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Archive for the ‘MOOC’ Category


According to analyst Josh Bersin, US companies spent well over $70 Billion for employee training in 2013. Analysts predict that amount is will be significantly greater in 2015.

These are the kinds of statistics one might expect C-suite executives to pay attention to. So it’s odd that they seem not to be paying much attention to the ROI for corporate training.

It’s abysmal.

PHOTO elephant in room

Leading experts have studied the subject at length; the statistics they provide differ. Some say there are too many variables to allow for “one-size-fits-all” statements about how much training is retained, and how quickly it is forgotten. They note the  variety of training goals and audiences receiving the training, as well as differences in training delivery methods.

Having said this, there is general agreement among experts in the field that that corporate training’s success rate is, shall I say, “poor.”

One of these experts is Dr. Art Kohn, who has done a great deal of work on “the forgetting curve” and its effect on training retention. He’s also the recipient of not one but two Fulbright Fellowships for work in Cognitive Psychology and Educational Technology. In a recent article in Learning Solutions, he wrote the following:

It is the dirty secret of corporate training: no matter how much you invest into training and development, nearly everything you teach to your employees will be forgotten…this investment is like pumping gas into a car that has a hole in the tank. All of your hard work simply drains away.

The fact is that this “dirty secret” is really not secret at all.

The research and resulting articles about this have been out there for years. Yet there’s not much evidence that corporae executives are acting upon it, despite its its obvious and critical importance to the bottom line.

Bersin’s research also shows an explosive growth in technology-driven training, including self-authored video, online communication channels, virtual learning, and MOOCs. Worldwide, formal classroom education, now accounts for less than half the total training “hours.”

According to Bersin, mobile devices are now used to deliver as much as 18% of all training among what he calls “highly advanced companies.”

Does this mean that employees are using their iPads to access Udemy courses? If so, is there a significant difference in retention rate for employees who have information presented by a live trainer while sitting in a room with 20 fellow workers… versus those who receive it on mobile phone the subway on the way home at night… compared to someone being trained via  iPad while sitting in the living room after the kids have been put to bed?

We won’t have statistics to provide answers to those questions for some time.

But corporations should be watching closely to see if new methods of delivering training result in a dramatic increase in retention among employees once they’re on the job — because if Kohn is right, even achieving a whopping 400% increase in retention will mean that after just one week, the average employee will still be retaining only about half of what is needed on-the-job.

That’s hardly a stunning success rate.

Research has made it abundantly clear that the basic premise that drives corporate training is fatally flawed.

It’s abundantly clear that the training corporations are currently providing to their employees  is not succeeding in providing them with the information they need to do their jobs properly the first time. So why does corporate America keep throwing good money after bad, trying to find a “patch” or download an “updated version”?

It’s as if a purple elephant with pink toenails is standing next to the coffee table and corporations are only willing to acknowledge that there’s an “unusual scent in the air.”

My next blog will give more compelling facts to show why a major change in corporate training is needed.

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ME2

I’ve been writing and talking about the idea of a Community of Learners for several years now and I just wanted to bring you up-to-date. It’s a reality, it’s huge, as big as the Earth itself and getting bigger …

WhooHoo! as my friend Sue likes to say … here are some quotes from two New York Times articles I just read:

First from Alison Smale, New York Times

 “We don’t know where the next Albert Einstein is,” said Daphne Koller, a computer science professor at Stanford who, with a colleague, Andrew Ng, introduced Coursera last spring. “Maybe she lives in a small village in Africa.”

“The Community of Learners from around the world is proof that the Internet as worldbrain is a reality. There really are no borders for learning anymore.

Sebastian Thrun, another Stanford computer science professor who introduced Udacity after seeing more than 160,000 students sign up for an online class on artificial intelligence in the fall of 2011, predicted that this kind of learning would eventually upend American and perhaps other Western academic institutions.

Enterprising academic institutions have taken the lead in online learning. Harvard and M.I.T., for instance, worked together to introduce EdX, which offers free online courses from each university, last year. About 753,000 students have enrolled, with India, Brazil, Pakistan and Russia among the top 10 countries from which people are participating.

Dr. Koller said the value of a postgraduate education, no matter where it was gained, was shifting fast. “We have passed the stage in history,” she said, “where what you learn in college can last you for a lifetime.” After 15 years, she added, that learning is “obsolete.””

