Friday, April 19, 2013

SXSWedu: Thoughts, reflections, and questions

I enjoyed attending SXSWedu this month on behalf of Google. Between spending time chatting with folks in the Google lounge and giving presentations about Course Builder, I managed to sit in on a few sessions. I left the conference with more questions than answers.

Overall thoughts, reflections, and questions

  • I thought it was highly ironic that the panelists in the Online Education session were touting the benefits of open online learning but still rely on elite schools/degrees to find their “experts.” 
  • Will employers get beyond requiring formal degrees from high-powered schools to a model where potential employees will be able to demonstrate their skills prior to being hired? 
  • MOOCs + Makers? How could we blend the two to get the best of both worlds? If you flip your classroom and provide the background knowledge via video/text, then in class you could have maker-style projects to apply the skills.
  • Who sets the common core standards? Why aren’t skills like collaboration, research, presentation, and negotiations in there? These are skills that will enable students to succeed in most businesses. Why is there such a disconnect between education and business?
  • I wanted to meet more teachers. There weren't as many as I had hoped, likely because it was in the middle of a 

Hanging out

I was one of the panelists in EdSurge’s Live from SXSWEDU Hangout on Air about the current state and future of higher education. Betsy Corcoran from EdSurge moderated the panel; there were two other folks from Noodle and 2U. She asked questions about trends, quality of online courses, equity of access to courses, and who owns student data.

MOOC Keynote

Andrew Ng (Coursera) and Anant Agarwal (EdX) spoke about the history and future of MOOCs. 
  • Why have MOOCs exploded now? 
    • Students can take courses from the best professors at the best universities along with a community that supports each other
    • Social networking + video (YouTube) + expensive college
  • “I think that what our conception of a MOOC is may turn out to be wrong.” -Andrew Ng
  • “[Working with humanities professors has been] An inspiration to learn about different types of pedagogy.” -Ng 
  • Will half of all colleges be bankrupt in 15 years? 
    • Ng: no. Espcially for weaker students, the relationship between professors and students is sacred
    • The real value in attending a top university is the interaction between students and with professors
    • Flipped classrooms will take over in the future
    • We’re shifting to a continuous-knowledge world; 4-year colleges will morph into 2, 3, 7, year colleges that we will use for the rest of our lives
  • The question of credit/accreditation: how is it evolving?
    • Students have been adding MOOC “letters of completion” to their resumes
    • Agarwal: Employers want skills, not credentials
    • Agarwal: The degree concept is starting to change
  • Why are most MOOCs semi-synchronous on a certain time frame? 
    • Cohort effect: students in the community can work on materials together
    • No deadlines: saw much lower traffic
    • Probably something in the middle will emerge
    • EdX courses leave the materials open after the course ends without certificates
  • At many universities, profs were rewarded for research, not for teaching (because research would have a bigger impact on the world). This is starting to change!