In my two previous posts, I offered reviews of my experiences with a couple of Udacity MOOCs: CS101 (Intro to Computer Science) and CS253 (Web development). My experience with the former was really good, and the latter, not so much (despite having a like-able instructor and some good content). Based on my two data points, and having spent the last year following the MOOC and online education movements (Twitter streams, higher-ed analysis, research findings, hand-wringing pleas that MOOCs just go away, Thrun-loving hagiography), I’m now going to making sweeping and completely unverifiable pronouncements about the future of MOOCs. And they will be as accurate as any others you read, because everyone is guessing…Read More →

In a previous post, I laid out what I think are eight ingredients for a great massively open online course (MOOC). My ingredient list grew out of my experience taking two computer science courses through Udacity: CS101 (Intro to Computer Science) and CS253 (Web development). Here’s my more detailed take on the first of these two courses (CS101), using my eight ingredients as a framework.

A swimmingly good experience (Grade = A-)

My overall experience with this course was very positive, and I accomplished my goal (to learn Python). In general, I think it would be a great course for someone looking to learn a bit about programming. For me, it was also terrific as my first MOOC, and set a pretty high bar against which other MOOCs must compete.Read More →

Massively Open Online Courses (aka MOOCs) have been all the rage in the popular press and edtech publications for the last year, and not all the rage is positive. In an effort to gain a little perspective on the fractious debate (and learn Python in the process), I recently completed two MOOCs offered by Udacity: Introduction to Computer Science (CS101) and Web Development (CS253). While admittedly a small sample size, my experience with these two courses highlighted some of the promises and pitfalls in large-scale online learning.

As I thought about my experience taking the two Udacity MOOCs, and catalogued all of my comments, complaints and kudos, things generally fell into eight big buckets that can help answer the question, What makes for a great MOOC experience?Read More →


Online learning is experiencing what would appear to be its golden age (even though it’s been around for quite some time). Technologies have evolved to the point where it’s now possible to deliver engaging educational course content to hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously, in the context of an online "classroom" that supports questions, interactions, and exchange. In principle, all a student needs is Internet access, and the knowledge is there to grab. The technology platforms to deliver learning content in this way are becoming widely available, in many cases for free, which leads to an obvious conclusion: online learning content is going to explode. Anyone who wants to publish and has the means will.Read More →

PhotoSpin Office Imagery © 2001 PhotoSpin

Open is the new black in the world of education. From open educational resources (OERs) to massively open online courses (MOOCs) to Mozilla’s open badges initiative, there is tremendous excitement and buzz about how the philosophy of the open-source software movement might transform aspects of traditional education. As people explore these new frontiers, it’s useful to look back and see what lessons we might learn from the past. Eric Raymond’s seminal essay on open-source, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, is the best place to start.Read More →


This week saw the third-annual SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas; it’s an event that has grown rapidly since its inception, driven by the explosion of interest in the intersection between technology and education, and by the rising chorus of voices calling for educational improvement and reform. While smaller than its SXSW cousins (interactive, film, music), SXSWedu drew intelligent and passionate voices in education from around the world, across an array of topics. As someone relatively new to the edtech space, I found it to be an exciting and inspiring event, filled with thought-provoking content and interesting people.

In no particular order, here are some thoughts on the four days I spent in Austin with a great group of innovators and educators.Read More →


The third annual education conference at South by Southwest (SXSWedu) gets underway today, and it promises to be an exciting event filled with great ideas. The roster of speakers is global, and includes luminaries like Bill Gates, along with many other key players in the world of pedagogy and edtech entrepreneurship. Themes span the hot education topics of late (e.g., MOOCs, big data, Makerspaces), broader questions of policy and reform, and exploration of new approaches to effective teaching and how technology might help.Read More →


The Illusion of Agreement (via 37 Signals)

The educational world has its own shibboleth, and so do the worlds of policy and business. As these three worlds come into contact, the terminology and buzzwords used by each collide. People make assumptions that they are talking about the same thing, but in many cases they’re not. Educational establishments have language rooted in tradition (though even the terminology used between US and international educational systems is somewhat different). On the other hand, business people (especially those in startups) often seek terminology for the purposes of marketing, rather than precision, and it’s no different with the rise of edtech startups. One set of terminology that’s riddled with confusion is the language used to describe achievement.

In an effort to cut through the buzzwords and imprecise usage, here’s my objective take on the language of educational achievement.Read More →