Wednesday, May 31, 2017

ADDRESSING HIGH DROP-OUT RATES IN MOOCS: Have we been monitoring the wrong numbers?

·         Millions of people sign up for free online higher education courses offered by top-tier institutions, but only a small percentage of registrants earn a completion certificate.

·        There was a study done (Brasher, 2016) that examined a unique dataset of 44 MOOCs on the Coursera platform, comprised mostly of Stanford courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  The researchers evaluated 2.1 million student observations across 2,900 lectures to determine critical patterns of enrollment, engagement, persistence, and completion;
·         The researchers reported some surprising findings, including the following:
o   The early birds - students who signed up for courses a month or more in advance were actually far less likely to participate than those who signed up just before the course began.  Those who signed up 1-3 weeks before the course began were the most likely to succeed;
o   The students with the highest probability of completion, were those who agreed to take a pre-course survey;
o   When asked in the survey what their motivation was for taking the course, the majority of respondents cited relevance to their job or a substantial interest in the subject matter.  However, those who said the prestige of the university (offering the course) was their highest motivating factor watched the highest percentage of lectures;
o   With regard to engagement in the course material, lecture titles using the words “intro,” “overview” and “welcome” had a much higher rate of being watched than those that included summative words like “review” or “conclusion.”  Videos labeled “exercise” had the largest negative association;
o   The length of a lecture seemed to have no impact on whether students chose to watch it.  The prevailing thought has been that breaking up lectures into shorter videos was more attractive to students, but the researchers did not find that to be the case;
o   Video lectures posted early in the week were more likely to be watched than those posted later in the week. And, emails from the instructor to notify students of a new lecture did not induce them to watch.

According to Clark (2016), it is a mistake to describe people who stop at some point in a MOOC as “dropouts.”  He argued that “dropouts” is the language used by institutions.Clark says we can have university dropouts but MOOCs are open, free and online experiences. With MOOCs the amazing numbers that we should be talking about are the millions that “dropped in”. Including many that dropped in to simply have a look, often just curious, others want a brief taster, just an introduction to the subject, or just some familiarity with the topic.  Further into the MOOC, some find the level inappropriate or (because many MOOCs students are adults and not 18 year old undergraduates), find that everyday life (job, kids, etc) makes them too busy to continue.  Clark described a survey taken at the beginning of the University of Derby’s “Dementia” MOOC. Of the 775 learners asked whether they expected to fully engage with the course, 477 (58%) said “yes” but 258 (33% or one third) stated that they “[did] not intend to complete the course.”  Clark pointed out that for these reasons, he and others, have long argued that course completion is not the way to judge a MOOC.  As such, some (e.g., Hadi & Gagen, 2016) have come up with new models for assessing MOOCs.

Course completion makes sense when you have paid upfront for your University course and made a huge investment in terms of money, effort, relocation, and so on.  In open, free, and online courses, there is no such commitment, risks, and investments.  Clark (2016) argues a different approach to the measurement of the impact of MOOCs – one based not on “completion” but “meaningful learning.”  This acknowledges that MOOCs’ diverse audience wants and achieves different things and that this should be recognized.  The bottom line is that people who do MOOCs really want to learn; they are not largely motivated by pieces of paper or even completion.  College/University programs are more like single, long-haul flights while MOOCs are more like train journeys, where some passengers want to travel the whole line but most get on and off along the way.

To explore available MOOCs and find one suitable for you, whether for the long haul or just a short journey, please click here.


·         Brasher, Joan. Feb. 26, 2016. What makes students stick with a MOOC?  Available online at:

·         Clark, Donald. April 11, 2016. MOOCs: Completion is the wrong measure of course success and a better way has already been suggested.  Available online at:

·         Hadi, Syed Munib and Gagen, Phillip. Feb., 2016. New model for measuring MOOCs completion rates. Available online at:

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

THE INTERNET OF THINGS: The upcoming biggest tech trend in history explained in free, online courses


Encouraging students to study subjects they enjoy is always good advice.  Nevertheless, there are subjects that are so important in life that, despite whether we enjoy them or not, we simply should try and study them.  One such subject is the “Internet of Things” (IoT) – its potential is extraordinary, it will be a basic key ingredient of life and work in the 21st century, and is touted to become the biggest tech trend ever.  Previous tech trends were generated by the introduction of personal computers and later, the internet.  IoT – is generating  a similar trend but at an incredibly far greater scale. It’s the new megatrend unfolding right now and is likely to reshape the world as we know it.


The Internet we use today is actually an “Internet of Computers (IoC)” which links up and allows communication between people, between computers, and between people and computers. The coming “Internet of Things” has an additional group of players linked to the system – i.e., “things”. This includes practically anything with an on/off switch.  In this new scenario, there will also be communication between “things” themselves, between “things” and computers,” and between “things” and people. By 2020, it is  estimated that the number of devices connected range from 26 to 100 billion.  It has been stated that the new rule of the future is going to be, “Anything that can be connected, will be connected.”


Connecting equipment, tools, and machines to the IoT network will make them smart.They will be able to respond to or be directed remotely by another “thing,” a computer, or a person.  Some examples of communication under the IoT scenario include:
·         Your alarm clock wakes you up at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing your coffee ;
·         Your car figures out the best route to your meeting venue and takes it;
·         Knowing that traffic is heavy, your car realizes that you will arrive late and texts the other party notifying them of your late arrival;
·         Your office equipment knows it is running low on supplies and reorders more.


