Wednesday, May 30, 2012

University of Minnesota's Open-Source Textbook Catalogue

By Sean Scarpiello

In an attempt to lower education costs, the University of Minnesota has started a new program where students have access to textbooks at low costs. With this program, students will be able to use a catalogue of online, open-source books. These books are much cheaper and easier to use than traditional textbooks. In addition, many educators feel that open-source books are currently being underutilized in schools. But what exactly are open-source books and why are they cheaper and sometimes easier to use?

Believe it or not, we use open-sources of information every day, sometimes without even knowing it. In fact, Wikipedia is an open-source. These sources have different licenses and copyrights which allow people to access these materials at low or no cost. Open-source books also have special licenses which lower the costs of publishing companies to print the books, so these books can be sold at cheaper prices. These books can also be copied without crediting the author. Since these books can be copied so easily, they are available in mediums other than print. Therefore, students with access to the University of Minnesota’s catalogue would have a wide variety of online textbooks available to them at the tips of their fingers for a very low cost. So far, the catalogue has more than 90 textbooks available and continues to grow.

Up until now, this idea sounds great – a wide variety of textbooks available online for little or no cost. However, if we look at other open-sources of data, we may find that this new catalogue may have some flaws. One of the most famous open-sources everyone on the internet uses is Wikipedia. Many people do not realize that Wikipedia is an open-source encyclopedia updated by everyday people like you or me. Because of this, some college professor love open-sources like Wikipedia, while others absolutely despise them. Open-source textbooks are often licensed in similar ways as Wikipedia, where readers can update any obsolete data within a textbook, which can be both good and bad.

Open-sources are good in that textbooks are dynamic. For example, as different scientific studies discover new breakthroughs and discredit old material, textbooks can be updated accordingly. This makes the information we learn about in books just as engaging in material as professionals on the cutting edge of the field. On the contrary, open-sources can be bad when those updating the material are not reliable or experts in the material. There is a reason textbooks are expensive -- credibility. You wouldn’t want your lawyer or doctor to study from books written by just anyone. Therefore, the University of Minnesota needed to find a low cost method of only allowing credible sources into its catalogue.

The University of Minnesota found the solution to this problem by employing its professors to review open-source books. By utilizing its professors, the school is able to expand the catalogue with only the books deemed reliable by experts in the field. In some of these open-source books, any material that is outdated can be fixed by the professor as they review it. This is a great idea because the catalogue is composed of credible information cleared by experts in the subject.

Overall, this online open-source catalogue is a fantastic idea and has a lot of potential. It finds the perfect medium between sources like Wikipedia, which is free but not necessarily reliable, and traditional textbooks which are expensive but credible. The program is improved in that it takes advantage of a cheap and underutilized resource and will be able to lower the costs for students exponentially. Last, it incorporates technology, so people all over the world can easily navigate through this entire database of textbooks.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Rita McGrath: On Digital Tech's Effects on Education

In a recent blog post, Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath predicts seven changes that will upend traditional education. The bullet points:



*Upending traditional teaching

*Upending traditional grading

and three more. McGrath lives in Princeton, travels worldwide as a consultant, and always impresses me with her 'I wish I'd thought of that first' wisdom. Here is the post.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Coursera: A Pioneer of Online Education

By Sean Scarpiello

The recent New York Times article, “Come the Revolution,” describes how Andrew Ng, an associate professor at Stanford, is heading a new program called Coursera that will revolutionize higher education all over the world. As we have seen recently, there has been a huge push to teach more students using technology as a medium. Using technology, teachers become facilitators and are able to educate a huge number of students. In fact there are over one million students enrolled in Coursera already. Coursera, like many other online educational programs, is a collection of videos, lectures, quizzes and links with more information. Although this new project is a path to the future of education, what exactly separates it from programs like Udacity or the Saylor Foundation?

