One Billion Students in 10 Years and Other Data from the Open edX 2015 Conference

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What is the impact of edX? See the slide above captured during the Open edX Conference, celebrated last week at Wellesley College.

Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX –a 140 people non-profit organization growing by 20 percent each year– opened the event by highlighting edX’s goal of reaching one billion students in the next 10 years, as well as other objectives such as improving on-campus education and advancing research in online learning. [Watch the whole talk below].

In terms of Open edX, there are 146 sites in multiple languages and 1840 courses. One of the latest ones is the Russian National Online Platform, with 50 courses.

Innovation on the platform is also remarkable. Top organizations have contributed with valuable software. This information came out of the conference:

  • Stanford University: Adaptive hinting, eCommerce, OLI integration
  • Google: Single-Sign-On, Instant Hangouts
  • Berkeley: Forums 2.0
  • MIT: Equations, many types of problems, SPOC/CCX, SGA XBlock
  • Harvard: Annotation, edX – Canvas – BlackBoard integration
  • Tsinghua: International support
  • Edraak: Right-to-left
  • University of Queensland: LTI
  • McKinsey Academy: Polling XBlock

In addition, the community has contributed over 50 XBlocks and software expansions.

 

2015 Open edX Conference Videos

The Second Open edX Conference attracted over 250 developers and educational leaders this week in Wellesley College, near Boston. Participants and organizers agreed that the event was a remarkable success –all the goals were not only achieved, but also exceeded.

The Open edX Twitter feed reflected attendants’ excitement and satisfaction as well.

This playlist of YouTube videos includes all the conferences and talks. This page contains all the power point presentations.

 

IBL Open edX TV – 24 x 7 uninterrupted video stream (Beta) –
Featuring top presentations at the Open edX 2015 Conference

"All Open edX" YouTube Channel Is Launched

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IBL Studios Education (IBL)  has launched a YouTube channel with the most extensive collection of Open edX-related videos, http://youtube.com/iblstudios/

This channel comprises several playlists, which includes videos from the Open edX meetups, first Open edX Conference, tutorials, talks, edX and Open edX courses’ introductory videos and other materials.

The content curation process has taken place throughout the last year.

IBL is committed to keeping the channel updated.

 

 

What Happens When the Universities' “Learn-Then-Work” Model Fails

“Learning should be thought as a lifelong pursuit. With a continual demand for professional development –and the personal fulfillment that goes with additional education– there are many reasons to keep on learning”, wrote Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX and Professor at MIT, in an article on LinkedIn.

More opportunities than ever before

“There are now more opportunities for lifelong learning than ever before. With the advent of online learning, open education resources, and MOOCs, we have amazing opportunities to engage in high-quality courses from the best schools around the world, for a very low cost, or for free. Anyone with Internet access can participate in these courses and, ultimately, more minds can be opened than ever before.”

Filling gaps left by under-resourced schools

“Online educational opportunities can help complement students’ in-classroom learning, filling gaps left by under-resourced schools”. An example of this gap can be found in computer science classwork. “A study showed that 90% of parents feel that computer science instruction would be great for their children, and over 60% believed that CS classes should be even mandatory. Yet 75% of the school principals polled said that their schools offer no CS programming classes whatsoever. The same is true of advanced courses.”

Growing mismatch between qualifications and demanded skills

“The working world is changing faster than any time in history. Keeping up is the challenge. Much of our modern world is driven by this microchip technology and it requires society to continually keep up the pace – and not just in engineering and computer science. The skills gap results as there is a growing mismatch between the qualifications of workers in the economy and the skills demanded by employers.”

Middle-skills gap

“There is also a ‘middle-skills’ gap in technology that involves the use of more everyday digital tools like spreadsheets or word processors. As these programs have become ubiquitous in modern workplaces, additional training is needed for people to keep up and/or get employment where they couldn’t before.”

A must-have for anyone working in a career that encourages innovation

“Similar innovation occurs daily in all fields – medical sciences, chemistry, space exploration, business, finance and far too many others to name here. We must continue to educate ourselves on all the latest findings, techniques, and opportunities. Lifelong learning isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have for anyone working in a career that encourages innovation.”

University’s “learn-then-work” model has become antiquated

“Traditionally, university systems have been designed around a “learn-then-work” model – a concept that came about in a centuries-old world where change was slower. It has now become antiquated. Universities must retool for this continuous learning world; approaching an unbundled model.”

Starting higher education largely online

“In an unbundled model, students might begin their higher education largely online, perhaps even their entire first year. Then they might have two years of on-campus schooling, followed by in-the-field instruction. For years after that, they would continue learning new skills, potentially again online, throughout their careers. This more flexible, continuous model is better suited for modern times.”

