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Category: MOOCs

OERu: Global learning for a global workforce

OERuWhile popular MOOC platforms Coursera and Udacity claim to be free and “open” but are merely free, OERu is the real thing: a truly free and open MOOC. OERu offers free courses to anyone with an internet connection who is interested in learning online with others from anywhere the world. OERu learners study independently, from home, by accessing world-class courses from recognized institutions.  Learners who want their efforts to count towards formal academic qualification can pay a reduced fee for course credit.

OERu is an international non-profit but currently has a limited number of US partners and no US community colleges in its network of institutions. This has to do with the messy nature of credit transfer between US, European, and Asian institutions but another complicating factor is the cumbersome US statewide distance learning authorization requirements for out-of-state learners, making national and international partnerships difficult.

Still, if your institution interested in joining an international network of universities and colleges dedicated to providing low-cost access to college courses using OER, check out the OERu website here. The requirements for membership are here. OERu is also willing to discuss system and consortial memberships if there is enough interest by systems such as the VCCS.


All Rights Reserved: Copyright MOOC begins on July 21st

CopyrightpiratesFrom July 21-August 18, Coursera will offer a free professional development MOOC on US copyright law for librarians and educators. The course, Copyright for Educators & Librarians, will be taught by instructors from Duke, Emory, and UNC Chapel Hill. Here is a brief summary about the 4 week course:

Fear and uncertainty about copyright law often plagues educators and sometimes prevents creative teaching. This course is a professional development opportunity designed to provide a basic introduction to US copyright law and to empower teachers and librarians at all grade levels. Course participants will discover that the law is designed to help educators and librarians.

A cohort of VCCS faculty and staff have registered for the MOOC. You can connect with them via Google Sites here.

For more about the Coursera course, go to


Thoughtvectors_in_Concept_SpaceToday, VCU launched a brand-spanking new MOOC-ish thing, Thought Vectors in Concept Space. The official name is UNIV 200: Inquiry and the Craft of Argument. I am using this blog as my platform for my participation in the course which, if you are not a VCU students who is formally enrolled, is totally free. Totes.

So, if  “Take a MOOC” is on your bucket list–which would be kind of weird, but whatever–or you want a learning experience that more a cross between a roller-coaster ride and  than a college lecture, you should head to and reveal your intent.

2013 Horizon Report: Higher Education

NMC_Horizon_2013I am a bit late to the game on posting this, but better late than never. A few weeks ago, the New Media Consortium released the 2013 Horizon Report for Higher Education, the yearly prognostications of educational and political thinkers on what educational technologies they see coming “on the horizon.” It is always an interesting read and thankfully the report authors don’t limit the focus to only technology tools but also include emerging practices. Below is a quick bulleted list of this year’s report. However, I advise you to download and read the whole thing. It’s free.

One Year or Less

  • MOOCs
  • Tablet computing

Two to Three Years

  • Games and Gamification
  • Learning Analytics

Four to Five Years

  • 3D Printing
  • Wearable Technology

Key Trends

  1. Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information–is becoming a value.
  2. Massively open online courses are being widely explored as alternatives and supplements to traditional university courses.
  3. The workforce demands skills from college graduates that are more often acquired from informal learning experiences than in universities.
  4. There is an increasing interest in using new sources of data for personalizing the learning experience and for performance measurement.
  5. The role of educators continues to change due to the vast resources that are accessible to students via the Internet
  6. Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models.

Here is the full link to download the 2013 Horizon Report:

OpenVA closed for the winter

ODLR ConferenceEveryone talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.

Because of the threat of severe winter weather, the First Annual Open and Digital Learning Resources Conference to be held at the University of Mary Washington this Thursday (March 7th) is going to be rescheduled for Fall 2013. It can’t be helped. While it is uncertain how badly the storm will impact the Fredricksburg area–forecasts are calling for anywhere from 0-4 inches of snow–it is likely Southwest Virginia, where almost half of the conference’s registrants are from, will be hit pretty hard. So rather than risk holding a sparsely-attended conference for those who can brave the storm, the OpenVA steering committee wisely decided to cancel the conference, regroup, and reschedule for Fall 2013.

