February 2012 Archives

Free Online Courses

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks
It has been over a year since my first post on OERs. Since then, the choices have continued to grow and I wanted to link that old blog post with a short list of some of the most written about and recent OERs. However, this list has some differences from last year's list. Last year, the talk was still more about free online educational RESOURCES. This year, the buzz is more about free online COURSES. That's a big difference!

iTunesU - I'm not sure why it doesn't appear on the old list, but it certainly has a lot of great resources for learning. From their website: "If you're an educator at a university, college, or K-12 school, now you have an easy way to design and distribute complete courses featuring audio, video, books, and other content. And students and lifelong learners can experience your courses for free through a powerful new app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch." (I added the bold emphasis.)
MITx - Although MIT's OCW has been around for quite awhile, MITx is their newest online learning initiative. Whereas MIT's opencourseware (OCW) has educational resources from their courses (various pieces and parts), MITx will deliver free courses. Its first course will be Circuits and Electronics, offered in a prototype form from March 5-June 8, 2012. The course is free, and students will have an opportunity to demonstrate their mastery and earn a certificate. For this pilot, it seems that there is no cost associated with the certificate. 
Coursera - Started by two Stanford professors, Coursera offers free online courses. From their website: "We are committed to making the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it. We envision people throughout the world, in both developed and developing countries, using our platform to get access to world-leading education that has so far been available only to a tiny few. We see them using this education to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in."
Udacity - Sebastian Thrun, a professor of computer science at Stanford, resigned from his newly tenured position to build this new online educational venture. The first two courses are titled "Building a Search Engine," and "Programming a Robotic Car" (Thrun worked on Google's robotic cars). Last year, Thrun opened his "Intro to Artificial Intelligence" course to the world and 160,000 students enrolled of which it's reported that 20,000 actually stuck with the course through the final exam.
The Floating University - "What if the world's best thinkers all taught at the same school?" is the message on their website. Although these courses aren't free, they're certainly priced low, ranging from $39.99 for "Is Biomedical Research Really Close to Curing Anything" taught by Douglas Melton, a professor at Harvard, to $59.99 for "Who Wants to be a Billionaire?" taught by William Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital.
Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) - From their website: "SEE programming includes one of Stanford's most popular sequences: the three-course Introduction to Computer Science taken by the majority of Stanford's undergraduates and seven more advanced courses in artificial intelligence and electrical engineering." These free courses include lecture videos, reading lists, course handouts, quizzes and tests, and opportunities to communicate with other SEE students.
Open Yale Courses - From their website: "Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University. The aim of the project is to expand access to educational materials for all who wish to learn." What these courses provide is access to classroom lectures. I just read an interesting Yale Daily News article briefly describing how the online provision of the classroom lectures changed what happens in the classroom.
Udemy - Some of these courses are free, but not all. You can take a course, or create a course. When I visited their site, the top 3 trending free courses were Foundations of Business Strategy, How to Make iPhone Apps (Lite), and Operations Management. I noticed some course authors were from MIT and Stanford.   
Khan Academy - If you haven't already heard about Khan Academy, then you need to check it out now. From their website: "With a library of over 2,800 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 298 practice exercises, we're on a mission to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace." These are not free courses, but free topics. However, they could certainly supplement learning in your courses. Their most recent news is that Craig Silverstein, Google's first hire in 1998 (not including the co-founders), is moving to Khan Academy as a developer.
Knowledge@Wharton - This online newsletter also offers articles, interviews, and Q&A's as podcasts to listen to on your mp3 player, iPod or PC. Check out their podcast archive.
Finally, Open Culture has provided a listing of almost 400 free online courses arranged by discipline and title.

Have you taken any of these free online courses, or viewed a Khan Academy video? I've downloaded a few of the iTunesU courses to my iPad and plan to check them out one of these weekends. I'm curious since I design online courses, and wonder what I might learn by investigating this new breed.

Why students cheat and what we can do about it

| 0 Comments | 0 TrackBacks
I just read a feature article posted by the American Psychological Association providing some depressing statistics and, what I feel are, common insights into why students cheat. A survey of 40,000 U.S. high school students found that more than half have cheated on a test, 34% have done it more than twice, and 1/3 have used the internet to plagiarize. Additional surveys indicate that their behavior continues in college, and might even be associated with dishonesty later in life.

The article provided reasons on why students cheat: academic pressure to do well, low intrinsic motivation (learning)/high extrinsic motivation (grades), peer influence (cheating is contagious), and the need to stay competitive.

The real value of this article was in reading about a student-led effort at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where a student petition is calling "on faculty to provide more education on academic integrity, state more explicitly the rules for academic integrity in the classroom and report all cheating when they see it." At UCSD, "all freshmen must complete an online tutorial on academic integrity before they can register for their second-semester classes." Professors are encouraged to spend time in the first week of classes to stress the importance of academic integrity and explain the behaviors that constitute cheating, including the consequences. UCSD's academic integrity coordinator feels that a university-wide initiative such as theirs must include an assessment to first capture student and faculty attitudes and current behavior. It makes sense to understand the current state of affairs before developing a strategy to move forward. 

At Penn State Harrisburg, faculty invite the Learning Center's writing specialist, Kathy Brode, to visit their classes and address plagiarism issues with their course writing assignments. Faculty also build in a process of writing with multiple milestones and deliverables that makes it more difficult to plagiarize. An increasing number of faculty also use Turnitin for plagiarism detection. When they have their students submit a draft of their writing assignment to Turnitin and allow them to see their own originality report, it often creates a teachable moment. Penn State has an iStudy module, titled Academic Integrity, Plagiarism, and Copyright, that they can import into their course in ANGEL for student use. The module "has been reviewed by Judicial Affairs and the Academic Integrity Committee," and includes materials for the instructor and the students. I would love to see an initiative led by students and faculty, with strong administrative support, to build a stronger climate of academic integrity here, promoting ethics and professional integrity.