Politics and Policies

The California State University system – the largest public university system in the U.S. – is outsourcing its online education offerings to Pearson. Ugh. Some days, I just want to give up. But before I do, I’d like to echo Dr. Tony Bates’ questions: who will own the resources here? Who will own the content? Who will own the data? What happens to local, institutional expertise? Is nobody paying attention?

According to numbers released by the FCC this week, some 19 million Americans lack access to broadband Internet. By my calculations, that’s about 16% of the population. About 14.5 million of those without access live in rural areas; and about 40% who could purchase it did not, citing cost, lack of technical skills, and/or lack of interest.

Kudos to the Department of Education for being one of just 15 federal departments and agencies (out of 246) that met Thursday’s deadline to have a draft of their API strategy in place. APIs are an important data pipeline for all that public government data – and for education in particular.


Jon Becker and I have rolled out the first draft – hey, let’s call it a launch! – of our collection Hack(ing) School(ing).

SkilledUp officially opened its doors this week. The startup offers a directory of more than 40,000 online courses from over 200 providers, organized in such a way to make it easier to find what you’re looking for: price, course direction, instructor, and so on.

The learning management system Schoology launched its App Center this week, with a handful of third-party apps that are now integrated fully into the Schoology platform. Among the apps available at launch: the safe messaging tool Remind101 and the math games from BrainNook.

Research and Data

The Gallup Poll and Phi Delta Kappa have released the results of their annual poll on education attitudes in the U.S. Among its findings: the most pressing issue facing school today, according to respondents: lack of funding. 97% believe it’s important to improve the quality of the nation’s urban schools, and almost two-thirds said they’d be willing to pay more taxes to do so (80% of Democrats, 41% of Republicans).

Georgia Tech CS professor Mark Guzdial has published some data from the latest Computer Science AP exam, and simultaneously depressing and not-too-surprising. For example: the pass rate was 63.7% overall, 57.6% for females, 31.7% for Blacks. “No Hispanic female has scored a passing grade (3, 4, or 5) on the AP CS test in Georgia, Michigan, Indiana, South Carolina, or Alabama in the last six years.”

It’s 2012 and college students still don’t like digital textbooks. More details from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Also in The Chronicle, some interesting data from the online study group site Piazza which looked at how students and professors are using its discussion forums. Among the findings: students at highly selective universities are more likely to ask questions anonymously. Also, while (no surprise) participation in forums was higher when professors required students to contribute, student comprehension was actually higher when they weren’t graded for participating in these online discussions.

Actually, this news item doesn’t blog under “research” at all as it seems to confirm the worst sort of assumptions that older generations make about younger ones. But as happens every year this time: The Beloit Mindset List – what the Class of 2016 has “always known.”


George Siemens, connectivist MOOC groundbreaker, announced this week that he’s joining the Centre for Distance Education at Athabasca University.

Former P2PU-er, traveler, and hacker John Britton is joining the social coding site GitHub as its education liaison. I’m really pleased to see GitHub think about campus community outreach, and they couldn’t have hired a better person for the job.

GigaOm reports that education API startup Clever made a key hire this week too: Matt Pasternack, formerly of Junyo.

Classes and Contests

MIT OpenCourseWare, Codecademy, P2PU, and OpenStudy are partnering up for a “Mechanical MOOC,” which appears to be a lot more closely aligned – philosophically and technologically – to the cMOOCs than the xMOOCs and will gather materials from existing OERs and send out weekly emails to learners. (See my write-up here.)

The book-renter Chegg is sponsoring a back-to-school concert where you can win a Taylor Swift concert for your school. I can’t even think of a good Kanye West joke to make here. Bonus points for any commenter that can complete the sentence “IMMA LET YOU FINISH, BUT _____ HAD THE BEST BACK-TO-SCHOOL CONCERT OF ALL TIME.”

George Siemens and Rory McGreal are offering an open online course “Openness in Education” this fall.

Richard Culatta and David Wiley’s open online course “Ed Startup 101” course kicks off on Monday, August 27.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that education startup Udacity has opted to cancel an upcoming math class, saying that the materials did not live up to its standards.


Education Week takes a closer look at the allegations of cheating in Philadelphia School Districts, arguing that the scope of the problem with “suspicious erasures on state standardized tests is far more widespread than officials have publicly revealed.” So far the district has only looked more closely at about a third of the 53 schools where “strong evidence” of cheating was found.

GOOD’s Liz Dwyer reports that India plans on backing out of this year’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development administered every 3 years to 15-year-olds worldwide. India did not performed well on these tests – scoring second to last – in 2009. She cites the Times of India saying the country has “shied away from the assessment as government officials felt our children were not prepared for such a test.”

Proctored tests are now available for Udacity’s CS 101. Pearson will be administering these exams for Udacity. (In related news, Pearson also won the contract to administer the 2015 PISA tests.)

ACT scores remained flat this year – identical (21.1 composite) to last year’s scores. In fact, the scores have hovered around 21 since 2008. Gaps remain in scoring levels among races and ethnicities, with Asians scoring on average the highest (23.6 composite) and African Americans the lowest (17.0). Asians scores have also shown the most growth in recent years.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) released its first set of Common Core aligned test questions and task prototypes this week. Sample items from what PARCC is calling “Phase 1” are available here.

Image credits: Terry Ross

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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