“Unbundling may also enable learners to obtain the education they need in a pay-as-you-go model, unlike today where you are betting all your effort and dollars on a major at age 18 – much like a roll of the dice.”

Open edX Universities Symposium Adds Kenneth Koedinger, Barbara Oakley and Charles Severance as Speakers

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Open edX Symposium’s organizing committee has announced the opening keynote. It will be delivered by Kenneth Koedinger, professor of Human-Computer Interaction and Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.

Prof. Koedinger’s research aims to understand human learning and create educational technologies that increase student success. He is widely known for developing Cognitive Models and Cognitive Tutors: computer simulations of student thinking and learning, and software applying artificial intelligence to guide students through problem-based learning.

He recently co-authored the paper “Learning is not a spectator sport: doing is better than watching for learning from a MOOC” supporting the “learning by doing” movement.

The first Open edX Universities Symposium will be celebrated on November 11, 2015 at The George Washington University, in Washington DC.

This one-day event will bring together faculty, technologists, and leaders of higher education to share experiences and reflect on innovative uses of open-source technologies like the Open edX platform for online and blended learning, including degree-accruing, open, and professional education.

The inspiration for this symposium has come from an interest in having conversations with others who are thinking about owning and controlling their online content and platforms via open-source solutions.

The conversation will be structured around topics of general concern in online learning:

— Web-enhanced learning and pedagogy
— Learning analytics
— Inter-institutional collaboration


PRE-SYMPOSIUM EVENT

In addition, the organizing committee has setup a special pre-symposium event on November 10, 3-5 PM, with two prominent speakers:

 

Barbara Oakley, instructor of one of the most popular MOOCs of all time, “Learning How To Learn,” with more than a million registered so far, will give an updated version of her Harvard talk “Lessons from a basement studio: how to make a riveting online class.”

Charles Severance (Dr. Chuck), instructor of the legendary course “Programming for Everybody” will give a special presentation titled “Creating student-teacher connections at scale.


Registration
for the event is open to anyone at OpenedXUniversities.org, although space is limited.

 

[Disclosure: IBL is part of the Organizing Committee and a Technical Partner of the Symposium]

How Many Amazon EC2 Instances Do You Need to Run Your Open edX Platform?

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The type, size and number of AWS’ EC2 instances needed to support your Open edX platform depend mostly on the amount of simultaneous students enrolled during peak times.

Based on the edX experience, one its engineers, Ned Batchelder, has given a rough guideline:

“An LMS worker will support about 75 simultaneous active users.  To be on the safe side, give each LMS worker 1Gb of RAM.  When choosing an AWS instance model, RAM will be the bottleneck, not CPU.  Use your active simultaneous user estimate to decide how many workers you need.  Choose an AWS instance model: m2.2xlarge is a good choice.  Divide the number of workers by the amount of RAM (30Gb for m2.2xlarge) to determine the number of instances you need”.

“As an example, suppose you estimate that you will have 800 active simultaneous users at your busiest time. 800/75 –> 10.6, so you will need 11 workers.  You need 11Gb of RAM.  This fits easily within a m2.2xlarge instance”.

Batchelder also recommends to allocate at least two AWS instances and start larger than you need –“you can scale it back once you see the real system under real load”. 

In addition to the web workers, at least one more machine needs to be configured for the database.

– This website compares Amazon (AWS) EC2 instances.

The 2015 Open edX Developers' Conference Will Include 18 Premium Talks

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The 2015 II Open edX developers’ conference is all set. It will take place on October 12-13th in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and will host an energetic community of software engineers, system administrators, instructional designers and education specialists.

The keynote speaker will be MIT’s Professor Mitch Resnick, creator of Scratch and a champion of innovative tools, pedagogies and learning techniques.

During this two-day event there will be at least 17 talks, in addition to un-conference time and networking opportunities.

  • A learning analytics extension for Open edX called “Analyse”, developed by the Carlos III of Madrid University.  Presenter: Jose A. Ruiperez-Valiente.
  • Building successful Open edX instructors from non-faculty domain experts. Presenters: Julie Mullen, Lauren Edwards, and Vijay Gadepally.
  • Building the Plane While Flying it – Migrating an Existing MOOC to edX. Presenters: Mike Bifulco, Andrew Miller, Jeremy Osborn, and Michael Bingham-Hawk.
  • Configuration Primer. Presenter: Feanil Patel.
  • Contributing to Open edX. Presenters: Xavier Antoviaque and Sarina Canelake.
  • Deploying SPOCs in a University Institution with Open edX: What Do We Need? Presenter: Jose A. Ruiperez-Valiente.
  • Digging through the data – MoocCzar. Presenters: Andrew Dekker and John Zornig.
  • Leveraging Open Edx for Corporate Training. Presenter: Cathy Herbert.
  • Life in the Avant-Garde. Presenter: Regis Behmo.
  • MIT Learning Object Repository for Education. Presenter: Peter Wilkins.
  • Navigating Barriers to Implementation of an International Medical Training Course in Developing Nations. Presenter: Nicholus Warstadt.
  • Online Geospatial Education in Africa through the Open edX Platform: Possibilities and Limitations. Presenter: Thomas Ballatore.
  • Open edX and Adaptive Learning. Presenter: Ed Daciuk.
  • OpenStack for edX: Inside, and Out. Presenters: Adolfo Brandes and Florian Haas.
  • Pragmatic development lessons from UQx. Presenters:  Andrew Dekker and John Zornig.
  • Real Time Analytics Using ELK. Presenters:  Felipe Montoya.
  • Semantic Tagging Using Asides in Studio. Presenters: Cole Shaw and Ross Strader.

