Recommended Reading: ED Clarifies Its Intent on State Authorization Reciprocity

Last year Russ Poulin from WCET and I wrote an essay for Inside Higher Ed (also published at e-Literate) describing and countering attempts by the Century Foundation and other activists who were arguing against the State A

A coalition of consumer groups, legal aid organizations and unions object to the state of New York joining an agreement that would change how colleges offering distance education courses in the state would be regulated. As coalition members asserted in an Inside Higher Ed article, the state would be ceding its authority to other states. Students would be left with no protection from predatory colleges and it would make it easier for “bad actors to take advantage of students and harder for states to crack down on them.”

That all sounds ominous. It would be, if it were true.

The story has taking a series of dramatic turns. First, New York state did join SARA. But in a surprise move in the final regulatory language from the Department of Education (ED), they included language proposed by the Massachusetts AG and supported by the Century Foundation that appeared to undermine the concept of reciprocity. Most analysts and insiders, including WCET and SARA themselves came to the same conclusion that Massachusetts’ AG did – SARA and the concept of reciprocity agreements would not survive as long as the regulation survived. In a surprise move, however, anonymous staffers at ED called Russ Poulin (the person to follow on this subject), letting him know that their intent is not at all to undermine SARA. Continue reading

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The Intended Consequences of California’s Online Education Initiative

Last month we presented two explainer videos on the growing usage of course exchanges, where multiple institutions pool resources in creating or extending online courses.[1] If online courses or programs breaks down the barriers of campus walls and enables anytime, anywhere education, then why not explore how collaboration can open up access and improve quality. While we tend to not write e-Literate about our consulting work through MindWires, in this case we have heard a general interest from other systems to learn more about what the California Online Education Initiative (OEI) at the community college system is doing.

The first two videos explored the concept of course exchanges in general and the required infrastructure needed to create them. In our third explainer video from this series we go back to the OEI to look at how their investment in academic infrastructure should provide benefits that go well beyond the courses and students participating in the course exchange. This extension of benefits, however, was not a surprise to those creating OEI; rather, these broader benefits represent the intended consequences of their approach to collaborative online education.

(Video source:

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  1. Disclosure: Our e-Literate TV series of video case studies and explainer videos is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. []
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Chan/Zuckerberg: The “Tech” is not the Hard Part in “Ed Tech”

Phil and I were recently interviewed by KQED’s Sarah Tan for a story about the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Summit platform. As often happens when our comments are just one bit of a larger story—particularly when we are asked to provide a more critical external perspective as a check on the enthusiastic reports of a project’s participants—some interesting parts of the interview conversation inevitably ended up on the cutting room floor. Ms. Tan was kind enough to grant us permission to repurpose some of the source material from the interview for this blog post.

To be clear, Phil and I have no direct experience with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and have only seen the publicly available information on the Summit platform that it has released (although we both took some time to review that information carefully in advance of the interview). The value of the conversation snippet we provide here is in answering the questions, “Even if you think an ed tech platform seems well designed and the creators seem well intentioned, why might it fail anyway? And while we’re at it, how should we even define success?” These are questions that rarely get asked and answered clearly in discussions about ed tech, including in much ed tech research.

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Recommended Reading: Realistic Hopes for a Genuine Science of Learning

Keith Devlin is a professor of mathematics at Stanford who has taken a keen interest in mathematics education. He is particularly interested in how people learn and what constitutes effective teaching. As a side note, e-Literate interviewed Keith as part of the MOOC Research Initiative in 2013.[1] In his response to a question posed by the Edge last year, “2016: What do you consider the most interesting (recent) scientific news? What makes it important?”, Devlin argues that learning researchers are in the early, but momentous, stages of establishing a genuine science of learning. What has made this possible now is the application new research techniques enabled by the internet and online learning technologies:

“The problem that has traditionally beset learning research has been its essential dependence on the individual teacher, which makes it near impossible to run the kinds of large scale, control group, intervention studies that are par-for-the-course in medicine. Classroom studies invariably end up as studies of the teacher as much as of the students, and often measure the effect of the students’ home environment rather than what goes on in the classroom.”

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  1. Disclosure: Our e-Literate TV series of video case studies and explainer videos is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. []
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Top e-Literate Blog Posts From 2016

It’s the new year, and I need to clean out my inbox and do actual work this week. What a perfect time to procrastinate and share some year-in-review info for e-Literate. We changed our email service for e-Literate in early April, and for the first time we’re realizing how much of our readership comes from the listserv and from people forwarding the emails (we provide full-text sharing of posts through an RSS feed to MailChimp). We’ll share two lists – the most-viewed e-Literate posts based on website visits, and the most viewed posts based on email opens. Note that the the latter started in April. Note – I have added the year published for the first list and an asterisk for those posts since April 2016 to help with comparisons to Email Listserv rankings.

Top 15 Most-Read Blog Posts – Website

For this list I’m using Google Analytics summary of total page views.

  1. How Much Do College Students Actually Pay For Textbooks? (2015)
  2. Blackboard Replaces CEO Jay Bhatt: What happened (2016)
  3. Scriba Disaster: Sakai-based LMS for UC Davis is down with no plans for recovery (2016) *
  4. What is a Learning Platform? (2012)
  5. PEARSONalized Learning (2016) *
  6. LearningStudio and OpenClass End-Of-Life: Pearson is getting out of LMS market (2016)
  7. Online Program Management: A view of the market landscape (2016) *
  8. The Great Unbundling of Textbook Publishers (2016) *
  9. State of the US Higher Education LMS Market: 2015 Edition (2015)
  10. Schoology: The strongest LMS you’ve never seen (2016) *
  11. State of Higher Ed LMS Market for US and Canada: Spring 2016 Edition (2016) *
  12. What Faculty Should Know About Adaptive Learning (2013)
  13. Update: LMS Usage In Large Online Programs (Top 50 in US) (2016) *
  14. Instructurecon 2016: Why This Company is Still Formidable (and Misunderstood) (2016) *
  15. What Blackboard’s New CEO Needs to Do Now (and how you can tell if he’s doing it) (2016)

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