I work in the Learning and Performance Support Systems program at the National Research Council, a multi-year effort to develop personal learning technology and learning analytics. I am one of the originators of the Massive Open Online Course, write about online and networked learning, have authored learning management and content syndication software, and am the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily.


~ ~ Vision Statement ~ ~



This is an unfinished work, but it illustrates nicely the use of academic papers as open educational resources by sequencing useful and important resources in such a way as to guide the reader through the essentials of a discipline. "The roadmap is constructed in accordance with the following four guidelines: from outline to detail; from old to state-of-the-art; from generic to specific areas (and) focus on state-of-the-art." It's best to think of this as a proto-MOOC. People can (and should) add resources (not just papers and books), and these can create branches and sub-branches. The resources themselves are all openly accessible. GitHub does provide limited social interaction, but you would expect a social network or community to grow around this collection. Actual MOOC classes would involve a self-managing cohort moving through the material together. Yes, it takes commitment and effort to learn a subject this way, and a lot of people don't have the skills. That's where educational institutions and student support should come in.

Today: 315 Total: 315 Songrotek, GitHub, 2016/10/26 [Direct Link]

What is the difference between CSS variables and preprocessor variables?


The world of web page style has become complicated and complex, partially because of the need to support numerous browsers (both PC based and mobile) and partially because large-scale projects require variables and functions to facilitate management. This article looks at one aspect of that, CSS variables. Of particular value is the discussion of the role of CSS preprocessors like Stylus, Less, and PostCSS. These take youir default values for things like colours and text styles and turn them into standards-compliant CSS code. Of course, you could just use CSS variables to accomplish the same thing without so much work. And you can use Javascript to manipulate these directly. But you begin to run into cross-browser implementation issues.

Today: 209 Total: 209 Chris Coyier, CSS Tricks, 2016/10/26 [Direct Link]

Reaching the Tipping Point: Insights on Advancing Competency Education in New England


This report (89 page PDF) provides an overview of competency-based education (CBE) and then drills down to look at some lessons learned in New England. CBE is motivated by three major strands of thought, according to the report: first, the current system is focused on delivery, not results, with the result that students have gaps in their learning; second, CBE ensures that students move on to the next grade level only after they have acquired the required competencies; and third, a system defined by CBE is rooted in equity and transparent process. "Rather than expecting compliance from students, competency-based schools seek to ensure students feel safe, respected, valued and empowered." You have to more than just provide opportunity; steps need to be taken to support and engage students. The report discusses the challenges of implementing a paradigm-changing program, and stresses providing support and a focus on results. The assessment of the New England experience is generally rosy.

Today: 349 Total: 349 Chris Sturgis, CompetencyWorks, 2016/10/25 [Direct Link]

The Great Unbundling of Textbook Publishers

Th unbundling of the university is more story than fact, writes Michael Feldstein, but the unbundling of publishing is imminent. This tipping point may be open educational resources (OER), which are making textbook publishing unprofitable. He writes, "The real money will be in a few areas:

  • High-end digital products that directly or indirectly improve student outcomes
  • Related services that help colleges improve student outcomes
  • Services that help colleges improve the unsexy but critical aspects staying viable, from marketing to administration
  • Loans to schools looking to make changes that will (theoretically) make them more sustainable in the long run but require significant up-front investment—preferably in the products and services of the company offering the loan."

Will these separate services be offered under a single brand, or are we seeing the beginning of a marketplace with multiple players? As usual, the answer is "yes".

Today: 404 Total: 404 Michael Feldstein, e-Literate, 2016/10/25 [Direct Link]

Open Educational Resources


This article opens as an account of the nature and history of open educational resources. But then it turns sceptical. Michael Q. McShane writes, "open resources are offered free to users, but they are not necessarily free to produce... the people who create them want to be paid for doing so." Fair enough, and for the most part creators are paid by their school, company, university or government department. The article then turns to a criticism of a (U.S.) federal government program. "It is important to examine what productive role, if any, the federal government can play in the evolution of OER... the federal government is putting its thumb on the scale for one particular type of content-creation mechanism, and that could disrupt the marketplace." This presumption that there is some 'natural' state of the marketplace that is 'distorted' by government intervention is of course a fallacy, as is the presumption that the government has no business being involved in the education of its citizens.

Today: 332 Total: 332 Michael Q. McShane, Education Next, 2016/10/25 [Direct Link]

Can Your Productivity Be Measured?


I think we all knew this, but in this review of Yves Gingras's Bibliometrics and Research Evaluation: Uses and Abuses we read of a detailed examination of the topic. "While study of publication and citation patterns, “on the proper scale, provides a unique tool for analyzing global dynamics of science over time,” the book says, the 'entrenchment' of increasingly (and often ill-defined) quantitative indicators in the formal evaluation of institutions and researchers gives way to their abuses."

Today: 261 Total: 261 Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 2016/10/25 [Direct Link]

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.