Planet Sakai

January 24, 2015

Michael Feldstein

Is Standardized Testing a Pediatric Disease?

In my last post, I wrote about the tension between learning, with the emphasis on the needs and progress of individual human learners, and education, which is the system by which we try to guarantee learning to all but which we often subvert in our well-meaning but misguided attempts to measure whether we are delivering that learning. I spent a lot of time in that post exploring research by Gallup regarding the workplace performance of adults, various dimensions of personal wellbeing, and the links of both to each other and to college experiences. One of Gallup’s findings were that workers who are disengaged with their work are less healthy. They are more likely to get clinically depressed, more likely to get heart conditions, and more likely to die young. I then made a connection between disengaged adults and disengaged students. What I left implicit was that if being disengaged as an adult is bad for one’s health, it stands to reason that being disengaged as a child is also bad for one’s health. We could be literally making our children sick with schooling.

I am in the midst of reading Anya Kamenetz’s new book The Test. It has convinced me that I need to take some time making the connection explicit.

In that previous post, I wrote,

Also, people who love their jobs are more likely to both stay working longer and live longer. In a study George Gallup conducted in the 1950s,

…men who lived to see 95 did not retire until they were 80 years old on average. Even more remarkable, 93% of these men reported getting a great deal of satisfaction out of the work they did, and 86% reported having fun doing their job.

Conversely, a 2008 study the company found a link between employee disengagement and depression:

We measured their engagement levels and asked them if they had ever been diagnosed with depression. We excluded those who reported that they had been diagnosed with depression from our analysis. When we contacted the remaining panel members in 2009, we again asked them if they had been diagnosed with depression in the last year. It turned out that 5% of our panel members (who had no diagnosis of depression in 2008) had been newly diagnosed with depression. Further, those who were actively disengaged in their careers in 2008 were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression over the next year. While there are many factors that contribute to depression, being disengaged at work appears to be a leading indicator of a subsequent clinical diagnosis of depression.

Which is obviously bad for employer and employee alike.

In some cases, Gallup went all in with physiological studies. For example, they “recruited 168 employees and studied their engagement, heart rate, stress levels, and various emotions throughout the day,” using heart rate monitors, saliva samples, and handheld devices that surveyed employees on their activities and feelings of the moment at various points in the day.

After reviewing all of these data, it was clear that when people who are engaged in their jobs show up for work, they are having an entirely different experience than those who are disengage. [Emphasis in original.] For those who were engaged, happiness and interest throughout the day were significantly higher. Conversely, stress levels were substantially higher for those who were disengaged. Perhaps most strikingly, disengaged workers’ stress levels decreased and their happiness increased toward the end of the workday….[P]eople with low engagement…are simply waiting for the workday to end.

From here, the authors go on to talk about depression and heart attacks and all that bad stuff that happens to you when you hate that job. But there was one other striking passage at the beginning of this section:

Think back to when you were in school sitting through a class in which you had very little interest. Perhaps you eyes were fixed on the clock or you were staring blankly into space. You probably remember the anticipation of waiting for the bell to ring so you could get up from your desk and move on to whatever was next. More than two-thirds of workers around the world experience a similar feeling by the end of a typical workday.

I then went on to a point about preparing students to be engaged workers, but it’s worth pausing here and thinking for a moment. Schooling is the model, the archetype, for the workplace experience that literally causes people to lead shorter, sadder, sicker lives. Is that hyperbole? Is it a caricature of modern schooling? Actually, thanks to the current American obsession with standardized testing, the stereotype may actually understate the case.

In The Test, Kamenetz quotes the blog of a Chicago parent who had assisted her daughter’s class with computer-based testing. On the way home from the second day (?!) of testing, her daughter broke down in the car:

“I just can’t do this,” she sobbed. The ill-fitting headsets, the hard-to-hear instructions, the uncooperative mouse, the screen going to command modes, not being able to get clarification when she asked for it….It took just two days of standardized testing to doubt herself. “I’m just not smart, Mom. Not like everyone else. I’m just no good at kindergarten, just no good at all.”