Discussions on IoT have been taking place all over the world as people try to understand how it will impact their lives.  People are also trying to identify and understand the many opportunities and challenges that will come up as more and more devices start to join the IoT network.

For now, the best thing we can do is educate ourselves about what IoT is and its potential impacts on how we work and live.

“How the Internet of Things and Smart Services Will Change Society” and other FREE ONLINE IoT COURSES

“How the Internet of Things and Smart Services Will Change Society” is a free, online, introductory course that is aimed at anyone interested in learning about the “Internet of Things”.  It does not require the user to have any technical knowledge as everything is explained easily and informally.


Part One: Societal Perspective
1.       Key Trends and Terms – IoT and Industry 4.0
2.       Smart Services
3.       Effects on Society
4.       Challenges and Opportunities for Society
Part Two: Business Perspective
5.       Key Trends and Terms – Digital Transformation & Business
6.       Smart Software for Smart Services
7.       Enabling Technologies
8.       Challenges and Opportunities for Business

·         To explore and/or enroll for this IoT course, please click here.
·         To explore this and other IoT courses, please click here.


Posted by: Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

FREE MONEY FOR HIGHER EDUCATION: Scholarships for American and International Students


While studying at the University of Hawaii (UH), a friend told me how fortunate he was to be at UH. He did not apply for his scholarship till the very last minute, as he thought that there are so many students better than him and that he would not have a chance to get into the University.  He did not know that “everyone” was thinking the same negative thought - he was finally awarded the scholarship because he was the only one that applied.

It seems that the above incident is not an isolated case.  Christopher Gray found that each year some $100 million in scholarships go unclaimed while students drown in debt.  He confirmed that there is a lot of scholarship money out there. Through hard work and diligent searching, he landed himself a whopping $1.3 million in scholarships.

Gray came up with the idea for a mobile app to make things a lot easier for other students seeking scholarships. Later Gray teamed up with Nick Pirollo and Bryson Alef to become co-founders of what is known today as “Scholly” – a popular scholarship search platform.


“” recently made an assessment of 28 most popular scholarship search platforms in current use – including “Scholly”.  They found 11 sites not meeting their minimum criteria so these sites were not subjected to further assessment. They then carried out detailed evaluations of the remaining 17 sites which are listed below in descending order starting with the overall best. 

“Scholly” ranked  6th  and “Fastweb” was found to be the best site overall.  "Fastweb" is the easiest to use as it requires no registration to browse scholarship listings; it has both a searchable database and personalized matches; and is mobile-friendly.

“Fastweb” also has the most tools of any platform.  That fact, combined with a high score for scholarship availability, means “Fastweb” is the best platform for finding scholarships, managing deadlines, and tracking applications.


1)      Fastweb (9.3/10)
7) Sallie Mae (6.9)
13) Peterson’s (5.1)
2)      Cappex (8.1)
8) [TIE] Big Future (6.2)
14) Broke Scholar (4.6)
3)      Unigo (7.8)
8) [TIE] GoodCall (6.2)
15) Niche (4.5)
4)      Student Scholarship Search (7.1)
10) CollegeData (5.7)
16) Career One Stop (4.2)
5) (7.1)
11) Chegg (5.5)
17) Scholarship Portal (3.6)
6)      Scholly (7.0)
12) Start Class (5.2)
- - - - -

·         To access the “Fastweb” platform, please click here.

·         To access the “” article – with details of their assessment method, information on grants, internet address of all the original 28 sites compared, etc, please click here.

·         To access the “Scholly” story, please click here.


“scholars4dev,” short for “Scholarships for Development,” is an updated listing of international scholarships.  This site is specifically for people from developing countries, people who would like to pursue development-related fields, and people who seek global and national development through further education.

The aim of “scholars4dev” is to help you find opportunities for higher education and become agents of development in your own countries and the rest of the world.

[“Scholarship” here actually refers to a “scholarship program” where a number of individual scholarships are offered.  An example is the Fullbright Scholarship - a program, where not one but approximately 1 800 individual awards are made each year to foreign students to pursue a Masters or PhD degree in the United States.  The scholarship provides full funding for the duration of study covering tuition, textbooks, airfare, living stipend, and health insurance.]

·         30 International Scholarships [scholarship programs] offered by the World’s Top Universities
·         Top 10 Prestigious Scholarships for the Best International Students
·         22 Tuition Fee Scholarships offered by Universities for International Students
·         8 Distance Learning Scholarships & Tuition Free Online Degree/Courses
·         Top 10 Scholarships in Italy for International Students
·         Top 10 Chancellor’s /Vice Chancellor’s Scholarships for International Students
·         Top 25 Foreign Government Scholarships for International Students
·         Top 10 Scholarships for Study in Any Country or Anywhere
·         Top 5 Countries Where Tuition is Free in 2017
·         Top 100 International Scholarships to Watch Out For in 2017
·         Top 10 Scholarships in Australia for International Students
·         Top 15+ UK Scholarships for International Students
·         Top 10 Scholarships in Europe for Non-EU International Students
·         Top 10 Scholarships in France for Foreign Students
·         Top 25 Scholarships in Sweden for International Students
·         Top 10 Scholarships in Belgium for International Students

To have access to all the lists at “scholars4dev,” please click here.

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi