened at the same time. As a college undergraduate I used the library as a free place to get internet - again missing out on the wonders that the library could offer.  It wasn't until graduate school when I really started using the library a lot.

Why such a lag in using such abundant information sources? Very few courses I took required trips to the library to research (I was a computer science major as an undergraduate) and I really lacked the information savvyness to use the library, and to use it well!  Our focus now, as is evident from Eric's initial post, is the internet - what can the internet for us and our classes?  Well, the answer is nothing; unless of course people really learn how to use it; how to find resources relevant to them, to weigh them, evaluate them, and put them to use.  The problem with the internet is the same problem as the library: they are both abundant information sources but they do require some user training for them to use. Just as you can't walk into a library and immediately (and without training) find the information source that's right for your query, in the same manner you can't just hop onto Google and find an answer to your question without critical  reasoning and questioning skills.

The benefit of this connected world, is that we get a chance for a do-over. We get an opportunity to teach learners how to find information, both in digital form and in physical form in a library, how to evaluate it, how to be critical of it, how to cite it and create and defend arguments based on this information.  Technology is just a tool, the hard work is all mental ;-)




* well, I also got some books on programming Apple ][gs machines using ProDOS, but that was limited in scope

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adjunct Technology...or pay your adjuncts better :)

I was reading a post by Leahgrrl the other day titled Adjunct Technology, or why I can't figure out Blackboard. It was quite an interesting post, and not something completely foreign to me - I've read my fair share of adjunct posts on the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and Inside Higher Ed, as well as having known many adjuncts personally. This past week, while attending the Sloan-C annual conference (virtually) I saw a session on developing faculty, and one of the institutions (the name escapes me now) had faculty take an 8 week long training seminar which focused on pedagogy, but the final "product" of the course was a full course on Blackboard (or whatever LMS the institution used). The faculty were not paid for the workshop, but they were paid a stipend for creating the course on Blackboard (so I guess they were sort of reimbursed for the time they spend on this project in some fashion).

What should be pointed out was that not all institutions do this - I think only a minority of institutions do! And, it seems like the  institutions that do only do so for online courses, not courses that are face to face and use technology to enhance the course; so if you are an adjunct, who is tasked with creating a course from scratch, you are putting in countless hours in course development (that your institution may retain copyright over!) for no pay.  On top of that you are paid only for the hours you spend in the classroom...so if you pro-rate everything you are getting poverty wages at best - after all, you do want to give your students good feedback and opportunities to excel don't you? This stuff takes time!

Adjuncts in the US get paid pretty poorly and institutions many times also don't provide for basic things like an office to conduct student consults, a computer or a printer for student handouts. It's a situation where you're getting paid poorly and it's BYOT (bring your own technology). From a management perspective, if you're just looking at the dollars and cents, it makes sense! Dirt cheap labor with no overhead!  But, in my opinion, this is what has brought down wall street - focusing on just the short term gain, and not keeping in mind long term benefits.  How do you retain great, qualified, instructors if you don't provide better wages and some job perks? Yes, there is always someone else to replace them, but at what cost to the students and the reputation of the institution?  If you don't pay well, adjunct faculty won't go the extra mile, because they either have another job and this is their hobby, or they string along several (low paying) teaching gigs and do the bare minimum.

I'd like to know which Higher Education Administration genius thought of this cockamamy scheme :-)  Education isn't about opening up a student's brain and pouring in information - it's about educating people to fend for themselves and this requires mentorship and educational innovation. Both of these require time, and if you're paying your educators very little, they aren't going to put in the time.  It's all connected...how is this not visible?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Campus vs. Online: fighting in the family

Last week I was a virtual attendee at the annual Sloan-C conference. It was fun and educational enough to spend 3 days watching live streamed sessions, and a saturday catching up on some recorded ones. The recorded ones are not as fun since you don't have the twitter stream going :-)  In any case, I was watching the session on State Perspectives on Online Education and it seemed to me that there still is tension between the online side of the house and the face-to-face education side; namely that the f2f side doesn't want online to be "poaching"  "their" students, and in some cases refusing to share resources.  This was a major #facepalm moment for me because it's essentially two sides of the same organization fighting each other - which is really counter productive...so I tweeted:
Competition between online&f2f jeez!Can we get over it already &recognize that OL or f2f doesnt matter.Its just one campus! #aln2011
Which lead to a brief exchange online (read from bottom to top):

At that point it seemed a bit silly to try to elaborate on twitter, something that seems so long to elaborate.

The first thing that I should clarify (if my second tweet wasn't clear enough) was that this war between the f2f and the online sides of the campus doesn't matter from an administrative side.  Faculty and instructional designers should not be hired only to help with online or face to face - this seems like un-necessary duplication. It also seems like unnecessary duplication to have two cost centers for the two different units with two sets of managers - that's just a waste of money and resources.  Sure, pedagogy will be different in an online environment versus a face to face environment however the managerial structure should not have an affect on the pedagogy.  

As such, universities should not have this type of infighting and consider some students online and other students face to face and the two shall never mix. What universities should be doing is to realize synergies* between the online and the face to face and go forth together; thus supporting and complementing each other rather than having this silly little fight over online versus face to face. It should be online and face to face.




* by the way, I have come to dislike such business jargon, but it is the only word that comes to mind!

Friday, November 11, 2011

L'âge de l'abondance

Je sais que cette semaine n'est pas fini, mais je ne sais pas si j'ai autres choses à dire pour ce sujet. Alors, maintenant je pense à le sujet de change MOOC de la semaine prochaine. Le thème de la semaine prochaine est l'apprentissage dans le temps d'abondance. Vraiment je ne sais pas que veut dire Éric Duval (notre facilitateur pour cette semaine) mais je me demande: ce qui est en abondance?
L'information? Non, ça ne pourrait être correct parce que nos bibliothèques ont eu beaucoup des livres et information pour beaucoup de temps! Vrai, une bibliothèque n'as pas toutes les livres du monde, mais quelqu'un que veut quelque chose que son bibliothèque n'as pas, cette personne peux demander une livre d'une autre bibliothèque utilisant le "ILL" (interlibrary loan). Je pense que nous avons eu l'abondance en information depuis Gutenberg et l'invention de l'imprimerie; et bien sûr l'existence de la système des bibliothèques.
Peut cette abondance être l'abondance en accès? Peut être non, parce que l'accès à l'Internet coût. Je sais que aujourd'hui beaucoup des gens ont plus d'accès sur le net, mais les niveaux d'accès, selon moi, ne justifient pas la caractérisation d'abondance. Par exemple, j'ai payé $300 pour mon iPhone, et chaque moins ça coût $70 pour accès à l'Internet et pour SMS. Je crois que je peux payer pour ça, mais je doute que un quantité substantielle des gens peuvent (prise en compte le monde totale) payer pour cette type d'accès.
Cette semaine à venir devrait être intéressante.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Change the PhD: PhD by Publication

The other day I was writing about changing the PhD and Jenny wrote an informative reply to my post informing me that in the UK there are actually three types of PhD programs, the ones that I had experience with (though my researching of PhD programs): the "enter with a dissertation topic;" those that have required course components and a dissertation (what I would term "North American style"); and finally a type of PhD program called PhD by Publication.

Being curious, I spent some time looking into what is meant by this type of PhD program and it added to my readitlater reading list (along with the Change11 posts that I wanted to read that day).  I have to say that  I was sufficiently intrigued by this method of getting a PhD. As Jenny alluded it, it is hard to get into this type of program since it seems like it's either reserved for staff members of the university (so perhaps as a way of getting required credentials for career advancement having already proved your knowledge, know-how and capabilities by working at that institution and having already published.  The other way of getting in (if the institution has this type of program for non-staffers) seems to be to come in with a portfolio of publications already and provide justification as to why these collected works are worthy of a PhD.

It seems to me, that if you haven't already published in peer-reviewed journals, a traditional PhD may be the route to go (since that would be shorter), but if you have already published in peer-reviewed journals that body of work can speak to your skills. It seems like there isn't much standardization in PhD by Publication programs, but it seems like your publications (which are peer reviewed, defended in writing by the candidate, and reviewed by the faculty of the institutions) are a substitute for the dissertation. Perhaps there is additional coursework required for some more observation by faculty and other SMEs who are tasked with certifying your competency.