I have read this paragraph a half dozen times now, and I still can’t get through it without tearing up.

Kamenetz then goes on to say that teacher and parents throughout the United States—especially the ones with elementary school-aged children—“report students throwing up, staying home with stomach aches, locking themselves in the bathroom, crying, having nightmares, and otherwise acting out on test days.”

A bit later in the book, she writes about a couple of Great Depression-era researchers named Harold Skeels and Harold Dye. They took a couple of one-year-old babies in an orphanage who had tested as “moderately to severely retarded” and moved them to a ward for mentally disabled young women, because the children were viewed as hopeless cases. Fourteen and sixteen months old, these girls were already discarded. But what happened next was anything but what the researchers expected. The girls became adopted by the residents and attendants of the ward. Kamenetz notes, “After just six months their IQ scores had improved to 77 and 87, and a few months after that their scores had climbed into the mid-90s, near average levels.”

The researchers were so taken aback that they repeated the experiment, bringing 13 “retarded” one- and two-year-old girls from orphanages to the adult women’s institution, where they were given foster mothers there.

According to an article discussing the case, the toddlers at the adult women’s home had toys bought for them by the attendants and clothes made for them by the residents. Their “mothers” cheerfully competed over which ones could be made to walk and talk first.

Meanwhile, a control group of supposedly low-IQ girls stayed at the orphanage, presumably living under the conditions one imagines in the kind of orphanage that would let some of its children be condemned to live out their lives in a mental institution when they were just 14 months old. What were the results?

The children [who were transferred to the mental institution] remained on the ward for a mean of nineteen months. All but two of the eleven gained more than 15 IQ points during that time. Once they tested at average intelligence they were moved to regular foster homes. A year after the experiment ended, of the thirteen original children, none was still classified as “feeble-minded.” At the first follow-up two and a half years later, in 1943, the mean IQ of the experimental group was exactly average, 101.4. Meanwhile the control group left at the orphanage had shown “marked deterioration” and now had an average IQ of 66.1, down from 86 at the beginning of the study.

Staying in the orphanage was actually more harmful to the young girls that putting them in an adult mental institution. This was not a short-term difference, either. In the 1960s, the researchers followed up with the girls from the original study.

Of the thirteen girls who had been adopted, first informally by developmentally disabled women[1] in the institution and then by families in the outside world, all of them were self-supporting. Eleven of them were married. They had a mean of 11.68 years of education. They earned an average wage of $4,224, which was in the range of average annual earnings for men in Iowa, their home state—not bad for a group of women from an institutional background in the 1960s.

Of the twelve girls in the control group, only four of them had jobs, all of them working in the institutions where they lived. Only three had been married. On average they had less than four years of schooling. The cost savings to the state for rescuing the girls who went on to live healthy, productive lives was approximately $200 million in today’s dollars.

Anya’s primary point for telling this story is to review the history of evidence that standardized tests are poor predictors of human potential. But the story is also a compelling illustration of the long-term harm to health and wellbeing that we do to humans when we subject them to inhumane conditions (and, on a more hopeful note, how just a little bit of human love and understanding can be so transformative in a person’s life). Note that the Gallup research shows long-term health effects for work situations that are likely a lot less stressful than those of living in a Depression-era orphanage and almost certainly not worse than the kind of stress that Chicago kindergartener endured.

As I was pondering this story, I was reminded of FDA Commissioner David Kessler. (Bear with me on this.) Kessler successfully argued that nicotine addiction is a pediatric disease based on the long-term harm that it does to children. On that basis, he was able to establish that regulating tobacco falls under the purview of the FDA and was therefore able to put a collar on the powerful tobacco industry and regulate it for the first time. Given the severe and long-term stress that American children endure today due to a testing regime that takes up to 25% of students’ total schooling time, I wonder whether similarly compelling evidence could be gathered showing that forcing students to endure endless rounds of high-stakes standardized testing has effects analogous to long-term exposure to hazardous waste.