The Open edX Universities Symposium (Nov 11, DC) Will Feature Top Speakers and Panelists in Analytics and Web Learning

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The first Open edX Universities Symposium will take place on November 11 in Washington DC, organized by The George Washington University (GW) under the direction of Prof. Lorena Barba, and with technical support from IBL. Prominent speakers and panelists from top universities across the world will participate in the reunion.

This one-day conference –from 8:30AM to 6:00PM, at the School of Public Health of GW and hosted by GW Online Programs– will discuss three themes: learning analytics, web-enhanced learning and inter-institutional collaboration.

An evening reception will be hosted on November 10. The edX Global Forum –for edX’s institutional partners only– will take place during the previous days (November 8-10) in Georgetown University. Many participants are expected to stay for the extra day and attend the Open edX Universities Symposium. Several staff members from edX will attend as well.

The confirmed speakers/panelists include:

Learning Analytics
— Linda Baer (featured speaker)
— Isaac Chuang, MIT
— Andreas Paepcke, Stanford University
— Carolyn Penstein Rosé, Carnegie Mellon University
— Taylor Martin, Utah State University
— Alfred Essa, VP, R&D and Analytics, McGraw-Hill Education

Web-Enhanced Learning and Pedagogy
— George Siemens, University of Texas Arlington (featured speaker)
— Carlos Delgado-Kloos, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
— Armando Fox, Berkeley
— Toni Marsh, George Washington University
— Beth Porter, edX

Inter-Institutional Collaboration
— Paul-Olivier Dehaye, University of Zurich (featured speaker)
— Donna Kidwell, Webstudent International AS
— John Zornig, Director UQx
— Lorena A. Barba, George Washington University
— Timo Kos, TU Delft
— John Mitchell, Stanford University

Registration is now open via EventBrite. The $75 attendance fee includes lunch and refreshments. Space is limited. Organizers have announced that sponsorship opportunities are available.

The edX Platform: A Detailed Examination, by Mark A. Bates

Guest Post: Mark A. Bates | 07.25.2015

 

This post originally ran on Metportfolio.Markbates.ca on May 2, 2015
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The edX Platform: A Critical Examination as Viewed Through the Lens of the 7 Principles


By Mark A. Bates


Introduction

This article presents the results of a critical examination of the edX platform in respect to its ability to facilitate online best practices for professional education and graduate studies (Bates, 2015). To that end, existing and planned functionality will be assessed against the recommendations of Chickering and Ehrmann’s Implementing the 7 Principles: Technology as Lever (1996).

General Overview of EdX

In May 2013, MIT and Harvard launched EdX, a non-profit open source learning platform (openedX.org) and web portal (edX.org) offering Massive Online Open Courses (xMOOCs) similar to its for-profit competitors;  Udacity and Coursera (for-profit) (EdX, 2015b) (MIT News Office, 2012).  xMOOCs are characterized as online education courses that are usually, often do not require any prerequisites, are typically housed within a learning management system, have a very large number of students, are open to learners globally and accessible online twenty-four hours a day seven days a week.  xMOOCs typically are structured to guide students through content using a combination of video lectures, quizzes, readings and social interaction via discussion forums, as well as, utilize automated or self and peer-graded evaluations (Welsh & Dragusin, 2013; Claros, Garmendia, Echeverria, & Cobos, 2014; Liyanagunawardena, Adams, & Williams, 2013).

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, EdX continues to be governed by MIT and Harvard with the aim to “become a learning resource for learners and learning worldwide” by staying committed to its goals: “Expand access to education for everyone, Enhance teaching and learning on campus and online, [and] Advance teaching and learning through research.”  (EdX, 2015a).  In addition, EdX conducts research on how students learn, online teaching methods and impact of educational technology use both in the traditional brick and mortar classroom and online.

Today, EdX offer online courses from 36 universities, NGOs, foundations, businesses and organizations which work collaboratively and comprise the consortium.   EdX’s remains in start-up mode, and apart from the initial funding of 30 million contributed by each Harvard and MIT  revenue is generated through various affiliate partner models (Kolowich, 2013).

