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Morgan’s pinboard for 20 Dec 2014 through 26 Dec 2014

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on pinboard for September 4th, 2014 through September 7th, 2014

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on pinboard for June 22nd, 2014 through June 27th, 2014

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on pinboard for April 23rd, 2014 through April 24th, 2014

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The University

from coursera to d2l: who’s gonna pwn you first?

This is from CUCFA President Meister’s Open Letter to Coursera Founder Daphne Koller, concerning Coursera pwning student user-assessment data.

Eventually, all students in my Coursera class will learn that data that they now provide to the company for free -perhaps so that it can grade them -,will be the private property of Coursera, which can then sell it back to them in the form of “services,” which could include their own performance record but also different “views” comparing it with that of students at better universities, those with higher test scores and with advanced degrees. The possibilities for renting this information back to its students are endless, not to mention the added possibility of developing other markets for the user-assessment information that Coursera will “own.”

But it’s not just Coursera who collects student data to sell back. Here’s The Register reporting on the British coalition government selling product

At the end of 2012, Education Secretary Michael Gove told Parliament that he wanted “to share extracts of data held in the National Pupil Database for a wider range of purposes than possible in order to maximise the value of this rich dataset”.

Ultimately, the government wants the private sector to tout “tools and services which present anonymised versions” of records on Blighty’s kids.

But getting pwnd is closer to home for MnSCU schools through D2L. D2L recently announced that they are creating products to sell student data back to the students “to improve student performance”

Featuring Student Success System™, an analytics engine that delivers fact-based and accurate insights on learning progress, the new Desire2Learn Learning Suite will improve learner engagement and instructor’s insight into each individual’s learning path.

“Harnessing big data and predictive analytics has transformed many industries, yet to date, the analytics to support next generation learning has been missing from education,” said John Baker, President and CEO, Desire2learn. “With today’s release, Desire2Learn will be delivering predictive analytics to millions of learners who will benefit from more successful outcomes. With this innovation, we can now provide valuable insights that will improve completion rates, lead to higher outcomes, and allow for the development of more impactful personal learning experiences.”

Keep in mind where the big data for those predictive analytics are coming from: faculty and students who have been using D2L for the past few years. Not just one university’s data but an entire system’s worth of data.

So D2L is finding its success not in the software platform it manages, which is an atrocious design error on stilts, but in using the data that its customers (schools, university systems) collect on their stakeholders (students and faculty). Years ago (206? 7?), when BSU moved to D2L, I was involved in the discussion locally. Some of us were concerned that D2L would collect and use data, but we were assured by The System that this wasn’t an issue. In the end, we never had a look at the contract with D2L, either. D2L’s disingenuousness is not new nor surprizing, and no one likes to hear that their vendor is parasitic. But they are.

D2L collects and aggregates data on classes to sell to vendors and students and, likely, back to the university.

So tell me why these scenarios aren’t likely, and perhaps even occurring:

– Say that D2L aggregates data on how often students pass reading quizzes in the Pro Ed programs across the MnSCU universities. Presumably, if students do well on the first pass through the quiz, the teacher is effective. If students need to take the quiz multiple times, the teacher is less effective. This wouldn’t be difficult to control for student variables. Evaluate which teachers are more “efficient” by those scores, then sell that information to students and to administrations. Students take the more “efficient’ – or is it the easiest? – teacher, and admins add the measure of “inefficiency” to the faculty member’s tenure and promotion evaluation. The admin, not the faculty, has the data to demonstrate it. D2L gets to claim they are improving the educational experience for students.

– A teacher has students use a Cengage textbook quiz bundle. D2L aggregates and sells scoring frequency data to Cengage. This lets Cengage revise their quizzes and textbook. Students and the state, however, do not receive remuneration on the data. Instead, Cengage releases a revised text, making the old text and quiz useless and requiring that both teacher and students buy new stuff, at a higher price. Students are creating their own increase in textbook prices. Cengage and D2L get to claim that they are improving the educational experience.

Three observable problems:

  • To be useful to D2 – that is sale-able –  the aggregated data must be decontextualized and relabeled as “best practices.” However to be useful to the teachers and students the data has to remain in context.
  • The state pays D2L for the software, a cost we openly pass on to students (We charge a fee for online courses). D2L then sells student performance numbers to back to to the and to others without remuneration.
  • Neither students nor teachers have any control of how the data is used, yet they both have vested interest in both their individual and collective performance.

In order to use the data that would help teachers become better – a better narrowly defined as what can be collected and analyzed –  we have to buy it back from the vendor who charged us for it in the first place. I like a situational irony as much as anyone else, but this one is too expensive for the humor.

I could be wrong about this – I don’t have access to the D2L contract. If I am wrong, if D2L isn’t using the data it collects to create products to sell back to those who generated the data in the first place, I’d appreciate a correction. But until then, I’m steering students I work with clear of D2L. It won’t make a difference, but I get to be smug.

 

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bookmarks for May 10th, 2013

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bookmarks for February 3rd, 2013

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Pedagogy The University

learning esperanto – or not

Photo from http://www.istockphoto.com/

One of the arguments for standardizing on a CMS such as D2L for DE teaching is this: “Using the same interface for all courses means the student has to learn the interface only once.”  The argument I always used against the CMS has been, “A good interface will be designed to suit the content and task, and the task of D2L is to manage students, not enable students to read, listen, or produce. Get a blog, or a wiki.”

But here’s a better one, from Stephen Downes, in Emergent Learning: Social Networks and Learning Networks.