The Fall conference will still be held at the University of Mary Washington. I will post the new date and call for proposals here once a new time has been identified.

VCU Online Learning Summit 2013

VCU Online Learning Summit

If you are in the Richmond area on May 14th, or want to justify a spring trip to our fair capitol city, you may want to consider attending the Online Learning Summit at Virginia Commonwealth University. Seasoned keynoter Gardner Campbell will be headlining. There is no opening band or cover charge. That’s right: it’s free.

If you haven’t seen or heard Gardener speak before, you can get a taste of what you are in for by viewing his spectacular keynote speech at the OpenEd conference in Vancouver, BC last year. I wrote about it here. The link to the recording is here.

More info from the VCU Summit website:

The VCU Online Learning Summit is organized by the Center for Teaching Excellence at Virginia Commonwealth University. This regional conference serves as a multi-disciplinary forum for the discussion and exchange of information on the research, development, and applications of all topics related to teaching and learning online. We invite proposals of substantive, interactive sessions that will raise provocative questions, engage participants in discussion, and foster conversations.

If you want to submit a proposal, you have until Monday, March 1st, 2013. Visit the Online Learning Summit web site for more details:

Lost in Space: Another MOOC dropout

Intro to AstronomyWeek 1 of the Introduction to Astronomy course, offered by Duke University through Coursera, was a heady experience. After enrolling in and promptly ignoring an untold number of “MOOCs” (notice the quotes), I decided it was time to participate fully in one, both as a professional obligation and as a challenge to myself. The one that caught my eye was Introduction to Astronomy, a subject without even a tenuous connection to my profession. However, I have aways been fascinated by the subject and hoped that my personal engagement would motivate me to knuckle down: my job, 3 year old, and growing to-do list really make it impossible for me to spare the time for a luxury like a Coursera course. For the first week, I did all of the reading, watched the video lectures, downloaded Stellarium, a free version of the astronomy software being used for class, and, despite my ineptitude in anything but the basic math, completed all of the homework. Hours before the deadline at that!

Unfortunately,  during Weeks 2-8 I flatlined. I  got behind on the readings and lectures and the more behind I got, the less realistic it became that I could catch up. It was also getting harder and harder to use “Doing my Astronomy homework” as a legitimate excuse to my wife when there were important things to do around the house. I still received my regular class emails and invitations to join a weekly  Google Hangout with the professor, but I didn’t even open them. Now the course is over and the emails have stopped, but the course is still listed in my Coursera account, like a badge of shame.

A few observations from my short, weeklong burst of participation:


  • Both the course-designed and participant-organized social tools included in the course were for me a welcome chance to connect with other students,  as well as ask questions. Lots of questions.
  • Perhaps by design, the 9-week course happened to coincide with a number of celestial events that the provided some real-world application of the course content


  • This has been stated elsewhere and is fairly obvious, but it is worth repeating: this wasn’t really a MOOC.  
  • The professor was building the course each week, which meant I could only see the current week’s course material. I couldn’t look ahead to see if it was realistic for me to participate
  • The materials in the course were not open. The weekly PowerPoints and videos could be downloaded, but there was no permission given through Creative Commons licensing, for example, to reuse and remix them
  • If there remaining 8 weeks of the course were like the first, then Intro to Astronomy was pretty much a traditional, instructor-led, content-driven course, despite the huge enrollment. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But don’t mistake pushing the same old content to lots more people as being revolutionary.

I have another chance to improve my miserable MOOC completion record: I am currently registered (and already a week behind!) in the Coursera-hosted course E-learning and Digital Cultures, offered by the University of Edinburgh. It’s 5 weeks long, which may be 4 too many for me.



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