Coursera, much like Udacity, is a free program of online classes taught by professors at schools like M.I.T., Princeton, Stanford, and others. However, Coursera offers a larger selection and much broader material in its courses in contrast to Udacity. Coursera was also much more user friendly was very straightforward. As users scroll down a list of courses and their dates, short introduction videos were available to watch and inform students about the content of each class. These videos made the courses clear and concise.

In fact, Coursera was so easy to use that I signed myself up for a 4 to 5 week course on the Fundamentals of Pharmacology taught by a professor at University of Pennsylvania. Signing up was simple. All I did was fill in my name, email, and password, then I received an email confirming the course. The course does not start until June, so the confirmation email explained that it will inform me when watch lectures and take the quizzes. It is easy to see how over one million people have already enrolled in classes. Ng described how in one of his classes on Coursera, there were around 100,000 students being taught at once, all through the internet. It is cool to think that I will have classmates from all around the world taking this same pharmacology course.

Overall, this experiment of mine will give everyone a chance to see exactly how these new online programs work. We will be able to see what works well and what doesn’t. Programs like Coursera and Udacity are truly blazing the trails leading to the future of education. As education moves online, it is up to today’s students in these programs to help make adjustments and critiques. Education is inevitably going to end up online, as it is a low cost and effective way to educate the masses using current technologies.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Column: Shaq on importance of college education

This was in USA Today - 5-5-12
Column: Shaq on importance of college education

By Shaquille O'Neal
Updated 1d 14h ago 


On Saturday, 
I will be receiving an 
education doctorate degree 
from Barry University, a small Catholic school inMiami Shores
The degree isn't honorary.
I worked for it, 
and I'm as proud of this as anything I have accomplished in my life. 

While I did this for two people — my mother and myself — 
it certainly would be nice if it could have a broader impact.

Too many young kids —
particularly black kids —
are still dropping out of school way too early. 

This country will never compete globally whennearly one in four kids fails to complete high school on time.
For you parents out there: Don't just encourage your children to complete high school, which should be a basic step toward a much bigger education. I was fortunate to have a mother who understood the value of education, even as she saw me join the NBA and have a successful basketball career. 

My mom knew that education not only would help me down the road, it also would make me a better person.
It's understandable when young athletes lured by the big money of the NBA decide to pass up college. But that makes no sense for the thousands and thousands of young athletes who will never make it to the pros. 

And even those lucky few need to understand that a career in athletics is fleeting —
education isn't.

Although I entered the NBA draft after my junior year at Louisiana State University in 1992, I later took correspondence courses to earn my bachelor's degree. 

Education matters. 
It instills self-discipline.
It exposes a person to a world of shared knowledge.
It forces us to stay attuned to current events. And most important, it helps each of us understand how and where we fit into this world.

My doctoral degree from Barry is in Organizational Learning and Leadership, with a specialization in Human Resource Development.

 People won't be surprised to learn that
my doctoral project was titled:
"How Leaders Utilize Humor or Seriousness in Leadership Styles."
I'm a big believer in the power of humor, particularly in stressful situations.

But this is no laughing matter. If there's one thing I hope people take from this personal milestone, it's that education matters for your entire life. 

A degree,
whether high school or doctoral,
is not a finish line;
it's simply a mile-marker.
My learning will continue. I want others to come along for the ride.

Shaquille O'Neal is a retired 15-time NBA all-star and member of four championship teams. He is a basketball commentator for TNT and has a variety of business interests.

=== Words to the Wise - I HOPE so ====

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Harvard and MIT Launch $60M Non-Profit Online EdX Platform


Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology today are launching a non-profit, open-sourced joint online learning venture called EdX, with the first courses to start in the fall of this year.
Basically, Harvard is jumping in as an equal partner to a previously announced project called MITx, with each school putting up $30 million in funding and contributing faculty leaders.
The two Boston area schools are essentially leapfrogging Stanford University, where a set of online classes last year gave rise to the creation of two for-profit companies led by the Stanford professors who taught the classes — Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity and Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng’s Coursera. Stanford is still figuring out its own approach to online learning.