Monday, July 23, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N30); MOOCs, Online Higher Ed Courses, Library Ideas, Research Needs,

Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are really getting some people excited and the sheer numbers are amazing - although is this a fad and or a function of supply?  From the NYTimes an interview with Anant Agarwal of MIT who's first class enrolled 150,000 students (NYTimes)
Did you expect so much demand?
With no marketing dollars, I thought we might get 200 students. When we posted on the Web site that we were taking registration and the course would start in March, my colleague Piotr Mitros called and said, “We’re getting 10,000 registrations a day.” I fell off my seat and said, “Piotr, are you sure you’ve got the decimal point right?” My most fearful moment was when we launched the course. I worried that the system couldn’t handle it, and would keel over and die. 
...
Most students who register for MOOCs don’t complete the course. Of the 154,763 who registered for “Circuits and Electronics,” fewer than half even got as far as looking at the first problem set, and only 7,157 passed the course. What do you make of that?
A large number of the students who sign up for MOOCs are browsing, to see what it’s like. They might not have the right background for the course. They might just do a little bit of the coursework. Our course was M.I.T.-hard and needed a very, very solid background. Other students just don’t have time to do the weekly assignments. One thing we’re thinking of is to offer multiple versions of the course, one that would last a semester and one that could stretch over a year. That would help some people complete.
And from The Atlantic a profile of Coursera which they suggest is the "Single Most Important Experiment in Education" (Altantic):
But the deals Coursera announced Tuesday may well prove to be an inflection point for online education, a sector that has traditionally been dominated by for-profit colleges known mostly for their noxious recruitment practices and poor results. That's because the new partnerships represent an embrace of web-based learning from across the top tier of U.S. universities. And where the elite colleges go, so goes the rest of academia.
Coursera has previously teamed with Stanford, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Michigan to offer 43 courses, which according to the New York Times enrolled 680,000 students. It now adds to its roster Duke, Caltech, University of Virginia, Georgia Tech, University of Washington, Rice, Johns Hopkins, University of California San Francisco, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, University of Toronto, University of Edinburgh, and Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.
Only one school, the University of Washington, said it will give credit for its Coursera classes. But two others, University of Pennsylvania and Caltech, said they would invest $3.7 million into the enterprise, bringing the company's venture funding to more than $22 million. Literally, colleges are buying in.
Suggestions that independent bookstore protectionism works in other countries - should it be implemented in the US? (Atlantic)
Here in the U.S., most bookstores survive in tales of grassroots preservation or community campaigns. Price-fixing is undoubtedly the least likely American solution, though as Jason Boog has pointed out at NPR, booksellers and publishers actually did persuade FDR to enforce a price floor to prevent Macy’s from undercutting small book retailers with loss-leader pricing on Gone with the Wind during the Great Depression. (That policy was later declared unconstitutional, but it did throw a wrench in the Macy’s strategy.) This April, though, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit accusing Apple and several publishers of colluding to raise the price of e-books to compete with Amazon’s price-discounting. Don’t expect to see federal protection of local bookstores via price-setting anytime soon.
Possibly the worlds most bizarre library carrel but some interesting ideas for the future of libraries (Harvard):
In the seminar’s freewheeling atmosphere, ideas flew like cream pies at a food fight. What if behind-the-scenes work could take place in the open instead, suggested Matthew Battles, a fellow at the Berkman Center. “What if you set up somebody processing medieval manuscripts in Widener or Lamont—a processing station in a public space?” Battles had just come from a used-furniture depository, where he’d been scavenging for shelves that could be repurposed for use as curator stations, places where faculty members or librarians could be asked to curate small collections of books. “What about a mobile, inflatable library?” suggested Goldenson. “What would that do?” Or how about an “Artist in Reference,” he continued. “We could bring in experts in a particular subject to serve as guest reference librarians in their area of expertise.” Schnapp, running with the idea, noted that “Widener contains collections in fields that haven’t been taught at Harvard in a hundred years, where we have the best collections of materials.”
Is wikipedea looking to set up their own travel information and guide site (Skift):
Imagine a free TripAdvisor focused on travel destinations, where masses of travelers could update information during or after their hotel stay, tour or private meanderings around town, and share it with the world under the supervision of seasoned administrators.
The foundation’s board of trustees on July 11 approved a proposal [see Update below] to launch an advertisement-free travel guide [see Update below] and community members noted that 31 of the 48 administrators of the Internet Brands-owned Wikitravel have expressed interest in joining forces with the Wikimedia Foundation’s travel guide website.
Wikitravel is considered the current leader in travel wikis, but its advertisements and monetization efforts may turn off travelers and would-be contributors.
In addition, the introduction to a community discussion about the travel guide proposal argues that Internet Brands has failed to keep pace with the times and that Wikitravel suffers from a “lack of technical support/feature development.”
The Guardian Higher Ed team reports on a JISC study on student research needs 
The report's findings indicate that the greatest challenge to researchers is the difficulty of access to e-journals. It is easy to see why: doctoral students across all subjects told us that they predominantly look for secondary published resources to inform their research, and for over 80% of researchers, this means accessing full text journal articles.
These same materials are often subject to licensing restrictions and other limitations imposed by e-journals publishers and other information service providers. This appears to be an area of sharpening tension in the doctoral and broader research community, with the majority of students surveyed describing it as a 'significant constraint' in the research process, and one of the biggest frustrations affecting their work.
Despite the ongoing debate around open access in the media, the report's findings have told us that there is a significant level of confusion among researchers around what open access means, or even how reliable open access materials are.
Another finding from the report shows that as many as 35% of those researchers surveyed in 2011 did not receive any face-to-face training in research and information-seeking skills in the previous academic year, even though 65% of researchers ranked it as their most important training need. These outcomes are concerning, but fortunately they are also an area where significant improvements can be made, through increasing face-to-face training and support for researchers when they start their PhD programmes, but also much earlier as they enter higher education.

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