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Blog

  • Envisioning the era of comprehension
    Ranjani Ravi

    Jargon is a serious academic problem, a growing problem that takes pride in incomprehensibility.

    Jargon is a necessary step in the evolution of scientific language. But it runs the risk of becoming too rigid and gibberish that the very purpose of defining things to make them comprehensible is lost.

    A recent Chronicle article reports that

    Last fall (Naomi Wolf and Sacha Kopp) started a program at Stony Brook University, a State University of New York campus, called "The Public Intellectual." In a four-session workshop, they "train faculty members and graduate students (and even undergraduates) in the skills of … writing and speaking about their work, on mass global platforms."

    This is a great initiative and may offer us the hope of comprehending the incomprehensible!

    But the focus should on understanding and learning for their own sake, not to become intellectuals. It should be on learning for the sake of knowledge.

    Courses with such a motive will work.

  • Universities for the future
    Janani Ramanathan

    "Universities for the future", a collaborative report for the Worldwide Universities Network by Professor Keri Facer, University of Bristol, answers the question, "What is and what might be the role of universities in contributing to society’s conversations about the future?". The report explores the potential role of the university in helping societies to understand, navigate, shape and make choices about possible futures.

    The defining contribution of the university might be understood as ‘creating the conditions for enabling good conversations about possible futures’. To fully realise this potential role would entail the following activities in research, teaching and citizenship:

    Research for the future: The university that seeks to create the conditions for enabling good conversations about possible futures through its research would explicitly value, articulate and protect the ways in which universities seek to keep ideas of the future open. It would build opportunities for experimentation and collaboration across the different areas of expertise.
    Teaching for the future: The university would create opportunities for its students to develop strong disciplinary foundations as well as basic fluency in a range of different disciplinary perspectives. It will invite students to articulate and explore their own assumptions about the future..
    Citizenship for the future: The university would recognise and reflect upon its own role in creating and constraining possible futures, and create and act as powerful, ethical public platforms for society to conduct its conversations about the future.

  • IF - This University is Free
    Janani Ramanathan

    IF is an experiment in alternative higher education based in London. Drawing on existing resources, it aims to be a free university to those between 18 and 30 years of age, without the opportunity to go to college. Its courses are free, lecturers donate time and expertise, and syllabus includes taking in the free events happening in the cultural institutions of London. IF is a community for those who want to teach and learn the arts and humanities, for the love of doing so. It is a communal effort to provide a free university where everyone shares knowledge and is benefited. It links academies and institutions eager to share expertise with students eager to learn. It uses the city of London as a giant lecture-hall and guide students to free talks, exhibitions and concerts.

  • Educational video games from MIT
    Vani Senthil

    Gaming and simulations are considered to be important teaching tools that inspire students. But cost of the software and the daunting task of customizing the product for the learning content are obstacles for the teachers to utilize the games in the classroom every day. MIT has come up with a series of MOOCs to explore educational technologies and the theories underlying their development. It is a novel method to teach the teachers to develop their own games and transform the way computer games and videos are used in classrooms. Through interviews with experts in the field, the courses examine educational technologies, their use and the theories that influenced their development. The participants also work on a project which is a pitch for a new educational technology that demonstrates the social, cultural and educational potentials of games. It is not enough to give the tools for teaching, but teachers need the skill to create the tools.

  • Academic proficiency, not time spent in class, gets credits
    Janani Ramanathan

    Competency-based Education (CBE) is a self-paced student-centred approach to online learning that allows students to advance based on their proficiency in the subject. Instead of stipulating a certain number of hours of learning, CBE allows students to make progress as they demonstrate mastery of the subject. Those already familiar with the subject can complete assignments, take tests and earn credits. Others can take their time without the pressure of due dates for paper submission or exams. This personalized, flexible learning system caters to different learning abilities, and leads to more efficient learning outcomes. The system can be implemented in the traditional school or college course, however, Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) make CBE far more easier to implement in the online learning system. CBE tools that define learning outcomes, map competencies to the course curriculum and track students' progress are emerging. Southern New Hampshire University, University of Wisconsin and Northern Arizona University in the US are some of the adopters of CBE.
    Apart from saving time and money, CBE can bring down college drop out rates. It can also result in utilization of teachers' skills more efficiently apart from providing alternative pathways to graduation.