And this is from Thomas L. Friedman also NYT

“Last May I wrote about Coursera — co-founded by the Stanford computer scientists Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng — just after it opened. Two weeks ago, I went back out to Palo Alto to check in on them. When I visited last May, about 300,000 people were taking 38 courses taught by Stanford professors and a few other elite universities. Today, they have 2.4 million students, taking 214 courses from 33 universities, including eight international ones.

Anant Agarwal, the former director of M.I.T.’s artificial intelligence lab, is now president of edX, a nonprofit MOOC that M.I.T. and Harvard are jointly building. Agarwal told me that since May, some 155,000 students from around the world have taken edX’s first course: an M.I.T. intro class on circuits. “That is greater than the total number of M.I.T. alumni in its 150-year history,” he said.

One member of the Coursera team who recently took a Coursera course on sustainability told me that it was so much more interesting than a similar course he had taken as an undergrad. The online course included students from all over the world, from different climates, incomes levels and geographies, and, as a result, “the discussions that happened in that course were so much more valuable and interesting than with people of similar geography and income level” in a typical American college.

Mitch Duneier, a Princeton sociology professor, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education in the fall about his experience teaching a class through Coursera: “A few months ago, just as the campus of Princeton University had grown nearly silent after commencement, 40,000 students from 113 countries arrived here via the Internet to take a free course in introductory sociology. … My opening discussion of C. Wright Mills’s classic 1959 book, ‘The Sociological Imagination,’ was a close reading of the text, in which I reviewed a key chapter line by line. I asked students to follow along in their own copies, as I do in the lecture hall. When I give this lecture on the Princeton campus, I usually receive a few penetrating questions. In this case, however, within a few hours of posting the online version, the course forums came alive with hundreds of comments and questions. Several days later there were thousands. … Within three weeks I had received more feedback on my sociological ideas than I had in a career of teaching, which significantly influenced each of my subsequent lectures and seminars.”

As we look to the future of higher education, said the M.I.T. president, L. Rafael Reif, something that we now call a “degree” will be a concept “connected with bricks and mortar” — and traditional on-campus experiences that will increasingly leverage technology and the Internet to enhance classroom and laboratory work. Alongside that, though, said Reif, many universities will offer online courses to students anywhere in the world, in which they will earn “credentials” — certificates that testify that they have done the work and passed all the exams. The process of developing credible credentials that verify that the student has adequately mastered the subject — and did not cheat — and can be counted on by employers is still being perfected by all the MOOCs. But once it is, this phenomenon will really scale.

I can see a day soon where you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world — some computing from Stanford, some entrepreneurship from Wharton, some ethics from Brandeis, some literature from Edinburgh — paying only the nominal fee for the certificates of completion. It will change teaching, learning and the pathway to employment. “There is a new world unfolding,” said Reif, “and everyone will have to adapt.”

What can I add except “WhooHoo!”

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learnmouse

Nobody likes change, and some people really hate it …

I suppose I should be happy. Two of my heroes, David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, both had recent articles about educational technology – MOOCs and Testing. Yet my joy has turned to consternation. Their articles have added fuel to a small but growing fire about education in general, and educational technology in particular. The theme seems to be that the machines are coming, the corporations are already here, public is morphing into private, it’s all about the money, and teachers are an endangered species.

Let’s back up a bit.

Here is what I read as a key part of David Brook’s piece The Practical University:

The best part of the rise of online education is that it forces us to ask: What is a university for? … My own stab at an answer would be that universities are places where young people acquire two sorts of knowledge, what the philosopher Michael Oakeshott called technical knowledge and practical knowledge… Practical knowledge is not about what you do, but how you do it. It is the wisdom a great chef possesses that cannot be found in recipe books. Practical knowledge is not the sort of knowledge that can be taught and memorized; it can only be imparted and absorbed. It is not reducible to rules; it only exists in practice.

The problem is that as online education becomes more pervasive, universities can no longer primarily be in the business of transmitting technical knowledge. Online offerings from distant, star professors will just be too efficient. As Ben Nelson of Minerva University points out, a school cannot charge students $40,000 and then turn around and offer them online courses that they can get free or nearly free. That business model simply does not work. There will be no such thing as a MOOC university.

 Nelson believes that universities will end up effectively telling students: “Take the following online courses over the summer or over a certain period, and then, when you’re done, you will come to campus and that’s when our job will begin.” If Nelson is right, then universities in the future will spend much less time transmitting technical knowledge and much more time transmitting practical knowledge.


