Creating “Coherence” in the College Experience ?

An interview that explores the role of the student in her learning – from the components of any individual course to a multi-year cumulative, coherent education. The recommendation is that a student, not faculty or administration, must drive – and “own” – her individual “learning pathway.”  One way to do this and to demonstrate it is by “saving, archiving, and curating evidence of work over time,” with an online e-portfolio.   It’s the “curating” that I like – thinking about, organizing, and presenting a thoughtful integration of the learning to date….


Technology and Work… in 2064?

The 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, which focused on the world of the future (that is, today), has generated a lot articles on “what really happened?” and “what will it all look like 50 years from now?”

IEEE Spectrum brought together Robert Reich, Moshe Varde and others to talk about these. Technology – and especially the Internet – has radically changed commerce, transportation, medicine, entertainment, media, even booksellers, and nearly everything else in the last few decades.  One impact has been the dislocation on American manufacturing jobs, changing the meaning and role of “working class.”   Reich and the rest discuss how workers in the next half century may be affected by new technologies.

Moshe Varde offered a similar (and to me, better), set of insights for IEEE in 2013.

Online learning, of a sort…

The ISIS crisis in Iraq is seen as a military assault requiring a military response, and that is part of it. But the Iraqi government is also responding online.

Shane Harris reports for Foreign Policy that the Iraqi government has ordered restrictions and shutdowns by ISPs of social media sites, VPNs,  and more.  Baghdad is using a more nuanced approach than “shut it all down,” aware that such an approach would (further) alienate ordinary citizens. In governance,  security, and the online battle for “hearts and minds,” governments are learning.

MOOC certification?

Sure, you read the books, watched the video lectures, answered to quizzes, completed the exams, and even did some of the “additional readings”.  But can you prove it?

edX and Coursera have begun to offer varieties of “certificates” upon completion of their courses.  Each offers some evidence that you have consumed and digested the course material, but some courses offer different levels of “certification.”

edX courses offer an “honor code certificate of achievement,” a “verified certificate of achievement,” and an “XSeries certificate of achievement.”   The honor code certificate says you completed the course, but without verifying your identity.  The certificate includes a URL at which employers or others can check on the validity of this certificate.  A verified certificate includes a small fee, continuing proof of identity from a photo ID and your web cam, and an authenticating URL.  An XSeries certificate is earned upon the completion of two or more verified courses:  for example, MITx offers a two-course astrophysics series and a seven-course computer science series.  The total cost of these ($275 and $425, respectively) is less than what you would expect to pay just for books.

Coursera offers similar tiers:  a “statement of accomplishment” and a “verified certificate” via “signature track.”

In general, though, what these do not offer is college credit.  And in fact, you may not even get any certificate of completion.  I recently completed edX’s “Scientific Humanities” from France’s Sciences Po, and was told that in fact no, students would receive no acknowledgement of completion etc.

Sometimes education really is its own reward.

Law School Externships and Online Learning

While many universities have started to offer online-only or hybrid (much online; some on-site) degree programs, law schools have been slower.  Some of this is chicken-and-egg – the American Bar Association has not offered accreditation to any online-only programs and has seemed reluctant to do so.  In late 2013, it did agree to a 2015 pilot program with the ABA-accredited William Mitchell College of Law, to offer a hybrid program combining online and on-site education.

The National Law Journal reported that the ABA last week rejected a call to ease its ban on paid externships for law students – that is, what you know as “paid internships” in which the student receives both pay-for-work and academic credit. Law students who might go to Washington or New York for the summer, or who want to work in their field during the fall or spring semester, will be affected.  Critics charge that this most affects students who can not spend a summer working “for free” on Capitol Hill or elsewhere, or who must work during the school year and can not earn academic credit for that work, as their unpaid classmates can.

NLJ reported that removing the ban had been supported by the ABA’s Law Student Division but opposed by the Society of American Law Teachers and the Clinical Legal Education Association.

As law schools move toward online learning, this may affect many more students.  The importance of externships – both for education and for resume-building – could be especially critical for online-learning/distance-education students.  The ABA ban retains an important hurdle for future law students who will seek to combine valuable legal training and experience during the day while studying online at night.