  • MOOC for high school students
    Vani Senthil

    edX, the online-learning platform created by MIT and Harvard University, offers MOOC for high school students. Learners can indulge their curiosity by taking courses in various subjects for the joy of learning. They can also use the MOOC platform to prepare for college studies. Course materials and practice exercises that are freely accessible help students to boost their test scores and be well equipped for advanced courses in college. Students with strong academic background can exploit the advantages of the MOOC platform to earn college credit before enrolling in a university. Teachers use the course materials to supplement their curriculum and effectively incorporate the flipped classroom model. MOOC has been accused of serving only the motivated independent learners. The guidance of the teacher will help all the high school students in a classroom, to overcome the deficiency of the instructor’s attention in MOOC. Though online learning platforms have been used by schools earlier, MOOC comes with the added advantage of being free. MOOC can also prevent the need for remedial classes and improve completion rates. MOOC not only prepares college-ready students, but also exposes students to the diverse community of learners and new learning methods in the online environment.

  • Collaboration is the Future
    Janani Ramanathan

    EdCast is a California-based education technology company that offers a platform for anyone who wishes to offer Massive Open Online Courses. It pioneers online education that spans institutions and educators. Its platform, Knowledge Clouds, is used by 39 universities. EdCast CEO and founder Karl Mehta expects the number to expand to 200. The 'multiversity' allows students to select their curriculum, teachers and resources from a variety of institutions.

    EdCast is to host courses on sustainable development from October 2014 in collaboration with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. SDSN is a UN initiative that mobilizes global scientific and technical expertise in universities and other think tanks, in an effort to tackle climate change, illiteracy, disease and poverty. EdCast will connect more than 200 institutions around the world and facilitate the engagement of thousands of students in creating a treaty on climate change ahead of the December 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

  • Live luxuriously in college and/or Study at home
    Vani Senthil

    When airlines developed and took the mode of transportation to a new level, many shipping companies rightly evolved by building cruise lines. As passengers were served by airlines, cruises attracted tourists. It looks like the same transition is happening in the field of education as investment in elaborate residence halls, recreation centers and other amenities in colleges are justified in the same time MOOCs are growing popular. The US National Bureau of Economic Research defends the spending on fancy dorms and lazy rivers in college campus, as it gives a competitive edge to attract students. Luring young students to have fun now and deal with the debt later, need not imply that it is an immoral business model, as some argue. It is the cruise line for students who pay for the campus experience. Just like passengers travelling in an airplane, students can learn the same course faster and cheaper in the online environment. Students who need to learn a skill to get employed and those who juggle studies, work and family commitments, are well-served by distance-education and online learning programs. Technology enables the development of different modes of education. Social networking and adaptive learning can compensate for the college experience in the virtual environment, while students get debt-free education.

  • Managing the skills gap with MOOCs
    Ranjani Ravi

    McKinsey estimates that "by 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions".

    In the United Kingdom, research suggests that it will take ten years to close their current skills gap.

    There are many such stats that illustrate the urgent need to meeting this challenge immediately to avoid depreciation of human capital.

    One solution to addressing this issue is to offer training at the workplace. Education and Employment form a double helix, according to Orio Giarini and Mircea Malitza. Meaning, education should not stop with a degree. It should be extended to the workplace. Using online learning, an organization may offer online training programs regularly to its employees, thereby creating an environment where the employees' capacities do not stagnate or level off but grow constantly.

    Many organizations have already started using MOOCs to addressing the skills gap. For example, 10gen, the company behind database tool MongoDB, has started offering MOOCs for its employees using edX. Overall the initial cost of the courses was around $250,000, but with the number of students who enrolled, the cost per student was less than $5.

    Udacity has collaborated with leading tech organizations to develop a new kind of online curriculum. Nanodegrees are short online courses that offer lifelong learning.

    With continuous lifelong learning, both the organization and the employees achieve the maximum they are capable of. MOOCs offer an effective solution for skills gap management.

  • Starbucks to provide free online college education for its workers
    Vasugi Balaji

    Starbucks, an American global coffee company has announced that it will provide free online college education for its workers. The education is open to any of the employees in USA, without any requirement that they remain with the company post their college education. It has been made possible through an arrangement with Arizona State University. The workers are to work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. The company will pay full tuition for those with at least two years of college credit. For those with fewer credits, it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid. The company invites its workers to study online whatever they like. Howard D. Schultz, the company's chairman and chief executive believes that educating employees will lower attrition rates and will also increase their performance. It is expected that thousands of the company's employees will take advantage of the online program. This sounds like a boon to Starbucks' employees.

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