  1. Michael’s note: Given the rest of the story that Anya is telling here, it makes one wonder how many of those women were really developmentally disabled.

The post Is Standardized Testing a Pediatric Disease? appeared first on e-Literate.

by Michael Feldstein at January 24, 2015 08:09 PM

January 22, 2015

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE Accessibility Review

Are you reading this post with your eyes? To most of you, that probably sounds like a really strange question. For over six million people in the United States alone, however, the answer is not "Yes." That's how many adults have a visual disability, and for them the web is a completely different world than it is for those of us with full sight. That world is no less important, though, and in the OAE Project we want to make the Open Academic Environment a welcome environment for everyone, including those with visual and other disabilities.

The OAE's user interface has always included many features for the disabled, most of which are (deliberately) invisible to users that don't need them. We've designed and developed those features by careful attention to standards and best practices. All members of the core development team are fully abled, however, so we don't have all of the insights necessary to ensure that the OAE provides the best possible accessibility. Beginning with the Ibis release that's changing.

In the fall of 2014 we started working with WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind), a leading specialist in accessibility within the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. The experts at WebAIM spent many weeks using and evaluating the OAE and prepared an initial report with many recommended improvements. The recommendations from that report are captured as specific issues for the OAE project's front end software, and we're dedicating resources to addressing them. Nearly a dozen improvements have already been incorporated into the Ibis release. We're continuing development on the remaining issues, and future OAE releases will include more accessibility features.

Working with the experts from WebAIM has been an amazing opportunity for the OAE development team. Standards and best practice checklists are helpful for ensuring accessibility, but they can't come close to replacing the guidance of real, expert users. Perhaps the most important lesson we've learned is that achieving outstanding accessibility requires thinking carefully about the OAE user interface as a whole and not just as a collection of individual widgets. 

As a specific example, consider the thumbnail images associated with many aspects of the OAE. You can see them with user comments.

Because users relying on screen readers cannot "see" thumbnail images, previous OAE versions added a special, hidden label to those images. The label contained the name of the user making the comment. Although this added label was invisible to sighted users, screen readers would detect it and read it aloud as a substitute for the image. This behavior conforms to relevant standards and checklists, and, before our work with WebAIM, we thought that it helped make the OAE more accessible. 

What we learned from working with WebAIM, though, is how much context matters. It turns out, as in the screen capture above, that almost every time the OAE displays a thumbnail image it also displays text with the user's name right next to the image. That text is in the form of a link, and screen readers also read links aloud. When a screen reader encountered an OAE comment, therefore, it would first read aloud the user's name from the hidden label, and then it would immediately read aloud the user's name again, this time from the text link. This needless repetition was quite annoying, especially for pages with many comments. The hidden label that we added in an attempt to improve accessibility turns out, in many cases, to have actually made the experience worse.

As we continue our work with WebAIM, there will certainly be other cases that overturn our preconceptions. And when we encounter those cases, we'll gladly adjust our assumptions so that the OAE becomes the most accessible platform possible.

And finally, if you are reading this post with your ears instead of your eyes, please let us know how we're doing. We truly do want to make the Open Academic Environment as enjoyable for you as it is for everyone else.

by Nicolaas Matthijs at January 22, 2015 03:51 PM

January 21, 2015

Adam Marshall

WebLearn is now using data from SITS

Credit https://www.flickr.com/photos/kali-ma/123323729/

At 6pm on Friday 16th January 2015,  WebLearn  switched over to using “Course Groups” that originate from Tribal SITS instead of OSS; in other words, WebLearn has switched over to using Oxford’s new student record system. Due to circumstances beyond our control there are a very small number of changes in the membership of some of course-based Participant Groups.

