Friday, September 20, 2013

EdX and the Convergence of MOOC Learning Management Systems (LMS).

The past week has witnessed an important development in the convergence of open course management systems for MOOCs. 

In September 2012 Stanford released Course2GO - built on top of Stanford Courseware  - as open source software.  

Jane Manning, Class2Go product manager, explained that the idea started with a six-member team in Stanford’s computer-science department. The team built Class2Go using code from Stanford’s Courseware course-hosting platform, a similar platform from the nonprofit Khan Academy, and software for integrated online classroom forums hosted by Piazza

At the same time, Google released its open source CourseBuilder systemGoogle explained that 
Course Builder open source project is an experimental early step for us in the world of online education. It is a snapshot of an approach we found useful and an indication of our future direction. . . . edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms. 

In June 2013 edX released its own open source MOOC management system.  

At about the same time, Stanford announced that it would be closing Course2GO and partnering with edX for further development of open source MOOC management tools. 

According to Stanford's announcement, open source online learning platforms such as edX will allow universities to develop their own delivery methods, partner with other universities and institutions as they choose, collect data and control branding of their educational material.
While Stanford and its professors will continue to use several providers of online courses, including Coursera and Venture Lab, the university will stop developing its own platform, Class2Go. Instead, aspects of Class2Go will be incorporated into the program developed at edX, a nonprofit launched by Harvard and MIT last year. The resulting software code will become available, or open source, on June 1.
In Stanford's news release, edX president Anant Agarwal predicted that the edX platform will now become the "Linux of learning."  
Now edX has partnered with Google to form, a platform to enable all schools, organizations or individuals to author and manage their own MOOCs. 

As Steve Kolowich reports in the Chronicle
The new site,, will provide tools and a platform that “will allow any academic institution, business, and individual to create and host online courses,” says a blog post by Dan Clancy, a research director at Google. In an interview, Anant Agarwal, president of edX, referred to the site as a “YouTube for courses.” 
The resulting open source system will by 2014 enable anyone, anywhere, to develop MOOCs free from dependence upon commercial learning management systems like Blackboard.   

EdX won't be all things for all people, but it promises to be both the Linux and the YouTube for massive online courses.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Foundation Course Sequences - a new paradigm for MOOCville?

In my last post I noted that the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton school is offering its first year courses, bundled into a package, on the Coursera platform.  This significant event suggests a new development in the MOOC space.

Phil Hill over at e-Literate notes today that MIT has joined Wharton in offering not just individual courses, but organized sequences of foundation courses in the MOOC format. 

The upshot is that learners can now gain access to organized courses of study, with certificates of completion, for free. Keep an eye on this development!   

MIT will offer the first of seven courses in its Foundations of Computer Science XSeries this fall on the edX platform.. Then one or more additional courses will be offered each semester. The entire sequence will be available by fall 2015. The three course sequence in Supply Chain Management will begin in the fall of 2014. 

For those concerned about security, MIT plans to implement an identity verification process starting in Spring 2014 that will prompt students to present government-issued identification before standing for exams.  

The concern with security - especially for course sequences - suggests that MOOC leaders anticipate the use of MOOC certificates in consequential decisions such as those by colleges accepting MOOCs for advanced standing, grad school admission committees, and employers.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

MOOC Certificates and Diploma Programs

The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton College of Business has just announced that they will put their entire first year course program on line for free, on the Coursera MOOC platform.

This is another breakthrough in MOOCville; for the first time a university is bundling all of the courses in an entire year of its diploma program in MOOCs. Students from all over the world can now take the entire first year Wharton MBA program, from the same professors delivering the courses on campus, for free. And those completing the courses will earn certificates of learning.

This in one more step in the process whereby MOOC certificates will eventually be aggregated, by universities or third party aggregators, and recognized as diploma equivalents.

Let us consider this case: a recent graduate of a major engineering college - say Stanford, Purdue or Georgia Tech - applies for an entry level management job at a high-tech firm. An individual MOOC certificate may not help very much, but a bundled set of Wharton MBA MOOCs tells quite a different story - that this graduate has the background knowledge, motivation and self-management skills to acquire the MBA knowledge base on his (or her) own.

The college or grad school diploma has been used as a job filter because it lowers transaction costs for employers. But as more and more people pass through the filter, the filter has become inefficient - it lets in too many people without strong capabilities. The diploma doesn't sufficiently differentiate its holders from others. And especially now that product cycles are rapid and skills erode quickly, employers are inevitably more interested in specific capabilities than the general knowledge represented by diplomas.

A single MOOC might not be useful as a job filter - after all, what, exactly, does it represent? But a bundled package of certificates from a leading university, representing a full complement of cutting edge knowledge and skill, would be a more efficient filter than a mere diploma.

In my view this progression from individual MOOCs to packages of certificates accepted as diploma equivalents in the hiring process is inevitable. It is a win-win-lose proposition. The firms will win, the students will win - only the Higher Ed sector currently monopolizing job access will lose.

We will not have to wait very long for this process to come to completion: leading high tech firms have recently formed an alliance to explore weighting packages of MOOC certificates as diploma equivalents in their hiring practices.