Getting Real MOOC Credit

Let the debate rage on, but at the end of the day Coursera, Udacity, and edx are not swimming in the same red ocean as the rest of us in higher education are. The play is a total blue ocean strategy … let the sharks fight for the bloody scraps while they move to a less infested part of the waters. This is getting beyond interesting.

But even as that debate rages within the walls of prestigious universities, the facts on the ground are that millions of people worldwide want low-cost access to quality college courses that will lead to a degree that will get them a job, so they will be willing to try what Coursera and Udacity are offering.

via Courseras Virtual College Courses Now Get You Real Credit, For Under $200 | Fast Company.

And as an aside, I find it fascinating that the article uses a photo from Penn State under a creative commons license from flickr user pennstatelive — yeah that is our official PI account. Ahh, the open web … I wonder if anyone sees the potential irony in both promoting and damming openness? I guess it is ok for photos, but not for access to high quality learning spaces?

Interesting Functionality

Ever notice how when you are reading a NYT article on the web as you approach a certain part of the scroll a little slide out panel presents itself with a recommendation on what to read next? I’d seen it but never really jumped on it in any way. I was thinking about it this morning and find the functionality very interesting and could see it put into place in eLearning design, web-based game design, and even on service pages to prompt you to get started.

I think more than anything I am just trying to get my mind working again after Holiday break.

The Stars Look Down — Jeffrey Zeldman

Sometimes, on the web, communities end because money runs out. Not the case here. Sometimes they end because one company buys another, and that is almost never good for anyone except a couple guys who get rich. Again, not the case here. No money changed hands or ever would have. This was an exchange far below the radar of the venture capitalists who flatten the earth in their endless quest for the gold that leaks from bubbles before they pop.


Interesting take on the Favrd closing from Zeldman … I really enjoyed seeing the site’s creator join the conversation stream. Through the related news I discovered Tweeteorites. There are some interesting identity questions wrapped up in this whole conversation that should be explored.

Ubiquity. Mash-ups the Easy Way

I stumbled across this last week and hadn’t really had the time to sit down and take a closer look at it … Ubiquity is a Firefox extension that enables a new approach to building user generated mash-ups for really useful reasons. I could go on about it, but the easiest way to understand it is to just watch the embedded video below from Mozilla Labs and jump over and read Aza Raskin’s post about it at his own blog for some more details.

Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

I am wondering what these kinds of simple tools can do for us in teaching and learning contexts. Now that we are seeing examples of things like Ubiquity I am really starting to think even more about what a powerful platform the web really is. When you give normal people the power to construct complex informational mash-ups with a few keystrokes things are getting good. I am going to spend some time playing with the early releases to see what can be done. Any ideas for a killer educational use for this?

iPhone is for Grown Ups

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the iPhone allows you to use curse words while typing. I didn’t give it much thought until this morning when I bumped into this post over at the “” blog space. Apple has allowed us grown up people to use bad words within our emails and doesn’t treat us like idiots telling us they are misspellings. Most systems want to flag curse words — I guess to encourage you to change them. I just thought it was interesting.

Answering the Bell

As we approach the Fall semester I am reminded of what it means to answer the school bell … for me it conjures up quite a bit. With the exception of a couple of years after grad school when I was doing the corporate thing I have spent every fall since five getting ready for the start of a new school year. As an aside, it reminds of about three weeks after I graduated from High School in good old Bloomsburg, PA. I was invited to one of my high school teacher’s wedding. As you can imagine most of the high school’s faculty were there enjoying themselves — most of them had been doing a little drinking to celebrate the occasion. I’ll never forget talking to Mr. Bierschmit, my 12th grade English Literature teacher, about his decision to retire that year. He was an amazing teacher — the kind that as you grow up you realize had a profound impact on your life. I can actually count my time in high school as B.B. (Before Bierschmit) and A.B. … as if I would annotate situations like, “that was during my Freshman Year (1991 B.B.).” At any rate he told me the thing he would miss the most during his retirement was “answering the bell in the Fall.” This time of year I really feel the excitement and anxiety of answering the bell. New challenges and lots of deliverables …

That may be a stretch of a lead in on an interesting story over at titled, “New idea to cut textbook costs — sell ads.” Buying textbooks have become a huge part of getting ready for Fall in higher education for our students. Not only are they paying an extraordinary amount of money for tuition to attend our classes, but are faced with huge costs in the $6 billion college textbook industry. The article discusses a company that is looking to apply the standard web model of selling ads to free up content into the textbook market. This seems like an interesting approach and will surely challenge both the industry’s thinking and higher education in general.

Sounds a lot like the music industry a few years ago … a tightly controlled industry facing major challenges being forced to radically rethink their business model. The price of a textbook versus its perceived value, hmm sounds a lot like buying an album for one song did a few years ago. This is heating up to be a a very interesting space. Something to think about as we head towards Fall. Is that an alarm clock bell going off in the background trying to wake up another sleeping industry?

Google does Flickr … sorta

In an interesting twist, I got invited to the Picasa Web Album site … sorta like Flickr, but seemingly without the tags and the real social features of the original.  It is nice and they offer (for free) two ways to get pictures to the site — a full fledged iPhoto plugin that makes me miss my Flickr iPhoto plugin and a desktop application.  Seems all you have to do is show up and ask to be included … they’ll give you account until they get too many out there.  It seems to work well … the slideshow feature is killer.

I uploaded a couple of images this morning to see how it all works … Time to wait and see how this plays against the real thing.

Controlling Time

Now this is a very interesting little secret … Going through my feeds this morning and I ran into a pointer via Alan Levine to a feature of Odeo that I hadn’t seen before … the ability to link directly to a specific portion of an audio file. Think of those possibilities for faculty and students! If you need to focus attention on a specific portion of an audio clip now you can do it.

I took a podcast from the Podcasts at Penn State site and simply linked it into my Odeo account (I didn’t upload it, I just pointed the player at the original file), published it as an Odeo podcast, grabbed the URL, and added the necessary components to tell the player where to being and end. The resulting Odeo link looks like this (with the stuff needed to play the quotes in bold):