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Weekly News Roundup | EdX Is Going Open Source

MOOC Roundup

Welcome. Here’s your roundup of MOOC News for March 23, 2013


The loudest news this week was out of California where legislators have thrown themselves down the slippery slope or are facing up to reality, depending on how you look at it. Oh boy.

But that may not be the most significant news in the long-run. Kirsten Winkler at Edcetera alerted us to the news that edX is going open source by releasing XBlock SDK, the underlying architecture of its platform. She argues that open sourcing MOOCs is the real education revolution, and I’m inclined to see it that way, too. Stay tuned for a fuller run-down on the home-brewed MOOC trend. Meanwhile, you can download the edX code here  if you’re interested in building your own MOOC platform.

Speaking of home-brewing MOOCs, Spring For Music, a festival of North American orchestras that runs May 6-11 at Carnegie Hall, is launching its own music appreciation MOOC, S4MU, taught by conductors and performers from the festival. Four weeks long, starting April 1. Not only is this MOOC free, but participants are offered a discount on the festival tickets. Still, buyer beware. As the website says:

“We haven’t yet seen an arts organization try turning itself into a MOOC, but the possibilities are intriguing. While some developers have been working on developing on an open source MOOC platform, none was really ready for us to use yet, so we decided to cobble together various existing platforms to power S4MU, including WordPress, PHPForum, WikiMedia, Facebook and Twitter. We hope it will work.”

Pretty ambitious! We hope it will work, too. Somebody out there let us know after the class is completed.

Perhaps S4MU should have competed for one of the fellowships/contest prizes being offered by Iversity for faculty interested in developing their own course. 25,000 euros for production costs. Deadline is April 30, 2013. It’s the first academic fellowship I’ve ever heard of that’s being judged “American Idol” style.

Some universities are choosing to make their way in the MOOC world with their own tech solutions. UMass-Boston just opened registration for a 12-week physics course starting in June titled “Molecular Dynamics for Discoveries in Computational Science” which will use a platform owned by the instructor’s own company, Synaptic Global Learning. He calls his platform an aMOOC — the “a” is for “adaptive” — in which diagnostic quizzes at the beginning of the course will identify an optimal learning path for a student to follow “for fastest learning and best score results.”

The Alliance for Excellent Education and the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, at North Carolina State University’s College of Education are collaborating on the first course in their new MOOC-Ed initiative for K-12 administrators responsible for digital learning. “Digital Learning Transition” (seven weeks, starting April 8) aims to help superintendents and principals develop a plan to take their schools through a digital learning transition. Can the course be applied toward Continuing Education Units? Depends if your local agency accepts the certificate of completion that will be awarded. Has anyone heard of MOOC certificates being accepted in that way yet?

Wesleyan University joins the Coursera juggarnaut this week with a statistics class. One interesting note from a Forbes magazine report is that the course “has attracted enrollment from Wesleyan alumni and parents.” That reinforces something I was told while reporting on Yale University’s online education offerings (no MOOCs there yet, btw) — that schools may see MOOCs as a way to maintain lucrative relationships with parents and alumni.

The other big news of the week was results in the Chronicle of Higher Education from a survey of faculty who have taught MOOCs. Lots of interesting data in there, though it’s  hard to know how meaningful it is when the environment is changing so quickly. For example, the median number of enrolled students is 33,000? I’m guessing that’s much higher by now. My main takeaway from the survey is that faculty end the courses much more enthusiastic and less skeptical about the concept than when they started.

Send us your tips and check back next week.


Robert McGuire (52 Posts)

My content marketing services firm provides all-in-one external staff solutions for companies looking to grow their business through thought leadership. I started MOOC News & Reviews in 2013 out of a fascination with the economic, demographic and technological forces impacting edtech, online education and higher education, and I wanted to provide a forum for serious discussion of this new phenomenon. I love building communities of writers engaging in lively critical dialogue about emerging issues.