Google Goes Deeper Into Education

Google has been getting deeper into education, particularly into higher education. For example, their interest in creating a technically skilled, innovative and diverse workforce has moved them into computer science (CS) education.

That is a logical path for the company and they are interested in developing programs, resources, tools and community partnerships which make CS engaging and accessible for all students.

In STEM generally, women and minorities are historically underrepresented and that's true for computer science at the post-secondary level. In the U.S., women and ethnic minorities each represent just 18% of computer science graduates.professional experience.

You would expect Google to have sophisticated analytics, and analytics in online education software is a key feature in an LMS today as a way to understand how students are doing in greater detail than is possible by trying to do it manually. Course Builder offers several built-in analytics that require little set-up and also options for creating custom analytics using Google Analytics and Google BigQuery. They do note that not everything is free - running either type of custom analytics counts against your App Engine quota and can incur costs.

Course Builder is part of their overall education strategy. Check these links for more information:

Open Line Education  

Course Builder Features

One feature is accessibility 

Peer Review


Distance Ed’s Second Act

by Phil Hill via

Now that the MOOC hype has died down and almost no one is arguing that those free online courses will upend the traditional university, are we instead entering a period where online education is having a real impact on the core of higher education? Not just for the for-profit outliers and not just for distance-education titans like Rio Salado College and Liberty University, but for the mainstream? While I would not argue that fundamental change has already occurred, there are some signs of a turning point.

The Babson Survey Research Group, which has tracked online college enrollment for the past 12 years, reports growth from 9 percent of U.S. students taking at least one course online in the fall of 2002 to more than 28 percent in the fall of 2014. The overall growth has slowed recently, but the drastic decrease in for-profit enrollment masks two very interesting numbers:

Sixty-seven percent of students taking online courses do so at public institutions.

The number of students at public and private nonprofit colleges who took at least one online course rose by 26 percent in just two years (2012-2014).                read the full article

MOOCs at the Library

We continue to hear criticism of MOOCs for their low completion rates. I don't believe that is the best measure of a Massive Open Online Course's success. Many learners in a MOOC are only interested in certain portions of the content and enter the course with no intention of completing all the aspects of the course. 

But I agree with the premise of an article on "Why Libraries Could Be the Key to MOOCs’ Success. Adding a face-to-face social element to courses that can be a rather solitary learning experience using libraries seems like one way to change the MOOC or online experience.

I have taught online since 2000 and students often ask if we can meet in person or at least synchronously online. When I am teaching a course online that is comprised of students that are also taking classes on campus that is a possibility. But more often, there are some students at a distance that make in-person meetups impossible.

Librarians at Chicago Public Library partnered with the nonprofit Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) to create this program. Their Learning Circles Facilitator Handbook gives you a sense of the tools needed to run a program.

Research on MOOC learners continues to show that participants tend to be more educated already with a majority having a bachelors degrees and about a third self-identifying as as teachers or former teachers. For other learners, the addition of guidance from librarians or other facilitators may make the difference in finishing a course.


Listening to Wikipedia

visualscreenshot of the hatnote visualization of Wikipedia edits

There is a wonderful STEAMy mashup application online that lets you listen to the edits being made right now on Wikipedia. How? It assigns sounds to the edits being made. If someone makes an addition, it plays a bell. It someone makes a subtraction from an entry, you'll hear a string plucked. The pitch changes according to the size of the edit - the larger the edit, the deeper the note.

The result is a pleasantly tranquil random but musical composition that reminds me of some music from Japan and China.

You can also watch recent changes. A the top of the page, green circles show edits being made by unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots. White circles are brought to you by Registered Users.

If you hear  a swelling string sound, it means that a new user has join the site.(You can welcome him or her by clicking the blue banner and adding a note on their talk page.)

You can select a language version of Wikimedia to listen to. When I selected English Wikipedia edits at midday ET, there were about 100 edits per minute resulting in a a slow but steady stream of sound. You can select multiple languages (refresh the page first) if you want to create a cacophony of sounds. You can listen to the very quiet sleeping side of the planet or the busier awake and active side. The developers say that there is something reassuring about knowing that every user makes a noise, every edit has a voice in the roar.

The site is at and the notes there tell us that Hatnote grew out of a 2012 WMF Group hackathon. It is built using D3 and HowlerJS and is is based on BitListen by Maximillian Laumeister. The source code is available on GitHub. It was built by Hatnote, Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi.

Audiation is a term used to refer to comprehension and internal realization of music, or the sensation of an individual hearing or feeling sound when it is not physically present. Musicians previously used terms such as aural perception or aural imagery to describe this concept, though aural imagery would imply a notational component while audiation does not necessarily do so. Edwin Gordon suggests that "audiation is to music what thought is to language," and his research based on similarities between how individuals learn language and how they learn to make and understand music.

As the Hatnote site points out, Wikipedia is a top 10 website worldwide with hundreds of millions of users. It includes more than a dozen actual projects including Wiktionary, Commons, and Wikibooks. It uses more than 280 languages. Perhaps more amazingly, it has only about 200 employees and relies mostly on community support for content, edits - and donations. Compare that business model to other top 100 websites worldwide.


How Transparent Is Your Teaching?

by Daniel Baránek CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

by Daniel Baránek CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

It seems that I am most likely to hear the word "transparency" used these days in the context of politics, science, engineering and business. The term implies openness, communication, and accountability. Being transparent means operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. I don't hear it much in terms of education. 

Mary-Ann Winkelmes is now the Coordinator of Instructional Development and Research at the University of Nevada (UNLV) and an affiliate scholar in UNLV's department of history, as well as a Senior Fellow of the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). But Mary-Ann started in higher education as a teacher of Italian Renaissance art and architecture. She developed an interest in trying to learn more about how her students were learning the content. Over the years, this has moved her away from art history and towards teaching and learning. 

If you teach, think about a lesson or exercise that is one of your favorites to use. How much of your teaching of that is now habit and how "transparent" is the assignment or task? She found that many traditional assignments come with little or no explanation and that students complete them because their professors tell them to. What she wants faculty to think about how is not only how they teach but also to ask their students to think about how they learn. 

In a 2015 interview, she defined transparency in this way: "Transparency means teaching students about more than just the course subject matter. It means telling students about your rationale for how and why you've chosen to shape their learning experiences. Most of the time, college faculty think and plan carefully about how the required work in their courses will lead students through a meaningful learning process. But students don't understand that because teachers stop short of discussing it with them. Transparency in teaching and learning requires that teachers and students talk about the process of how students are learning just as explicitly as they talk about the course content – or what students are learning."  

Winkelmes spent time at Harvard University's Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, the University of Chicago's Center for Teaching and Learning, and the University of Illinois where she created the Transparency Project in Teaching and Learning in 2010. Now she trains professors in “transparent” teaching.

This approach helps students understand why they have received an assignment, what they are expected to do, and how they will be evaluated. In The Unwritten Rules of College  How Professors Can Make Assignments Transparent, she describes how faculty involved in the project considered three questions when creating assignments: the task, the purpose, and the criteria.

This sounds so very basic to creating an assignment, but she finds it is frequent;y lacking in assignments. Perhaps those assignments are more translucent or even opaque.

Students need to be told exactly they are to do, including knowing the purpose of the assignment. Why are they being asked to do this and what is the instructor’s goal? What are the criteria that will be used to evaluate the work that the students submit?

She believes that knowing those three things can help motivate students and make their courses relevant.