Mao Online: Soft Power or Propaganda?

I guess the answer is obvious.  Whether online or on paper, propaganda is what it is.  Not a genuine exchange of ideas, but simply a reporting what is the “party line” in order to preserve the power of political leaders wherever they may be.  Some online course providers in the United States, including edX and Coursera, have decided to bring these offerings to millions of users.  

Take your pick.  For example, among the course offerings from China, would you like to start with an “Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought,” or would you prefer “Will China Rise as a Disruptive Force? The Insiders’ Perspective.”  The second course choice is really intriguing, because I think I already know the answer, but if you are really interested, please feel free.

No pun intended, but these courses are not always FREE.  In true capitalistic tradition, if you would like to get a certificate of completion from some schools you will have to pay a prescribed fee.  Funny, I always thought propaganda was free, but I guess you really need some renumeration if you are trying to sell “soft power.”

Ray Myers

My Wild and Crazy Online Senior Summer Vacation

What better way to prepare for college life than spending all that spare time taking MOOCs online or working at a chess camp. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but don’t you think that these kids might be missing something, or enjoy doing something else? I guess some recent high school graduates just can’t wait to dig into real time higher education academia. But are taking courses online what higher education is all about?

Well okay, these courses are really just meant to be resume builders, whether you actually complete them or not! They surely fill up those resume pages, and who knows who might be impressed or curious? I remember when I had a summer job packing college textbooks for the Collier-MacMillan Publishing Company, I simply thought of it as making some summer spending money and possibly saving some cash for the school year ahead. And just to think, I could have included it in my college resume under “Advanced College Preparatory Reading,” or “Getting to Know the Names of Every College Bookstore in the Country.”

Please excuse me of I’m getting a little nostalgic here. I was just a “packer” in a book publisher’s warehouse. We were the male brawn of the shipping operation, while the ladies and coeds (summer) were the more cerebral “pickers” of the correct books for the college bookstore customers. Life was much simpler then.

Ray Myers

EdTech Europe: What Works Offline Doesn’t Work Online

This may be an obvious characterization of what many EdTech practitioners already know within their own communities.  But there seem to be some key areas that need to be addressed in order to remedy some of the online practices that are not “living up” to their expectations.  In today’s blog I would just like to enumerate some of them, and invite any comment or feedback that could enhance the conversation.  So in the true spirit of America’s Indepemdence Day, Fourth of July, please take a look.

*  Need for a pedagogical shift in the move towards online learning, rather than simply transferring existing teaching models online.

*  Take an active approach to facilitating peer-to-peer engagement, rather than relying on video lectures alone (human interaction is important; advice to MOOC providers).

*  In-classroom education technologies must suit the needs of not only students but teachers.

At the EdTech Europe conference, Jim Deters (CEO, Galvanize), added that  ” we are now in technology ubiquity.”  So what would you advise?  Any comments, perspectives, advice welcome.  I will follow up on this next week.  Thank you.

Ray Myers

To Be or Not to Be: Tech Support in Higher Ed

In the world of academia some faculty may have the comparative luxury of debating the merits on the use of technology in their course presentations.  I am not referring here to the increase in online offerings that are available, or to the MOOCs that any learner at any age may choose to join, or that faculty may choose to teach.  The pivotal question that academia still continues to grapple with is what kind of “tech” partnership will work best so as to improve instruction and create more value in the faculty/student relationship?   The obvious conclusion is that faculty and technologists both need each other in order to successfully address current challenges for higher education: access, cost, and quality.

At the same time, the primacy of the educator should be at the core of edtech ethics.  Just as the  American Library Association has established strong ethical standards for the academic library world, it is imperative that edtech professionals and faculty in higher education find common cause.  This may be the only way that the edtech profession is going to make a strategic impact on higher education.

The ultimate goal should always be to arm educators with the best set of tools they may need.  By definition, this does not mean learning only how to teach online!

Ray Myers

Living in our New Tech World

Just a short post as you enjoy your Memorial Day holiday. I read a couple articles the last two days that reflect on how we use and think about technology in our daily lives and in our expansion of online learning anytime, anywhere. Are we just rushing headlong into the techno-revolution in learning without the benefit of studying our own history over recent centuries?

Or are we actually using technology to make our teaching more relevant, imparting those skills needed on the “art of living in the world today?

Ray Myers

Global Learning in the Heart of America

I know I posted earlier this week about MOOCs and online courses at Arizona State University, and I am going to comment on higher education again and one university’s initiative on global learning. There is clearly a difference in this school’s approach to enrich their curricula and expand students and faculty’s ability to collaborate and learn globally. In this case, Missouri S&T appears committed to developing a longer term strategic plan that combines distance and online course delivery rather than offering online courses as simply alternatives to on-campus attendance. They have also instituted an award system for faculty whom excel in teaching online.

For the past academic year, nearly two dozen faculty received Teaching Excellence awards for either outstanding or superior (commendations) performance. I think this is a clear and powerful message from the university’s leadership that they are committed to expanding their global reach through their online and distance learning capabilities.

This is a great paradigm for learning in the 21st Century. Using the power of technology in the service of greater global knowledge and partnership.

Ray Myers

The MOOC Mantra and Higher Ed in the U.S.

What a concept – Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)! Let’s make higher education available for all through use of all the online accessibility that technology has brought us. Hmmmm, looks like this “technological fix” may be the very thing that is threatening the viability of higher education in the U.S. Arizona appears to be one state that would like to reduce its higher education costs by offering more online courses in place of the traditional classroom setting. Arizona State is now offering their incoming freshman class the option of taking all of their courses online. These courses will come with reduced tuition fees in order to earn college credit.

How can you resist the basic notion that we will now have more for less since technology now makes this all possible. But are we really offering the same service or quality of learning? Maybe we are simply increasing the affordability of college for many more learners. They will be getting what they can afford to pay, and it may be just what they need?

For example, the most significant impact to date appears to be that older and more professional students are more satisfied with the MOOC/online approach. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that higher education is no longer limited by a specific time and place in one’s life.

Ray Myers