Personally I have no problem with this, I actually think it is an interesting idea.  Some of the comments I saw online however, from traditional PhD holders seems negative, talking about people who get PhDs this way as people who couldn't compete and couldn't hack a "real" PhD. From an educational perspective I think that people are too wedded to the Dissertation without thinking about what a dissertation is meant to show - and that is your capability, as a PhD candidate, to conduct some original research.  If 5-7-10-15 research articles accomplish the same goal, who care if you did a dissertation or published original research?  After all, not all PhD dissertations are publishable, but all of your published research is....well, peer-reviewed and published!

I don't know how old this concept of PhD by Publication is, but it seems like an way to think out of the box and change PhD education :-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ριζωματική γνώση: πως μεγαλώνει αυτή η ρίζα;

Το περασμένο σαββατοκύριακο είδα πως είχαμε μια νέα μονάδα στο Change11, με θέμα την ριζωματική γνώση. Ήθελα να γράψω κάτι περί αυτού (γιατί πάνω κάτω συμφωνώ με αυτή την επιστημολογία αλλά δεν μου ερχόταν να γράψω κάτι, λίγο δύσκολο να γράψεις για κάτι που ήδη συμφωνείς…και φυσικά δεν ήθελα να γράψω μια περίληψη αυτών που διάβασα.

Αυτό με έκανε να αρχίσω να σκέφτομαι το πως τρέφονται και μεγαλώνουν αυτές οι ρίζες. Γιατί μεγαλώνουν προς μία κατεύθυνση και όχι άλλη, ή πως (με τι ακατέργαστα υλικά) αρχίζουν τα τρέφονται γενικός. Μετά σκέφτηκα την παρομοίωση της ανάπτυξης της γνώσης ως γυμναστήριο. Μπορεί να πηγαίνεις και να γυμνάζεσαι, αλλά αν δεν έχεις κάποιο μεγαλύτερο σκοπό (π.χ. να πάρεις χρυσό στην άρση βαρών) τότε γυμνάζεις το κορμί σου (πάνω κάτω) ίσια. Αν έχεις κάποιο σκοπό στο νου, τότε κάποια σημεία του σώματός σου είναι πιο γυμνασμένα από άλλα.

Τώρα που πάω με αυτή την παρομοίωση δεν ξέρω - το σκέφτηκα και το καταγράφω. Απλός μου έκανε αυτή η σκέψη - πως τρέφεται και μεγαλώνει αυτή η ρίζα της γνώσης…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rhizomatic Learning Animation - Pretty cool!

I have to say that this is, hands down, the most cool thing that I've seen a participant do in any MOOC I've ever been!  Kudos to Guilia Forsythe!

Here is Guilia's Challege:
So, I’m issuing a remix challenge. Record some audio for my doodle: using your PC, Mac, mobile, soundcloud, YouTube, etc. (your tool of choice, etc.), while watching the video and post it here for me. Or download the video using MPEG StreamClip and do whatever you like to it! (Update: I’ve made a version without audio for easier remixing)
Maybe me and some fellow Greeks in education can come up with some hip-hop lyrics for this ;-)


Monday, November 7, 2011

Change the PhD

This post is only peripherally related to Rhizomatic Knowledge (so you can skip it if you want ;-)   )

Yesterday evening I was looking over my twitter stream and I saw a post re-tweeted by George Siemens on what to say when someone asks you "should I do a PhD?" This post got me thinking (again) about the differences between a US (or perhaps a North American) PhD program and a UK PhD program.  In the US (and I assume Canada?) PhD programs (that I've looked at anyway) seem to be like a Masters++.  Most programs (again the ones that I have explored) are around 60 credits (which is about the equivalent of 2 Masters Degrees), which include required coursework, elective courses, research methodology courses and a dissertation.  If you enter the PhD program with a Masters degree in the field you can get some coursework waived (but how much is waived is really up to institutional policies).