I understand why someone would say this: “To increase the sustainability of portal projects there is a need to ‘work towards establishing common frameworks that will enable applications and services, from different sources, to work together.'” After all, it is precisely that failure that accounts for the indifferent success of community portals, the ‘field of dreams’ scenario, where you build it, and they do not come. But such an enterprise is perhaps best compared with constructing an artificial language: sure, it would make communication easier if evereyone used the standard – but who speaks Esperanto? The growth of community – and hence, community frameworks – is much more organic than that, a product of multiple simultaneous negotiations to create a network of compatible systems rather than a centralized planning department to create a structure.

This argument is similar to the critiques of the formulaic 5-Paragraph Theme, taught in too many US high schools and even university courses. The problem with the 5-Paragraph Theme is this: It’s an artificial genre, created for high-school classrooms, which no one reads (teachers don’t read 5-paragraph themes; they grade them); the form and the exercise aren’t designed to communicate anything other than “I did your assignment.” I have never assigned these little monsters, but I have read hundreds of them. Even when the form is not assigned, even when students are warned against using it, Good Students drag it out as a default. One-size-fits-all-rhetorical-situations – except it doesn’t. Students have to unlearn this artificial language before they can make any progress in writing.

But here’s what I find a puzzle: Institutions are using D2L – a paragon of walled garden, ivory tower teaching – to deliver “real world” – that is, situated – education. Courses that are pitched as bridging a (purported) gap between classroom and workplace are placed firmly behind the walls of the garden, using the same accoutrements, practices, and channels: see here, and here.

Seriously? Situated teaching and learning using generic CMS tools? Some of my colleagues teach some of these courses – well-meaning people who would argue that they are giving learners choices, providing opportunities – and I suppose they are, kind of. Learners will have the opportunity to learn Esperanto. Or not learn Esperanto. We can do better than this.

Assignment: Carefully re-read Prof Morgan’s argument above. What is Morgan’s thesis? How does he support it? Why? What kind silly, trivial argument is he passing off as thoughtful consideration? What is he really trying to say? Now, write a 5-Paragraph Theme in which you make clear just how mis-guided Morgan is by considering the benefits of standardized interfaces in education today. Pose. Posture. Beg the Question. 500 words. Typed. Double-Spaced.

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Pinboard Bookmarks

bookmarks for March 21st, 2011

  • Open Contempt – UBC Wiki – via zombiescholar. Brian Lamb on OER, new academic cultures, EduPunk and all the rest of it this place is getting to me I can't take it any more I could get out of here and move to Canada that's where stuff it happening or maybe someplace in Cumbria Far Sawrey looked good – (scholarship2.0 ple mooc zombies edupunk OER )
  • zombiescholar [licensed for non-commercial use only] / More Brains! – Weller and Groom. State of the academy: " The uptake of new technologies in research and associated practices can be seen as a barometer for innovation within higher education. … We suggest one possible antidote to this zombification of higher education is the use of new technologies and particularly the cultural norms they embody." Yes, and yes again. Complication arises when the local culture is a Dawn of the Dead shopping mall. – (ple mooc OER research scholarship2.0 D2L en3177 )
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Pedagogy The University

nobody speaks esperanto – except those who do

Sidewalk Closed

One of the arguments for standardizing on a CMS such as d2l for DE teaching is this: “Using the same interface for all courses means the student has to learn the interface only once.”  The argument I always used against the CMS has been, “A good interface will be designed to suit the content and task, and the task of d2l is to manage students, not enable students to read, listen, or produce. Get a blog, or a wiki.”

But here’s a better one, from Stephen Downes, in Emergent Learning: Social Networks and Learning Networks.

I understand why someone would say this: “To increase the sustainability of portal projects there is a need to ‘work towards establishing common frameworks that will enable applications and services, from different sources, to work together.'” After all, it is precisely that failure that accounts for the indifferent success of community portals, the ‘field of dreams’ scenario, where you build it, and they do not come. But such an enterprise is perhaps best compared with constructing an artificial language: sure, it would make communication easier if evereyone used the standard – but who speaks Esperanto? The growth of community – and hence, community frameworks – is much more organic than that, a product of multiple simultaneous negotiations to create a network of compatible systems rather than a centralized planning department to create a structure.

This argument is similar to the critiques of the artificial, formulaic 5-Paragraph Theme, taught in too many US high schools and even university courses. The problem with the 5-Paragraph Theme is this: It’s an artificial genre, which no one reads (teachers don’t read 5-paragraph themes; they grade them); the form and the exercise aren’t designed to communicate anything other than “I did your assignment.” I know because I have read hundreds of them.  Even when the form is not assigned, even when they are warned against it, Good Students drag out the form as a default. They have to unlearn it before we can make any progress in writing.

But here’s what I find a puzzle: Institutions are using d2l – a paragon of  walled garden ivory tower teaching – to deliver “real world” – that is, situated – education. Courses (such as here, and here) that are pitched as bridging a (purported) gap between classroom and workplace are placed firmly behind the walls of the garden, using the same accouterments, practices, and channels.

Seriously? Some of my colleagues teach some of these courses – well-meaning people who would argue that they are giving learners choices, providing opportunities – and I suppose they are, kind of. Learners will have the opportunity to learn Esperanto.  We can do better than this.

Assignment: Re-reald Prof Morgan’s argument above. What is Morgan’s thesis? How does he support it? What kind of silliness is he passing off as thoughtful consideration? What is he really trying to say? Now, write a 5-Paragraph Theme in which you make clear just how mis-guided Morgan is by considering the benefits of standardized interfaces in education today. Pose. Posture. Beg the Question. 500 words. Typed.