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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Free Education for All: Reflections on Daphne Koller’s TED Talk on Coursera

Coursera  is a fee online education platform, founded by Stanford University professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. These courses can be taken online and are provided in cooperation with 33 high level universities. (at the time of this publishing)

In the talk Professor Koller discusses the nature of education, technology implications, and disparity. Koller notes that many jobs need a high level of education, although many graduates with higher-level degrees can’t find work. One point that made me laugh (and think) was with regard to a professor who reaches 100,000 students with Coursera online, and that to reach as many people in a traditional environment it would take him 240 years to reach the same number of students. I appreciated the acknowledgement that it’s not only the poor who need greater access to (higher) education, but also those who are “house-bound” due to a variety of circumstances.

While watching the video, most of my concerns early on were addressed, adequately. Koller points out individuals who had courses (credits) recognized by universities, and one family in which the father/ husband landed a job based (partly?) on the Coursera work he did at hoe while his daughter was sick and housebound. She also notes how grading is done. I’m not 100% convinced that identifying the major “common” mistakes learners have and subsequently giving general feedback to all is the best method. (though better than no feedback or less-than-adequate explanations) I recently took a Google Power Searching course online. For the kind of course it was the feedback was appropriate, but for a full-on university course I would expect more. (even if it’s free)

The courses are properly segmented, so they are broken down into units just as traditional study would be. Another great point is that some cities that have several people in the same course have spawned study groups. People in some courses have actually connected at restaurants for sessions in which they support each other’s learning.

The issue of who has access to electricity, let alone a computer and internet access, wasn’t adequately addressed. Perhaps that wasn’t the point. It also brings up the discussion of how we break the education disparity gap. Is it that we need to bring this online education to (what one of my students referred to as) “education stations”, accessible to everyone. Perhaps these community learning stations could be staffed by an educator/ tech specialist(s) to assist with independent learning and technological/ logistical issues that inevitably pop up.

I’m still in the “balance” camp. I appreciate online study and have done it with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), Deakin University, the IBO and even Google. But even with chat rooms, discussion boards, Skype and Google Hangouts, I prefer being in the room with a cup of coffee and people to bounce ideas with.

My Global Issues Network students found and chose this video as a discussion piece. In that chat they compared it with Khan Academy. KA is a site with (on average) 10-minute videos about anything you may want to learn or need to brush up on. Some topics include interactive materials and assessments. It’s free. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Google Power Search & IB History Notes

I've been working on the pages, seen in the right sidebar. I'm slowly, at glacial speed, adding notes on the category 1 IB History course and a Google Power Search course. Have a look. The Google notes (and embedded videos) will benefit anyone. (you don't have to be an educator to gain from this)