By contrast a UK PhD, at least my understanding of it from when I was looking at PhD and D.Phil programs in the UK, is much more loosely structured. You apply to the program with a dissertation proposal in hand, so your application evaluation is also an evaluation of your research/dissertation proposal. There are no required courses that every student has to take but rather in consultation with your advisers you do individuals tutorials where you weak areas are assessed and an IEP (individualized educational program) is formed based on both your weak spots and topics that would be useful to your dissertation research.  If you happen to come into the PhD program with a weakness in research methods then you do a one year bootcamp in research methods, you get an M.Phil in research methods, and then you start your PhD work.

While I think that a cohort for PhD programs is a nice thought, think of it as strength in numbers and having a group to bounce ideas off, I am starting to think that the american PhD system is too mechanized, too homogenized and industrialized.  Everyone does (almost) the exact same thing, and even when it comes to electives you only have a limited choice. I think that this tends to prolong PhD programs and it takes some of the creativity out of the PhD.  Also, by entering a PhD without a dissertation proposal in hand it means that you don't start working on your dissertation until after your second year. In many cases (again from programs that I've looked at) the Dissertation Proposal doesn't even come into the picture until after you've passed your qualifying exams.

I think it's time to change our PhD program - not by making them shorter and les rigorous, but rather making them shorter by not treating every PhD student the same - having a IEP for each PhD student, and having them come into a PhD program with a dissertation proposal in hand and approved means that individual tutorials can be more effective and the end (dissertation) is always in mind throughout the curriculum.

your thoughts?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rhizomatic Knowledge initial thoughts

This week's topic in ChangeMOOC is brought to us by Dave Cormier and the topic is Rhizomatic knowledge, rhizome coming from the Greek word for "root." (OK, that's my last "big fat Greek wedding" moment for this blog post :-)  )

Dave tells us that the idea comes from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in their book "a thousand plateaus" and the idea, at least according to Deleuze and Guattari is that in a rhizome "ideas are multiple, interconnected and self-replicating. A rhizome has no beginning or end… like the learning process."

It's quite an interesting epistemological view of knowledge and I can see how ideas are off-shoots of others thoughts and idea. We see this every day in sayings like "going off on a tangent or the infamous "six degrees to..." game. Everything is connected (which goes nicely with my previous blog post).

Looking at Rhizomatic knowledge from a literal perspective, there may be no end (since roots do continue to grow both around and through obstacles) but they DO have a beginning, so there is a start. Perhaps my view is a bit limited, since I am only considering one plant. If I were to consider a lot of plants, there would be many possible beginnings (let's call these beginnings "disciplines"), and eventually all those roots will meet underneath the earth, and some root systems will cross paths with other root systems more frequently than others.

It's interesting that Dave asks us to take a look at what we are doing and see if our practice or experience correlates to how he explains knowledge. I think the mindmap that I created for my previous blog post on connecting and weaving knowledge fits really nicely in here. I think that the "one plant" metaphor doesn't work well with what I created, but the multiple plant (or perhaps "forest" metaphor) works much better since my interests and knowledge grew out from each program and connected and weaver with the roots from other faces of my own learning.

The one open question I have is this: do we embrace the wave? do we embrace the tangents that we go off or do we try to look at the other side of things (the top of the plant, not the roots) and try to prune and mold the tree like a bonsai?  Of course the answer is "it depends" which is why it's an open ended question :-)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Connecting and weaving knowledge

This week's Change topic was a nice break for me, allowed me to take a moment, catch up with other people's blogs, and the weekly session (which I made an attempt to visit while it was live, but I somehow missed it) was loose enough to allow for this break.

In any case, the topic of this week was "Triangulating, weaving and connecting our learning." I've written before about disconnected knowledge (although I forget if it was a blog post here, somewhere else, or a comment on someone else's blog...) and disconnected knowledge is an issue when teaching and learning. One can't learn facts and figures in isolation, they are meaningless and we end up forgetting them anyway. If we can put them to use, that is one form of making these facts meaningful to us and thus providing for a mechanism to remember them.

This week's topic reminded me of a mentor that I had in one of my master's programs. When I was a first-semester graduate student in the instructional design program the program director helped me to start mindfully (or consciously?) connecting all of my previous education and knowledge to what I was doing. I had a gut feeling about how things connected with each other, but when people saw my resume their first comment was that I lacked focus.  After all, I was some with a BA in computer science who loved languages (in their minds two separate things), who went on to get an MBA with foci in IT and Human Resources, who then went on to an MS in IT, an MEd in Instructional Design and then wrapping it all up with Applied Linguistics.

To most people it seems like I am jumping from discipline to discipline, but I always saw some sort of connection between all of them, it was just hard to articulate it to others.  It seems like both in Academia and in the "real world" there is an emphasis in specialization (or hyper specialization once you get to PhD levels), and this specialization entails some sort of certification that in the minds of people clearly delineates one thing from another; however some people don't seem to realize is that it is all connected. Some links are stronger and some links are weaker, but when it all comes down to it, there is no such thing as "no connection"...just a lack of the ability to see connections :-)

In order to try to explain the method to the madness, I ended up creating a mindmap of how all of this previous knowledge, education and interests fit together, although I think that this is rather simplistic.  I can "see" more connection if I drill down deeper, but without some sort of 3D diagram it will just look like one big messy spaghetti bowl ;-)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Course info for INSDSG697: Research Methods for Instructional Designers.

'Tis the season to be thinking about which courses you will be registering for spring courses; unless you're graduating this December, in which case let me be the first to congratulate you! :-)  The spring course list is now out, check it out on our discussion board.  When I was a student I always liked to have a syllabus for the courses I was thinking about registering for so that I could get an idea of what the course entailed and therefore figure out what the best combination of courses was for me for that specific semester.  To that end, I wanted to write a little about INSDSG697: Research Methods for Instructional Designers which I will be teaching this coming spring. This is also an opportunity to get the reading materials ahead of time so you could prepare before the start of the semester (if you want to do that sort of thing - did when I was a student, but it's not everyone's cup-o-tea :-)  )

Why research methods?
Our program has a balance of theory and practice. Theory on its own is not that useful in the professional world; on the other hand practice that is not backed up by theory is not useful either because what was once good instructional design ends up becoming cookie cutter ID; this is neither useful to your learners nor your institutions. In our ID courses you do get some theory but you don't often get opportunities to branch out on your own.  Having some background in research methods will not only enable you to problematize training and develop your own research to test things you can't readily explain; it will also enable you to go out there and look at the research literature more often in order to keep improving your instructional design skills and keep your knowledge of learning theory fresh.

What's involved?
Lots of reading and discussing! Throughout the semester we will be both reading a textbook, which is going to be our "how-to" manual for conducting research, and we will be reading and critiquing research articles and position papers.  Through the textbook readings you will be learning the ropes for creating a research proposal and through the article critiques and discussions we will be honing your "BS detector." All things considered there will be about 100 pages of reading materials each week.
The other component is discussions. Each week we will be going over the article critiques that students will be writing and we will be critically discussing the articles.  In the first half of the semester I will be providing you with articles to critique, but as you gather speed with your own research project and you find articles for your literature review we can kill two birds with one stone - so we will be critiquing articles that you have chosen for your project.

How much is statistics involved with this course?
Not much! Statistics is one of those courses that requires a semester of its own, and the truth is that most educational research (that I've come across anyway...) is either qualitative or mixed-method in design so statistics are only one small component. We will be looking at basic statistics, and what they mean so we can do article critiques but you won't have to do the math yourself.

Will I have to complete a research project?
No, that would be like learning how to drive a race car while competing in a NASCAR race. The aim of the semester project will be for you to create a research proposal that can be submitted to a University's Institutional Review Board (IRB). It will contain many things that a full research project has (like a literature review, statements of the problem, and how the experiment will be conducted), but you will neither be running your research experiment, nor will you be gathering and analyzing data. My hope is that you can take your research proposal and either do an independent study in a subsequent semester in order to see your project all the way through, or that you will use this research proposal as the base for the MTO (master's thesis option)*

What is this "HyFlex" thing?
HyFlex is short for Hybrid Flexible. You can read more about it here: http://itec.sfsu.edu/hyflex/hyflex_home.htm
What this means is that if a specific week you can't come to class (or don't want to!) there are ways of completing the material online.  Now this of course doesn't give you carte blanche to just not show up at all during the semester and do stuff online, otherwise it would be an online course. The benefit of HyFlex (at least in my mind) is that it is a Hybrid course (taking the best parts of a face to face course and the best of an online course and putting them together) but it also gives the student the flexibility as to which sessions to complete online. The other nice thing about HyFlex is that it gives online students the opportunity to take a course that is normally offered only face to face. This is my first time running a HyFlex course so it should be interesting! I will be both online and in class!

Who can Register?
The class is on Thursday afternoons and you need to have taken 601, 602 and 604 in order to register.  If you have taken 601 and 602 and would still like to take the course, contact me and we can definitely talk about it!  If you are an online student, since the course is HyFlex that means that there is material online in Blackboard for you as well.  UMass Boston doesn't yet have the HyFlex designation so a course has to be either be online or face to face but since this course is a mix of both categories online students should be able to signup for the course as well if they want  (as a matter of fact I encourage it!) :-) Don't worry, if you don't live near Boston you can think of this course as an online course so you don't have to come in for face to face sessions :-)


Resources:
Course Syllabus: click here
Course Wiki (still working on it): http://pocketid.wikispaces.com/INSDSG+697RM 

*Disclaimer: I think that our program has a master's thesis option (MTO) for people who want to do that instead of doing the capstone, but you should check with the program director to make sure!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Built-in Breaks for MOOCs

I viewed this week's live session yesterday afternoon (I really wish there were an export to MP3 function, I know WIMBA, one of the products going into Blackboard Collaborate allows this...but anyway - this isn't the MOOC facilitator's fault). In any case, I don't have much to say this week about the topic, so I will be catching up with things that other people write.

I was brainstorming the other day and posted this on twitter
Idea for longer MOOCs like #change11, factor in one "break" or "catch-up" week for every 4 weeks of content
and it seems like a few people liked this idea.  If you look at the Change MOOC schedule you will see that it is a year-long MOOC, formatted around traditional Western university semesters (fall and spring) with a traditional Western Christian 2-week "break" around Christmas and New Year.   It seems like the scheduling design of MOOCs can be examined through the lens of Change.

Many people like the dip-in-jump-out design of current MOOCs, and MOOCs claim that they don't have a temporal time limit but if you look at the schedule I would argue that the schedule says otherwise - after all, part of what makes a MOOC interesting for me is being able to read blog posts of people who are in "my cohort" going through the materials with me. I can read the stuff and blog about it later, but it doesn't have as much impact because I won't necessarily have the same opportunities for discussion with Jane, Serena, Brainysmurf, Jaap and others as I would if I were following in real time.

Now, some people do dip-in-jump-out, others do not. Since we don't worry too much about time, the suggestion I have is this: every 3-4 weeks of content on the MOOC, give a 1 week break.  This way, people who want to catch up with other people's blogs and discussions can, and there is even more opportunity for assimilating, using and expanding on the materials provided - otherwise it really seems like a worldwind tour through the material.  We don't have any time constraints, we we could take a break to catch our breath :-)

Another idea in MOOC design is to make materials available on the Weekend before the start of the new module.  Many online courses I've had (for credit courses) gave us a couple of weeks worth of content at the same time so that if we had some downtime we could read ahead so we wouldn't be rushing in future weeks.  Since MOOCs are attended by people who have day-jobs it makes sense to release reading materials (if there are any) in advance. Again, MOOCs, it is said, have no time limit, so there shouldn't be pressure, but by having a schedule with defined weeks for topics would suggest otherwise, and our learning expectations have already been set by our previous experiences in classes (both online and face to face).

What would you do to improve MOOC course design?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Evaluations in MOOCs

Since Week 8 of Change11 has yet to start (materials seem no where to be found) I thought it would be worth going back and commenting on my previous post on MOOC summative evaluations. The question posed by Alan Selig was how to get summative evaluations from MOOC participants when you have dip-in-jump-out model for most MOOCs; I say most because at least the language MOOC I will be designing won't be so much of a dip-in-jump-out -people could, but if you are a true n00b in the language you might have problems if you skip a week since language is cumulative.