Management and administration of EdX falls to three groups including the Leadership Team, headed from the beginning by Chief Executive Officer Anant Agarwal who, amongst various achievements, has great experience with computer technology as a professor at MIT and entrepreneur.  In addition to a Leadership Team, EdX is also supported by a Board of Directors comprised mainly of representatives of MIT and Harvard (EdX, 2015d).  More diversity is seen within the final group, the University Advisory Board, which has broader global institutional representation across North America, Europe and Australia (EdX, 2015c).

Overview of Examination Tool:  Chickering & Ehrmann’s 7 Principles

Certain tools are available to assist organizations to better keep pedagogy in the forefront when selecting technology such as Chickering and Ehrmann’s (1996) 7 Principles.  These principles are a means to ensure technology is being used in the most cost effective and appropriate ways to advance learning outcomes or tasks such as; 1. Encourages contact between students and faculty, 2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students, 3. Uses active learning techniques, 4. Gives prompt feedback, 5. Emphasises time on task, 6. Communicates high expectation, and 7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning. By utilizing this type of tool, a methodical and replicable process can be applied to compare different platform technologies in a way that goes beyond a simple comparison of features and tools.

Functionality and Affordances in Support of the 7 Principles

The initial research involved a three stage review of: 1) available online documentation as provided publically by edX on edx.org and open.edx.org, 2) including several edX courses (edx, 2015u; edX, 2015v; edX, 2015q) and Charter Members (Berkeley University of California, 2015; Cornell University, 2015; Harvard University, 2015) , 3) and various public websites as a result of keyword searches using Google.  After the review was completed and affordances noted, the article was then structured as follows with each principle, along with a brief overview, is presented and how the affordances of the EdX platform either are or have the potential to promote that principle..  However, given that there were overlaps between some of the features and principles, attempts have been made to make note of these occurrences and then a best fit was completed to conform to the paper’s overall structure.

One of the affordances of EdX is its ability to be used creatively, which makes its evaluation difficult as it is beyond this article’s scope to present all variations.  In addition, only a small sample of courses were reviewed for this article and, as such, the results of this examination cannot be viewed as indicative of all edX courses.   Some courses will do a more effective job than others of utilizing the affordances available via the edX platform.  Also given the limited scope of this investigation, only those features that can directly be related and support the 7 Principles have been described.  Some of the affordances presented are obvious in nature while others run in the background as part of the overall design and might not even be visible to the instructor.  Unless otherwise noted, the affordances noted are existing and currently active on the edX platform.  Therefore the findings and observations presented are general in nature and are a starting point for further investigation.

1.    Good Practice Encourages Contacts Between Students and Faculty

Overview of principle.  Contact between students and faculty is a key factor for increased learner motivation and involvement within a course.  This interaction can be strengthened through the affordances provided by an online environment.  The nature of contact can take several forms including the sharing of useful resources, discussion leading to joint problem solving and shared learning.  In online environments such as MOOCs, various aspects of the instructor’s role in the communication process can be undertaken by a student or peers as a means to counter constraints.

Affordances found within EdX which promote principle. Courses created for EdX, can support good practice encouraging contacts between students and faculty by:

  • Embedding instances of Google Drive and Google Calendar to share quiz dates, office hours, files, etc.
  • Detailing on the course homepage (Figure 1- Course Page, the prerequisites and or necessary entrance exams which are required prior to enrollment. By doing so, students understand what prior knowledge is required to be successful in the course and instructors have a level of certainty regarding student capabilities on entry to the course (edx, 2015f).  In addition to any prerequisites, all course instructors have the ability to indicate the level of difficulty, estimated length of time for the course, amount of weekly effort required, institution offering the course, the language being used, as well as the price, if any.  By communicating such information to students in a consistent manner across courses students are better able to make comparisons and effective choices.
  • Having students create customized learner profiles that are sharable within edX. Such profiles allow students, their peers and instructors to develop relationships in the edX community based on common interests .
  • Accessing floating help tab to the left of the screen in the course’s user interface. Once clicked, a student can report a problem, make a suggestion, ask a question, click links to course discussion forum or the edX frequently asked question page.  Apart from the tab, students can also access the edX Guide for Students (edXw, 2015).
  • Listing social media accounts, such as Twitter and Facebook, used within the course to help facilitate communication and discussion. edX also lists its various social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr, Meetup, Reddit and YouTube.
  • Generating learning analytics as students move about the site, interact with the content and complete assessments. One such tool in the planning state is per-video activity report.