The migration work involved mapping old OSS course codes to new SITS course codes and revealed that there is actually not a one-to-one mapping of courses between the two systems. As an example, where there used to be ‘Course X’ there may now be two courses: ‘Course X (full-time)’ and ‘Course X (part-time)’; there are also other more extreme examples.

If you couple this with the inevitable minor differences that have crept in when migrating course data between OSS and SITS, you can see how the membership of some of the new SITS-based “Course Groups” may differ from the groups that they replace. Most groups are identical; for groups which are not identical, the difference is only one or two group members.

Unit Groups, ie, members of departments, faculties and colleges are unchanged as they do not originate from SITS.

If any students make contact and complain that they no longer have access to one or more WebLearn sites, then we would urge you to check that the Participant Group(s) contain the correct members. If they do not then you should contact the WebLearn team and report the anomaly.

by Adam Marshall at January 21, 2015 04:57 PM

January 19, 2015

Adam Marshall

WebLearn Transferred to New Resilient Hardware

wl-goldOn Saturday 10th January 2015, WebLearn was moved to brand new hardware which is distributed over two physical locations. This was a major undertaking and is the culmination of a number of months of work by both the WebLearn and Infrastructure and Hosting teams within IT Services.

WebLearn is now located in both Banbury Road and the University Shared Data Centre and will ultimately have duplicated database and search servers plus four worker nodes each running two virtual machines. The worker nodes are located behind a Citrix NetScaler Application Delivery Controller which ensures an even distribution of load across all workers – there are actually two of these machines in case the primary machine fails.

The WebLearn file store is also duplicated over two sites.

This new infrastructure will be more resilient than the previous set up due to the hardware duplication, co-location and move to a higher number of (virtual) workers each supporting a smaller number of users.

by Adam Marshall at January 19, 2015 12:43 PM

January 18, 2015

Michael Feldstein

About Inside Higher Ed Selling Majority Stake

Update 1/21: See link and blurb at bottom of post from new Editor’s Note at Inside Higher Ed.

Last week the Huffington Post ran an article by David Halperin breaking the news that the private equity firm Quad Partners had acquired a controlling interest in Inside Higher Ed.

Quad Partners, a New York private equity firm that is invested heavily in the for-profit college industry, and whose founder has aggressively opposed regulation of that troubled industry, has acquired a controlling stake in the respected trade publication Inside Higher Ed (IHE), which often reports on for-profit colleges and the policy disputes surrounding them. There has been no public announcement, but the Quad Partners website now lists Inside Higher Ed as one of its investments, among a range of education-related companies, including for-profit trade schools Beckfield College, Blue Cliff College, Dorsey Schools, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and Marinello Schools of Beauty.

Doug Lederman, one of IHE’s two top editors, confirmed to me that Quad purchased a majority interest in IHE in November.

Quad Partner James Tieng is now an IHE board member. Quad also owns the influential college admissions management company Noel-Levitz and other education technology companies that contract with colleges and universities — another sector that IHE covers.

The rest of the article then goes full conspiracy theory, building off the for-profit connection of both Quad Partners and its founder. Halperin seems to believe mere indirect association with for-profits is evil and compromising in and of itself rather than finding any changes or compromises in IHE coverage.

The bigger issue in my mind was described by Keith Button at Education Dive.

While the list of potential conflicts of interest in such a sale is long, the fact that the deal wasn’t announced and the potential news coverage issues weren’t publicly addressed up-front raises more questions.

This issue of disclosure was partially addressed in the original article:

“I would expect people to be watching us” in light of this purchase, says Lederman. “Our credibility is hugely important to us, and ultimately it will rise or fall on the nature and tenor of our coverage.” He says IHE will go on as before: “The proof will be in what we publish.” If there are significant references in IHE to specific Quad-owned companies, the publication will disclose the relationship.

