Category Archives: Online

This blog post from Dr. Keith Devlin, a mathematician at Stanford University, is great. I’ve had the same thoughts about humanities MOOCs that he has. You really need to craft a community of students to have them succeed. By crafting assignments and having tools available for them to interact in many ways with each other and the professor can help foster this.

From Dr. Devlin:

…having now completed my first MOOC, I am now even more convinced than previously that the eventual (we hope) success of MOOCs will be a consequence of Facebook (or social media in general) rather than of Internet video streaming.

The reason why I felt sure this would be the case is that (in most disciplines) the key to real learning has always been bi-directional human-human interaction (even better in some cases, multi-directional, multi-person interaction), not unidirectional instruction.

YES! I am all about maximizing the advantageous utility of social media and learning technologies to foster student/faculty and student/student engagement.

This is what I think MOOCs are struggling with and learning how it works as they go along. The computer science courses offered so far are linear/instructional learning – watch this, do this, and eventually you’ll have a program/website to show for it. There is not a lot of learning why, or applying critical thinking.

More from Dr. Devlin:

…while the popular image of a MOOC centers on lecture-videos and multiple-choice quizzes, what Humanities, Arts, and Science MOOCs (including mine) are about is community building and social interaction. For the instructor (and the very word “instructor” is hopelessly off target in this context), the goal in such a course is to create a learning community.

YES…again! John Boyer (prof I work with) have traveling regional, nationally, and internationally on using technology in the classroom and how we use these technologies to create communities within the course. Within a large class you’ll have many communities with hope that they’ll overlap and push towards an overall sense of community in a course. It all about getting the students engage with the material in different ways, and ways that they enjoy!



So this semester we’ve had the most demand ever for the world leader twitter assignment. I had people emailing who had seen the assignment in the syllabus before the first day of class! So, after Boyer mentioned it the first day of class and to email me ASAP, I got around 200 emails that night. In the next few days I had given out all the accounts we had from previous semester. I then started creating new ones…I didn’t realize how many leaders were out there, especially Chinese ones! A week after the first class on August 29, I now had 239 accounts, up from around 130. Creating accounts takes a while too – I have to create their email address first through Google Apps for Business and then their twitter account with photo and proper profile. You can see the final list here

I’m glad I’m done creating, but feel bad I have to turn students away, but the most unknown leaders as so hard to twitter for! Now I have a short break until its time to grade them all in late October.



This is my response to the article that came out on Monday August 13, 2012 in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled Why Online Education Won’t Replace College—Yet

First off I think the title is extremely misleading – the arthor came to him conclusion by taking two classes at Udacity a provider of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s). So the title should really be “Why MOOC’s Won’t Replace College – Yet” or even better “Why Udacity Won’t Replace College – Yet”.  Online courses come in many shapes and sizes and throughout the whole article he is only referencing his experience at Udacity, thus only talking about MOOC’s and one MOOC in specific.

Also based on his points he has never taken an online class ever or taught one because the issues are ones that fall into classes of 100 students online and there are ways to counteract them.

To his points:

1. It’s too easy to cheat. There are soo many ways to make an online class uncheatable or at least reduce the desire/capacity to cheat. And this was the first time these courses were ever offered, I’m sure the folks at Udacity were learning how students interacted/learned and use the system and will make it 10 times better the 2nd & 3rd time its offered. The author isn’t stating anything new either. This has been an issues since university classes first went online 10+ years ago. Does his school not offer online classes?