2.    Good Practice Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation among Students

 

Overview of principle.  As with encouraging contact between students and the instructor, the development of reciprocity and cooperation among students is important as it deepens the learner’s understanding with the sharing of thoughts and feeling as they respond to others.  Courses should be designed that provide students with access to communication tools that facilitate activities that promote interaction, collaboration, discussion and group problem solving.  In an online environment, geographic location is not as limited with the use of collaborative tools such as texting, email, chat and social media.

Affordances within EdX which promote principle.  Courses created for EdX, can support good practice developing reciprocity and cooperation among students by:

  • Utilizing cohort-specific discussion experiences or interaction amongst the small course community (edx, 2015h). This can be further broken down by assigning members of a cohort to smaller groups based on distinct characteristics, or an automated, random process as a means to strengthen collaboration and communication dynamics (edx, 2015h).
  • Using discussion forums that can be made easily accessible to students via the horizontal course menu. Posts can be categorized by the student as a question or a discussion, can be voted on, followed, reported for inappropriateness, pinned and, if a question, can be marked by originator or admin as answered (edx, 2015i).
  • Promoting the use of social media tools like Meetup, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Sennseis(Berkeley University of California, 2015), and Slack (Harvard University, 2015).
  • Using former students as Community TAs (Berkeley University of California, 2015) to provide support.

3.    Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques

Overview of principle.  With proper and thoughtful selection, technology can have positive effects for the learning community and support other best practices such as encourage active learning (Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996) and appeal to greater learning styles (Tonsing-Meyer, 2013; McGee & Reis, 2012).   Active learning occurs when students are provided opportunities to talk about their learning, write in a reflective manner, relate learning to past experiences and do so in a way that is relevant so that they can apply it to their daily lives.  To encourage active learning, an instructor must make available tools and resources that promote learning by doing, offer time-delayed exchange as well as real time conversation to take place between learning community members.

Affordances within EdX which promote principle.  Courses created for EdX, can support good practice use active learning techniques by:

  • Providing course developers with the ability to integrate interactive, dynamic content through LTI, API, XBlocks, and JavaScript applications. Learning Tools Interoperability or LTI (IMS Global, 2015) benefits students with access to interactive LTI services within the edX platform without the need for a separate site or login.  Instructors benefit from the use of LTIs as they can add and extend interactive features not natively present within edX to their course via securely linked applications of their own or choose from existing certified products (IMS Global, 2015b).  Examples include HMH Portfolio
  • XBlocks are integral to edX’s component architecture and, as with LTIs, provide flexibility when designing a course, providing the ability to add sources from a variety of areas. XBlocks’s structure allow web applications, course content, APIs to communicate and access data (edx, 2015j).

4.    Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback

Overview of principle.  The amount and type of feedback required by students is seen as a continuum.  Initially, students need help assessing knowledge and competency, later they require frequent opportunities to perform learned tasks and get feedback and finally, they need the opportunity to reflect on what they still need to know and how best to get there.  There are many types of technologies that support feedback such as email, simulations, video recordings of learner performance, editing and commenting tools like those found in Google Docs and MS Word, and portfolios.

Affordances within EdX which promote principle. Courses created for EdX, can support good practice for prompt feedback for students such as:

  • During quizzes and various types of assessment, instant feedback is provided via an auto-grader including hints.
  • Assignments that are peer graded give feedback in lieu of automation.
  • Viewing course progress in the course’s Progress tab provides students with their assessment results in both graphic and textual formats.
  • edX provides its Insights tool (edX, 2015r) to course instructors displaying student data in a variety of ways to assist in assessing performance. Insights can:
    • Assess the difficulty of graded problems.
    • Determine the completeness of questions and answers.
    • Display visualizations, metrics, and tables to present data including how students interact with the content (Figure 4- Correct vs Incorrect Answers as viewed from edX Insights and student demographic data.
    • Show the answers to ungraded problems so that instructors can possibly gain insight into course quality and learner preparedness (edX, 2015s).

5.    Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task

Overview of Principle.  For graduate students and those accessing professional education, time management is an important consideration when taking a course as it plays a primary role in achieving an acceptable form of work-life balance.  Students can become more efficient in the management of their time with access to various types of technologies and support through teaching strategies.

Affordances within EdX which promote principle.  Courses created for EdX, can support good practice emphasizing time on task.