In any case, my first step would be to ask do we need an assessment and why?  Now, just to be clear, I am not saying that we don't need assessments in MOOCs, but rather we need to rethink the assessment (as both Mark and Jane commented on in my previous post).  What do we aim to accomplish with an assessment? Is it for us (organizers) or for the them (the participants)? What form of assessment is best suited for the pedagogical design of our MOOC and the types of participants we have?

Once those things are sorted out, then we can start thinking about specifics.  As Jane said there would probably be two "tracks" of assessment, those taking the MOOC for credit, and those who do not (like me). My feeling is that those who take the course for credit have slightly different goals and objectives than those who do not. Those differing goals will be evident in what each type of participant is looking for in a MOOC. Jane brought up the idea of Open Badge, which I think is a wonderful idea; personally as a MOOC participant I would like to have a little something, a momento in addition to my blog posts, that I participated in a MOOC.  MobiMOOC had that, Inge did send out (digital) certificates of participation to those who participated above a certain threshold - I thought that was pretty cool! I wasn't participating in MobiMOOC just for the certificate - I was doing it for the knowledge, but it was a nice additional motivating factor.

Of course a potential issue with badges is exactly what I came across in my other blog post on open door policies and analytics. If you specify that you need to be active in X-many sessions and [insert participation criterion and quantity] to get our cool badge people might cry out that the bar is unfairly high.  The devil's advocate of course might say "well if you are intrinsically motivated to only participate (as we have defined participation) in fewer than [quantity], then what does the badge matter?"  I honestly have not answer for that - it's part of a longer discussion and debate that I am sure I will continue to have as this MOOC goes on and in future MOOCs :-)

So, back to assessment.  At the risk of death by assessment perhaps one way of assessing the modules in a MOOC would be a weekly assessment that takes place one week after the module is done - so "week 6" would not be assessed at the end of "week 6" but rather at the end of "week 7," this would give people enough time to get through week 6 and digest what has occurred on that topic over the past couple of weeks.  This is sort of similar to a taking of the pulse that one of my professors did at the end of each weekly module. She would have us do a short 5 question assessment on to module to see what we thought about it and how it could improve. This might be an option for MOOCs - performing formative assessment.

I think summative assessment is a bit of a problem if you are talking about non-credit MOOCs simply because people will dip-in-jump-out. At the same time, what are you assessing at the end of the course?  At my institution summative assessments seem to be more faculty assessments, in other words "how did this professor do?" In a MOOC this isn't an issue because each week we have a new facilitator or guest. The other use for formative assessments at my campus is to see how this course fits in with the rest of your course of study or how it fits within the organization's published goals (like being inclusive and civic minded for example).  Well, a MOOC will not be part of a MOOC curriculum (but that could happen!), and as far as I know MOOCs aren't offered by just one organization, so there is no overall goals or mission to adhere to.  So we go back to the drawing table and ask: what are we assessing? what is our goal? and who are we asking?  The goals and motivations of the participants will determine what the feedback will be, so what sort of data can we collect to get a good idea about our MOOC?

As far as learner assessment goes (not course assessment) Accreditation is something that came up in both Mark's and Jane's responses - and even then there are different types of accreditation. What future employers look for is one type of accreditation, and what regional or national higher education institutional accreditors look for is another. Mark mentions something like an apprenticeship model.  I actually like the idea of apprenticeship in academia but one thing comes to mind: in order to be an apprentice you need a master - someone to both keep you under their wing and show you the ropes, but also someone who can vouch for you. I don't think that MOOCs are quite there yet with the pairing of apprentice-master and thus they are not there with the vouching (if that is important to people).  Perhaps a shorter term "solution" to learner assessment might be an ePortfolio: each participant who wants to "prove" that they learned something in a MOOC can create an ePortfolio that they maintain artifacts of their learning throughout all MOOCs that they have participated.

I think in the end, the big question (in all assessment, both course and learner assessments) ais what do you want to accomplish with this assessment?  I think once that's answered at the very least you can experiment with different methods to figure out what method works best :-)