MOOC Credits

One of the biggest changes in the MOOC movement the past two years that distinguishes it from the three earlier experimental years is the discussions on credit. Those early massive courses were open in several ways and obtaining credits for those taking the course at a distance for free was not a real concern.

Although much (too much?) talk these days is about how to ascertain achievement and how to pay for and award credit, it should be remembered that the vast majority of MOOC participants are NOT interested in credit. They are interested in furthering their knowledge for free.

San Jose State University is partnering with Udacity to offer some credit MOOCs. Thankfully, those not wanting credit can still take these classes for free. (I have heard this confusingly termed as a "blended" model. Blended should remain as meaning a course that meets both online and face to face.)

Empire State College (part of the SUNY system) announced that it wanted to bring all its online classes "under one umbrella" in order to encourage degree completion. ACE has approved five MOOCs for its credit recommendations. Two courses each come from Duke University, and the University of California at Irvine, and one is from the University of Pennsylvania. All are offered through Coursera.

I think that Robert Clougherty, acting vice provost for research, innovation, and open education at Empire State, rightly predicts that "MOOCs are not the salvation of education. They’re another means.”

MOOC Research Initiative

Though MOOCs have been around for about five years in some limited forms, the past 18 months have been the real emergence of MOOCs in education. Everyone seems to have an opinion about them, but there is less formal research being done on them than many academics would like to see.

Those people may be happy to have read the announcement about the launch of the MOOC Research Initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a set of investments intended to "explore the potential of MOOCs to extend access to postsecondary credentials through more personalized, more affordable pathways."

Researchers, academics, administrators, learners, and policy makers have plenty of questions as to the effectiveness of the Massive Open Online Course format of teaching and learning. The MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) hopes to fill this research gap by evaluating MOOCs and how they impact teaching, learning, and education in general.

For now, MRI is a $400,000 investment offering grants in the range of $10,000 – $25,000 each. The MRI grant program is led and administered by Athabasca University and George Siemens with support from an advisory committee of experts in learning design and MOOCs.  Although MRI only launched recently, their schedule is aggressive and they want successful grantees (who will be announced by the end August) to begin immediately this fall semester and then give interim reports at a conference at the University of Texas, Arlington on December 5-6, 2013.

Information on MRI, including call for proposals and timelines, is available at:

Student Video Production

I have yet to see educators settle on one way of having students produce and share video, especially for online courses. There is such a staggering amount of devices, tools, services and apps to produce and share video that I think most of us are as baffled as the tyranny of choices we confront in the supermarket aisles.

I was looking again this summer at some services I had not used before to see if there was a new FREE tool for students to produce video that could incorporate live action but also screen captures, images and maybe even desktop interactions. I wanted this for producing short "lectures" or presentations and for assignments, proposals, evaluations and portfolios.

In the past, I have used any commercial service that the school had purchased and I could offer my students. These products like WebEx, Echo260, Camtasia Relay etc. are not only costly but often too much of a tech hurdle for faculty and for students to use with any regularity.

Many people suggest that students use things like Voice Thread in online or F2F courses. Instructors can start a topic and students can all add comments, either voice or text, around it. Students can collaborate on a thread about a course topics. Images and videos made using other tools can be included too.

Animoto is free for 30 second video (which might be useful for icebreaker introductions or other small assignments) but has costs otherwise. offers a maximum recording time of 15 minutes, no max free hosting for up to 15 minutes per upload and a variety of file and publishing options.

Similarly, I have had students use Jing which is free from to create images and videos of what is on their computer screen, then share them instantly. The videos must be short, but I find it works well for proposals and elevator pitches for research topics.  It can also be a good icebreaker exercise to have them introduce themselves in a n online course. I have used it to give students my thoughts on their work in online courses. It's not difficult to use but it also can signal to me those students that are going to have issues with using technology.

I hear about more teachers using Google Hangouts in the classroom. Besides the video aspect, it offers commenting, messaging, and chat features so that students can ask questions while you lead the course, and they can interact with you and each other.


Gmail Redesign: Tabs

Things keep changing to web apps every day when I log in. Recently, Gmail Tabs popped up without prior warning as a new way of organizing my mail.

I hadn't really wanted a new way to do that, but these tabs, which sit at the top of your inbox page, are supposedly just a first look at a completely redesigned Gmail experience.

I guess I really am getting old because I'm not dealing as well with change these days.

If you are active on social media and subscribe to blog posts, this new tabs look might be appealing. It can separate your work related emails from your updates. I was already doing that using filters, labels, and the priority inbox but I suppose the Gmail tab feature might save some scrolling time.