  • From a learner’s initial interest in perusing graduate or professional education through edX, they can use the search and browse feature to quickly drill down results by course name, school, subject, availability or type (edx, 2015l). In addition, students are able to audit courses and review contents, including the syllabus, to better determine if the course is of value or fits other work-life balance requirements.
  • Once ready to register or login, students can use their existing Facebook and Google account instead of creating another online identity (edx, 2015m) and speed up the process of accessing a course.
  • edX uses an active-learning method of modular course design that utilizes a combination of text, video, and exercises. This pattern adds consistency across courses and assists students in better predicting the necessary movements as they navigate through the contents.
  • EdX supports the use of shorter instructional videos and provide tools to add transcripts that also function as bookmarks to jump to specific points in the video.
    • As mentioned in several prior sections, although there are many combination of affordances available to the instructor for use in the course, edX enforces some best practices in the way it limits designers from being able to change the end user interface. By ensuring that all course have a similar structure, students are able to move between courses in a more expedient manner with less time dedicated to learning how to move about, access content, etc.  Also, a level of quality, in respect to some basic best practices for online education, can be achieved through such scaffolding.  Each course is created using edX Studio (Figure 6- Course Outline in edX Studio Figure 7- Course Home as viewed in edX Studio and has a defined layout that maximizes space, and utilizes components like menus, tabs, and accordions that simplify navigation. For example, all courses appear to have the following sections:
    • An introductory course page that provides a video overview along accompanied by a text description providing further details including what a student will learn.
    • Once registered students can access the course site (Figure 5- Student GUI of Course Site which is comprised of:
      • A header with the hyperlinked edX logo and course title in the upper left corner and a button for access of user specific info (e.g. account settings, profile and sign-out) in the upper right.
        • Beneath the header is a tabbed horizontal menu linking to courseware (course content), course info, discussion, wiki, and progress. It appears that these titles can be hidden but for consistency, the text cannot be changed unless custom pages are created.
        • Under the menu, is a central panel which displays content chosen from either the horizontal or vertical menu. The panel has its own horizontally scrolling menu with icons that assist the student moving through the content.  There are also navigational arrow buttons at bottom to move back and forward.
        • To the right of the central panel is a sidebar that is customizable with various labels and associated sections such as events, resources, and course handouts.
      • To the left of the central panel is another sidebar and typically displays an accordion submenu on selection of courseware from the horizontal menu.
      • As mentioned in a prior section, there is also a floating help tab on far left screen margin.

6.    Good Practice Communicates High Expectations

Overview of principle. Chickering and Ehrman (1996) indicate that “expecting [all] students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy” but the expectations must be made explicit and clear to students.  Learners can only hit targets which can be seen.  Technology can be used in a variety of ways to communicate expectations from providing details on how student work will be evaluated, provision of product and performance exemplars, to publishing student work online.

Affordances within EdX which promote principle.  Courses created for EdX, can support good practice communicating high expectations. EdX uses agreements between itself and the potential student as a means of communicating and seeking compliance regarding high expectations.  From the beginning, and at the base level, these documents attempt to weed out any students who question the responsibilities expected of them or edX.  In short, they are told if they don’t understand or agree to follow what is stated then they are not to use the site.

There are 3 key documents that communicate high expectations:

  1. The Terms of Service (edx, 2015n) indicate students are not to act in a way that is illegal including engaging in behaviors that are defamatory, harassing, threatening, infringe copyright, overtly political, commercial, and indecent. Students are not to work purposefully to negatively impact edX servers and participants, or misrepresent their identity.
  2. The Privacy Policy (edX, 2015y), that in addition to noting how students are to act, also lays out how edX will deal with issues such as how student’s data and personal information will be used, what are their rights, how do they give consent, and its rationale.
  3. Students must agree to follow the Honor Code Pledge (edx, 2015n) in order to participate in a course in addition to any additional terms noted in each course. Student are expected to collaborate, discuss and present with the understanding it will be commented and criticized in a scholarly manner.  Other expectations include only submitting their own work, not being dishonest, and not posting answers that are part of an assessment.

7.    Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Overview of principle.  Students should be given opportunity to use their preferred learning style in completion of assignments and accessing of content but also be challenged to develop others with the goal of being better rounded as a learner.  Technology should not only allow for customization of the types of assignments students complete but allow for self-paced movement through the course and means to form social groups with similar goals, motivations and skills.

Affordances within EdX which promote principle.  Courses within edX, can support good practice respecting diverse talents and ways of learning.

  • As a way to respect the talents of learners, edX has LinkedIn profile integration to display certificates (edX, 2015q). In the future, edX plans to also provide socially shared certificates and courses to students via their Facebook Wall.
  • Quizzes and tests offer a variety of different types and feedback options that respect different ways of learning, including:
    • multiple choice, check box, dropdown
    • image mapped input, drag and drop
    • text put/fil-in-the-clank, numerical input/enter a number
    • math expression input
    • peer assessment / open response assessment
    • in addition, learners can upload image with text to provide further explanation.
  • edX recently released a mobile companion app for Android and iPhone devices that allow students to read announcements and handouts, download video lectures for viewing later without the need for an Internet connection.
  • Course content can be provided, in its very basic form, in text. However, the affordances of the platform allow for additional media such as video and audio.  With the use of LTIs and JavaScript apps, an increased amount of services can be utilized and integrated to add interactivity and multiple ways of responding.
  • Students can choose a self-paced model of learning or make connects with others in the real world to explore a more collaborative process.