In my mind, IHE made a serious mistake by not publicizing the acquisition back in November and issuing a blanket disclosure. I don’t fault them for selling the controlling stake in the company, especially given the lack of a paywall. But I do fault them for not realizing how the lack of disclosure created the opportunity for a advocate to publicly challenge them. It’s actually ironic to see a full-fledged advocate (Halperin writes extensively attacking the for-profit sector as part of his funding and openly calls himself an advocate) require 100% pure financial independence for IHE.

There are two types of disclosure that are relevant – a blanket disclosure announcing a key event such as the sale of the majority of company shares, proactively distributed and available; and article-specific disclosures if IHE articles reference companies tied to their owners. IHE seems to be relying on the latter, but their credibility will take a hit by not doing the former.

IHE was caught off guard by the Huffington Post article, and they seem to have quickly put up an Ownership Statement on the same day the article ran (Jan 14th).

Inside Higher Ed is an independent journalism organization. The journalistic independence is critical in ensuring the fairness and thoroughness of our higher education coverage.

Inside Higher Ed Inc. is owned by its three founders, other individual investors, and Quad Partners, a private equity firm that invests in the education space. Quad purchased a controlling share of Inside Higher Ed in November 2014 from a group of venture capital firms that invested in the company originally a decade earlier.

Owners of Inside Higher Ed stock who are not editors play no role in the editorial policies of the company.

The problem is the following:

  • This statement comes across as a reaction to Halperin – you got us – leading to the appearance that IHE had something to hide; and
  • IHE has done little to actually disclose this ownership, as the statement is only linked on the About Us page and Doug Lederman’s page (no articles or prominent placement of significant news event).

I read and research quite a bit of higher ed news and it took me a while to find this statement, despite the fact that I was specifically looking for information. With the current placement, very few people would have seen it.

This news is relevant, more for the Quad Partners ownership of Noel-Levitz than for their ownership of Marinello Schools of Beauty. Higher ed enrollment in the US has been declining the past 2 years, and this change is shaping up to be one of the biggest drivers of change initiatives for institutions and associated markets. There might be no other organization with more influential on enrollment management than Noel-Levitz. In the past 12 months Inside Higher Ed has written eight articles where Noel-Levitz plays an important role, and this prominent Fortune article profiling the company states:

Noel-Levitz might be the most influential force in higher education pricing that you’ve never heard of, empowering what’s become a three-stage, market-distorting game for college administrators.

Readers should know about the ownership connection given the importance of enrollment management and college pricing, and readers should not have to find this if and only if they read an article with direct references.

Do I believe that Quad Partners has or will change IHE coverage, especially on enrollment management and pricing? No. In my experience, IHE’s leadership and the reporters I’ve dealt with have been very ethical and honest. Furthermore:

Lederman says that at the insistence of IHE, the purchase agreement includes a clause that precludes Quad Partners from any involvement in editorial operations. IHE was launched by Lederman and two co-founders in 2004, with a modest investment from three Washington DC-area venture funds, including the owners of the lead generation company Double Positive. Those three investors, who sold their shares to Quad in November, also had no role in editorial operations, says Lederman.

IHE does a great job covering important stories in higher ed, including a watch dog role of exposing problems that arise. We need them to be trusted, and they should quickly correct the mistake. My unsolicited advise:

  • Write an article disclosing the sale and linking to the Ownership Statement – don’t make this information hard to find;
  • Quote a portion of the purchase agreement clause in the article to clarify their statement of editorial independence; and
  • Create a separate page of editorial policies.

Update 1/19: In a separate Education Dive post from the weekend:

A top editor of Inside Higher Ed said Friday that, in hindsight, he wished there had been more transparency about the sale of the publication’s controlling interest to a private equity firm that has invested heavily in for-profit education.

“We were founded without any support, then we had one set of investors and we had never said anything about them,” Scott Jaschik, an Inside Higher Ed founder and editor, told Education Dive. “In hindsight, I wish we had, because clearly this is of interest to people.” [snip]

“I guess I would just say to anyone who has questions, read us and read our coverage and call me if you think we’re doing anything that we shouldn’t,” he said.