Tips for making online classes less cheatable:

  • online quizzes with large question pools so all the students do not get the same questions
  • assignments that are uncheatable – forum or website commenting, Twitter, group projects
  • peer grading
  • have access to essay graders that check for plagiarism.
  • computer software that monitors the student – webcam, desktop monitors, etc.
2. Star students can’t shine. There are plenty of ways for the professor to get to know the students online – participate in the forum with the student, hold online office hours, etc.
In the student’s instance they can be more participatory in activities and helping other student out. I do believe there are ways to students to shine – take the prof I work for who teach 2750 live. Yes he does not know every student in the class, but the ones who shine he does. Those are the student who communicate with him all the time – they ask questions after class, email him, say hi walking across campus, reach out on social media. He will know the shining students by the end of the semester.
3. Employers avoid weird people.  ”MOOC’s are the nose rings of higher education.”  Wow, you’ve got to be kidding. Or they could be people who are passionate about learning and usually are highly disciplined to be able to take a course on their own without being force into class 2-3 times a week. They are the people who want to better themselves in some skill and are motivated to do that. The author argument here is pretty irrelevant.
4. Computers can’t grade everything. I agree with this statement, but they can grade a hell of a lot. But that’s why you incorporate assignments with peer grading. Students are learning from each other and I remember reading somewhere (but can’t find the source) that they tend to grade the assignments harder than the professor would. They have higher expectation of themselves and their peers…and thats awesome! Also students tend to write better when they know more people are going to read their work rather than just one professor.
5. Money can substitute for ability. ”If college is cheap, students have a strong incentive to spend those savings on anything that can give them an edge over their fellow students.” I guess, but isn’t a better statement that if college is cheap more people will have access to it and we’ll have a smarter population as a whole? And so what if they spend the money on a tutor, every student gets access to the same material. Isn’t this how public school works?

So yea in conclusion I don’t really agree with his title or points. It’s year 1 of MOOCs – they can only get better and I think they will be incorporated more into college curriculum or develop their own certification.




From TechCrunch:

I’m a fan of iTunes you but it’s is limited. I know they introduced “courses” which are cool, but it’s only documents, videos, and apps. You don’t know who else is taking the course, or a way to contact/interact with the professor. Piazza plans to provide just this. It looks awesome and I hope the beta test with the Stanford  iOS development class goes great and they offer it up to other educators for their courses on iTunes.

The other feature I want, is a test & quizzes feature like those found in course management systems. It doesn’t need to be that advanced, but it would be much better than posting quizzes via PDFs.


A couple years ago we came up with the idea to create a bunch of world leader twitter accounts that students could Twitter for as part of their grade for the world regions class. Most of the world leaders are titled Plaid_lastname. You can see a list of them here, we’re now up to 152 accounts!

A couple have gotten attention before – our Dimtry Medvedev got a lot of followers after the real Medvedev visited Twitter headquarters and sign up, but then didn’t use him name – he used KremlinRU.

Also Muammar Gaddafi has been featured on a list of funny tweets from fake world leaders.

Our Abdullah Gul account has over 13,000 follows – the most of any!

So on January 2, 2011 Rupert Murdoch joined Twitter and decided to follow 4 people – Jack Dorsey, Mark Pincus, Lord Sugar and our very own Larry Page class account (@Plaid_Page)

I friend informed me on Twitter of his follow and I soon after logged in as Plaid Page and sent Rupert this tweet:


Here is his response (one of 2 @replies thus far)

Our Page account has gained over 1500 new followers in the last 24 hours and quite a few news stories have mentioned how Murdoch is follow a fake Larry Page account.

BBC: News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch joins Twitter social network.
“Mr Murdoch also follows Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus, Twitter’s executive chairman Jack Dorsey, and a spoof account purporting to be from Google’s chief executive Larry Page.”

Financial Times: Media tycoon Murdoch takes to Twitter 
““I’m getting killed for fooling around here and friends frightened what I may really say!” Mr Murdoch said in reply to a tweet from a spoof account pretending to be Larry Page, Google’s chief executive, inviting him to join the search company’s nascent social network, Google+.”

CNN: Media mogul Murdoch joins Twitter
“Among other tweets by Murdoch, who also follows Google co-founder Larry Page, Silcon Valley entrepreneur and British businessman Alan Sugar, were an expression of support for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.”

ZDNet: Rupert Murdoch starts tweeting; Twitterverse returns heavy fire
“ZDNet UK columnist Jack Schofield questioned why Murdoch is only following four people, including a “Fake Larry Page”.”

We’ll see how long he keeps on following our Page account, and lasts on Twitter as whole….