Discussion Regarding Constraints of edX Platform in Relation to the 7 Principles

Constraints tend to fall into those found and facing all MOOC providers such as ensuring equity, access and mobility to all students. Given this is an examination of the edX platform and not a single course produced by it, there were few constraints of note after completing the examination focusing on affordances.

Good Practice Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students

  • Although students can look for support and answers to questions by reading about the experiences of other learners who have gone through edX using social media resources such as edX Stories on Tumblr (edX, 2015), there are no official student-driven resources. Students would benefit from services such as a wiki or Quora-style (Quora, 2015) forum linked on the main destination site to offer help that is not specific to a single course.  In addition, although students do have access to course based discussion forums with the ability to vote in favor of a post and follow other students, there is no system in place that could add a valuable reputation points system.  Such a system would provide learners with another tool to better drill down worthy information.
  • With the recent edX release of the Birch version of its platform, students have some more options in regards to information displayed in their profile. But even with the upgrade, edX profiles still lack features in comparison to other profile offerings from such services like Twitter or Google.  Students should have the ability to easily add other social profiles, share links, display course certificates that make it easier to determine if making connections with specific users is a worthwhile investment.
  • At the present, student are told to read the Terms of Service, Privacy Policy and Honor Code. However, it would add a high level of commitment if student were required to complete a statement indicating each had been read and understood.  To further strengthen commitment, courses could be required to ask for these digital signatures to that effect when starting a course.
  • Currently, students must check back to see changes in the above documents. A better practice would be for them to be notified via their profile’s communication preferences when those pages are updated and then be required to digitally resign.
  • Although Student Notes is a pending edX feature it is best noted here until the point of it being public. This feature will allow students to add personal annotation to course content and be accessible via the new Notes tab within the menu system or by returning to the content where note was made.
  • Although external services can be embedded into course content pages, the process can still be streamlined from the current need to copy code from one area and paste into another. This could be done through the creation of short code and its insertion right from within the HTML editor in edX Studio.  The benefit to students is that instructors and designers may be more willing and able to add interactive features.
  • edX’s Accessibility Guidelines are on-going (edx, 2015o) and are focused on making improvements to learner facing interfaces in order to make them increasingly compliant with web accessibility best practices. edX is making efforts to change currently policies and guides so that they are more practical for course developers in areas such as semantic markup, testing code for accessibility and the labeling form elements.
  • At present, the majority of courses on edX are in English which can be a barrier to access for students who have a different mother tongue. edX could look for ways to develop and implement increase translation services (e.g. on-demand) that go beyond offer a multi-language transcript of a video’s content.  Not only is there the need for the translation of the course content but a service that can also take the non-English student’s product and have it readable in other languages for assessment and collaboration purposes.  However, it should be noted that another pending feature, in addition to a more responsive destination site (edX.org), are plans to support right to left language support on the platform(edX, 2015p).
  • Recently, edX launch its mobile app for both Android and iOS devices. Constraints at this time are, for the most part, features listed as pending and include the ability for students to register, create a new account, and receive adaptive video quality based on bandwidth quality changes.  However, the app in itself, does not fully address the situation where students are limited or unable to access edX due to the multimedia nature of the content and its technological and financial requirements such as bandwidth and storage.
  • Currently, YouTube hosts the video offered in edX courses. Unfortunately this is also an access issue for those students living in countries that block such services.  edX could avoid this constraint by looking to other services as a secondary point of access instead of relying on only one.

Good Practice Communicates High Expectations

  • At the present, student are told to read the Terms of Service, Privacy Policy and Honor Code. However, it would add a high level of commitment if student were required to complete a statement indicating each had been read and understood.  To further strengthen commitment, courses could be required to ask for these digital signatures to that effect when starting a course.
  • Currently, students must check back to see changes in the above documents. A better practice would be for them to be notified via their profile’s communication preferences when those pages are updated and then be required to digitally resign.
  • Although Student Notes is a pending edX feature it is best noted here until the point of it being public. This feature will allow students to add personal annotation to course content and be accessible via the new Notes tab within the menu system or by returning to the content where note was made.
  • Although external services can be embedded into course content pages, the process can still be streamlined from the current need to copy code from one area and paste into another. This could be done through the creation of short code and its insertion right from within the HTML editor in edX Studio.  The benefit to students is that instructors and designers may be more willing and able to add interactive features.
  • edX’s Accessibility Guidelines are on-going (edx, 2015o) and are focused on making improvements to learner facing interfaces in order to make them increasingly compliant with web accessibility best practices. edX is making efforts to change currently policies and guides so that they are more practical for course developers in areas such as semantic markup, testing code for accessibility and the labeling form elements.
  • At present, the majority of courses on edX are in English which can be a barrier to access for students who have a different mother tongue. edX could look for ways to develop and implement increase translation services (e.g. on-demand) that go beyond offer a multi-language transcript of a video’s content.  Not only is there the need for the translation of the course content but a service that can also take the non-English student’s product and have it readable in other languages for assessment and collaboration purposes.  However, it should be noted that another pending feature, in addition to a more responsive destination site (edX.org), are plans to support right to left language support on the platform(edX, 2015p).
  • Recently, edX launch its mobile app for both Android and iOS devices. Constraints at this time are, for the most part, features listed as pending and include the ability for students to register, create a new account, and receive adaptive video quality based on bandwidth quality changes.  However, the app in itself, does not fully address the situation where students are limited or unable to access edX due to the multimedia nature of the content and its technological and financial requirements such as bandwidth and storage.
  • Currently, YouTube hosts the video offered in edX courses. Unfortunately this is also an access issue for those students living in countries that block such services.  edX could avoid this constraint by looking to other services as a secondary point of access instead of relying on only one.

Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques

  • Although Student Notes is a pending edX feature it is best noted here until the point of it being public. This feature will allow students to add personal annotation to course content and be accessible via the new Notes tab within the menu system or by returning to the content where note was made.
  • Although external services can be embedded into course content pages, the process can still be streamlined from the current need to copy code from one area and paste into another. This could be done through the creation of short code and its insertion right from within the HTML editor in edX Studio.  The benefit to students is that instructors and designers may be more willing and able to add interactive features.

Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents And Way Of Learning

  • edX’s Accessibility Guidelines are on-going (edx, 2015o) and are focused on making improvements to learner facing interfaces in order to make them increasingly compliant with web accessibility best practices. edX is making efforts to change currently policies and guides so that they are more practical for course developers in areas such as semantic markup, testing code for accessibility and the labeling form elements.
  • At present, the majority of courses on edX are in English which can be a barrier to access for students who have a different mother tongue. edX could look for ways to develop and implement increase translation services (e.g. on-demand) that go beyond offer a multi-language transcript of a video’s content.  Not only is there the need for the translation of the course content but a service that can also take the non-English student’s product and have it readable in other languages for assessment and collaboration purposes.  However, it should be noted that another pending feature, in addition to a more responsive destination site (edX.org), are plans to support right to left language support on the platform(edX, 2015p).

Good Practice Encourages Contacts Between Students and Faculty

  • Recently, edX launch its mobile app for both Android and iOS devices. Constraints at this time are, for the most part, features listed as pending and include the ability for students to register, create a new account, and receive adaptive video quality based on bandwidth quality changes.  However, the app in itself, does not fully address the situation where students are limited or unable to access edX due to the multimedia nature of the content and its technological and financial requirements such as bandwidth and storage.
  • Currently, YouTube hosts the video offered in edX courses. Unfortunately this is also an access issue for those students living in countries that block such services.  edX could avoid this constraint by looking to other services as a secondary point of access instead of relying on only one.

Conclusion

Overall, the edX platform fares well in respect to its ability to facilitate online best practices for professional education and graduate studies (Bates, 2015) when its existing and planned functionality was assessed against the recommendations of the 7 Principles (Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996).

EdX is a tool, and like any, can be used skillfully be some and poorly by others.  That said, edX does provide a solid list of features and resources that, when used according to best practice, advance the seven principles and have positive impact on student learning.  However, for a course developed on edX, it needs to be a collaborative process where all stakeholders uphold professional standards for learning.  This requires participating schools and partners to develop and put forward courses that utilizes all the available affordances,  students participating in a manner that correlates with the level of education being sought, and the platform provider continuing to produce a product that is aligned with professional and pedagogical excellence.


Mark A. Bates is a life long Maritimer who grew up in Nova Scotia and now resides in Quispamsis, New Brunswick. He is an educator with ten years experience, mainly at the elementary level, teaching in Saint John with the Anglophone South School District.

Top Universities Profit From MOOCs

Do you still think that MOOCs are an unprofitable investment for your college?

In addition to the benefits coming from innovations and improvements in course design, you can build a sustainable revenue model. Top schools are doing so.

There are at least four revenue models, coming from:

 

  • Offering for-credit online courses that students pay for.
  • Receiving grants to support research on new online pedagogy and course delivery.
  • Using MOOCs as a recruiting tool for pre-matriculated students.
  • Generating donations from the alumni community.

Our colleagues from Extension Engine –an Open edX dedicated company based in Boston– have analyzed data from 136 colleges and universities and detected sustainable revenue models. A white paper available for free download (after you leave your email) highlights how schools pursue income through MOOCs.

whitepaper
In other words, joining the MOOC-wagon is worth it.

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