The goal should be to use technology to take a free-form seminar and turn it into a deliberate seminar (I’m borrowing Anders Ericsson’s definition of deliberate practice). Seminars could be recorded with video-cameras, and exchanges could be reviewed and analyzed to pick apart how a disagreement was handled and how a debate was conducted. Episodes in one seminar could be replayed for another. Students could be assessed, and their seminar skills could be tracked over time.

So far, most of the talk about online education has been on technology and lectures, but the important challenge is technology and seminars. So far, the discussion is mostly about technical knowledge, but the future of the universities is in practical knowledge.

And here are some gems from Thomas Friedman’s My Little (Global) School:

There was a time when middle-class parents in America could be — and were — content to know that their kids’ public schools were better than those in the next neighborhood over. As the world has shrunk, though, the next neighborhood over is now Shanghai or Helsinki … imagine, in a few years, that you could sign on to a Web site and see how your school compares with a similar school anywhere in the world.

Well, that day has come, thanks to a successful pilot project involving 105 U.S. schools recently completed by Schleicher’s team at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which coordinates the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA test, and Jon Schnur’s team at America Achieves, which partnered with the O.E.C.D. Starting this fall, any high school in America will be able to benchmark itself against the world’s best schools, using a new tool that schools can register for at http://www.americaachieves.org. It is comparable to PISA and measures how well students can apply their mastery of reading, math and science to real world problems.

“If you look at all the data,” concluded Schnur, it’s clear that educational performance in the U.S. has not gone down. We’ve actually gotten a little better. The challenge is that changes in the world economy keep raising the bar for what our kids need to do to succeed. Our modest improvements are not keeping pace with this rising bar. Those who say we have failed are wrong. Those who say we are doing fine are wrong.” The truth is, America has world-beating K-12 schools. We just don’t have nearly enough.

Seems like these and other recent pieces have created a proverbial tempest in a teapot. The arguments seem to rest on this idea:  Testing and MOOCs are the spawn of Big Corporate America and have little to do with students learning or teacher’s teaching. Actually they are perceived as a threat to both. The underlying reasoning is the same for both. It boils down to the “facts” that testing and MOOCs reduce the person-to-person time, the opportunity for real discovery, lateral learning and whatever else is supposed to happen in the ideal classroom.

Here’s another quote from a piece I wrote last year that looks at the bigger picture:

Daphne Koller is a computer science professor at Stanford, and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow. She has been working for years to make online education more engaging and interactive.

“On the long term, I think the potential for this to revolutionize education is just tremendous,” Koller says. “There are millions of people around the world that have access only to the poorest quality of education or sometimes nothing at all.”

Technology could change that by making it possible to teach classes with 100,000 students as easily and as cheaply as a class with just 100. And if you look around the world, demand for education in places like South Africa is enormous.

Almost two weeks ago, at the University of Johannesburg, more than 20 people were injured and one woman was killed trying register for a limited number of openings. Thousands had camped out overnight hoping to snag one of the few available places and when the gates opened, there was a stampede.

Koller hopes that in the future, technology will help prevent these kinds of tragedies.

The point is this is NOT an either-or situation. Technology and Corporations have always played a part in education from making pencils to printing books. The educational goal has always been to prepare students for success in higher education and/or the workplace. The focus is always on providing the best education possible. It just seems to get harder and harder to reach. If you don’t believe me, look at the numbers for high school graduation or grade school STEM test comparisons with other countries.

When we were a little country in a big world, making our own things, driving the global school bus, it was perhaps okay to only get a minimal high school education or even to leave classes behind and go to work. That no longer makes sense. As Thomas Friedman says this is now a global school and we compete with the best and brightest from around the world. As David Brooks says it not an either-or situation, but a chance to see how we can bring the technology and the teachers together to make education better.

So to the critics who try and place the conversation into a black&white and either-or context all I can say is “gray”. It’s all about change and change is messy. Change is also an opportunity. Education is not only technology led by greedy corporations, seeing privatizing and testing as opportunities for making lots of money. It’s not about Silicon Valley taking over the world mind with MOOCs that replace colleges and universities. It about trying to keep ahead of the wave that has already started to break over America and the rest of the world.

Should education be for free? Should we stop testing students to try and raise the overall standards of learning and preparedness? I have no final answers, only an interest in the ongoing conversation, and the forward motion that provides the best outcomes.

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