Excellent work by Education Dive, by the way. As for IHE, I still think they would benefit from a blanket disclosure.

Update 1/21: Inside Higher Ed has now posted a full blanket disclosure note. Good for them.

Some of you may have seen some recent blog posts and discussion on Twitter or elsewhere about Inside Higher Ed Inc.’s ownership status. We wanted you to have more information directly from us. [snip]

In November 2014, Quad Partners, a private equity firm that invests in numerous companies in the education space, including some small for-profit colleges, bought a controlling interest in our company by purchasing shares of Inside Higher Ed Inc.’s stock from our previous investors.

Quad intends to help Inside Higher Ed expand its staff, extend its reach, and improve its coverage and services. Its goal is to help Inside Higher Ed do what it does better. And yes, like all investors, it wants to make money.

Owners of Inside Higher Ed Inc. stock who are not editors play no role in the editorial policies of the company. Quad acknowledged explicitly in its agreement to invest in Inside Higher Ed Inc. that it would be precluded from any involvement in editorial operations.

The post About Inside Higher Ed Selling Majority Stake appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at January 18, 2015 07:20 AM

January 16, 2015

Adam Marshall

Short WebLearn Downtime 6pm Friday 16th January (Today)

We are planning to restart the WebLearn service at 6pm today, it is
estimated that WebLearn will be unavailable for 10 minutes.

This is to transition the course based groups provided in WebLearn to
ones provisioned from SITS data.

Apologies for the sort notice and having to perform this outside the
normal maintenance window.

by Matthew Buckett at January 16, 2015 04:00 PM

January 15, 2015

Sakai Project

2015 Webinar Series

Webinars will use Big Blue Button. Choose Apereo Room 1, enter your name and the password apereo at -

http://apereo.blindsidenetworks.net/apereo/

Schedule:

January 15, 2015 07:04 PM

Apereo OAE Ibis (10.0) is now available!

The Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE) project team is excited to
announce the tenth major release of the Apereo Open Academic
Environment; OAE Ibis or OAE 10.

January 15, 2015 06:58 PM

Apereo OAE

Apereo OAE Ibis is now available!

The Apereo Open Academic Environment (OAE) project team is excited to announce the tenth major release of the Apereo Open Academic Environment; OAE Ibis or OAE 10.

OAE Ibis brings the ability for institutions to completely customise the content and look of their tenant landing page. OAE Ibis also implements a detailed user tracking framework and brings the long-awaited full-text indexing and searching feature. Next to that, OAE Ibis also ships a range of other search improvements and a large number of accessibility improvements.

Changelog

Customisable tenant landing pages

OAE Ibis makes it possible for institutions to completely customise their tenant landing page, allowing them to appropriately contextualise their tenancy, present themselves and explain the main purpose of the tenancy.

Tenant administrators are able to add any number of text, video and image blocks to the landing page, set their styling and determine their width on different devices, allowing for a fully responsive landing page to be configured. All configured text can also be fully internationalised.

We are already looking forward to seeing what the institutions will come up! We'll definitely publish a list of the best ones in an upcoming blog post.

User tracking

OAE Ibis introduces a detailed user tracking framework to provide a complete overview of how OAE is being used. Using an integration with a 3rd party service called Mixpanel, OAE can now keep track of almost all usage-related information: how many users have signed in, how many content items have been created and what is their distribution in visibility, how many comments were added, how many public groups are there and how does this evolve over time, etc.

This provides a solid basis for making product decisions based on real usage data and opens the door to performing A-B testing on new features. In a future release, we will also be providing this information to tenant administrators to give them a complete overview of how and how actively their tenancy is being used.

Full-text indexing

Following numerous rounds of performance testing, OAE Ibis brings the long-awaited arrival of full-text indexing and searching. The full content of all uploaded PDF, Office and text files will now be indexed and included in searches, making it a lot easier to find the content you're looking for or discover interesting new content.

Accessibility improvements

As the first step in the process of trying to obtain a WCAG 2.0 accessibility certification for OAE, a full external accessibility review of the OAE software has been undertaken by WebAIM. They delivered a review document containing a list of recommended accessibility improvements, which is something we'll be publishing and discussing in an upcoming blog post.

OAE Ibis includes accessibility improvements for the most critical issues that were identified in the review, with more accessibility improvements planned for upcoming releases.

Search improvements

Next to providing full-text searching, OAE Ibis also introduces a number of additional search improvements.

When searching for people, there will now be a slight bias towards people from your own institution. This should make it easier to find the people you're looking for, and is the first step towards making further improvements in this area.

Searches in content and discussion libraries will now also include the text of the comments and discussions posts, making it easier to find the content item or discussion you're looking for.

Try it out

OAE Ibis can be tried out on the project's QA server at http://oae.oae-qa0.oaeproject.org. It is worth noting that this server is actively used for testing and will be wiped and redeployed every night.

The source code has been tagged with version number 10.0.0 and can be downloaded from the following repositories:

Back-end: https://github.com/oaeproject/Hilary/tree/10.0.0
Front-end: https://github.com/oaeproject/3akai-ux/tree/10.0.0

Documentation on how to install the system can be found at https://github.com/oaeproject/Hilary/blob/10.0.0/README.md.

Instruction on how to upgrade an OAE installation from version 9 to version 10 can be found at https://github.com/oaeproject/Hilary/wiki/OAE-Upgrade-Guide.

The repository containing all deployment scripts can be found at https://github.com/oaeproject/puppet-hilary.

Get in touch

The project website can be found at http://www.oaeproject.org. The project blog will be updated with the latest project news from time to time, and can be found at http://www.oaeproject.org/blog.

The mailing list used for Apereo OAE is oae@apereo.org. You can subscribe to the mailing list at https://groups.google.com/a/apereo.org/d/forum/oae.

Bugs and other issues can be reported in our issue tracker at https://github.com/oaeproject/3akai-ux/issues.

by Nicolaas Matthijs at January 15, 2015 02:47 PM

January 09, 2015

Sakai Project

Open Apereo 2015 CFP Deadline Approaching Fast!

 Time flies! The call for proposals for Open Apereo 2015 (#apereo15) is open and the deadline for early submission is only a couple weeks away!

January 09, 2015 09:23 PM

January 06, 2015

Michael Feldstein

No Discernible Growth in US Higher Ed Online Learning

By 2015, 25 million post-secondary students in the United States will be taking classes online. And as that happens, the number of students who take classes exclusively on physical campuses will plummet, from 14.4 million in 2010 to just 4.1 million five years later, according to a new forecast released by market research firm Ambient Insight.

- Campus Technology, 2011

On the positive side, Moody’s notes that the U.S. Department of Education projects a 20-percent growth in master’s degrees and a 9-percent growth in associate degrees, opportunities in both online education and new certificate programs, and a rising earnings premium for those with college degrees.

- Chronicle of Higher Ed, 2014

Q.  How likely would it be that this fraction [% students taking online courses] would grow to become a majority of students over the next five years? A [from institutional academic leaders]. Nearly two-thirds responded that this was “Very likely,” with an additional one-quarter calling it “Likely.” [That’s almost 90% combined]

- Grade Change, Babson Survey 2013

More than two-thirds of instructors (68 percent) say their institutions are planning to expand their online offerings, but they are split on whether or not this is a good idea (36 percent positive, 38 percent negative, 26 percent neutral).

- Inside Higher Ed 2014

Still, the [disruptive innovation] theory predicts that, be it steam or online education, existing consumers will ultimately adopt the disruption, and a host of struggling colleges and universities — the bottom 25 percent of every tier, we predict — will disappear or merge in the next 10 to 15 years.

- Clayton Christensen in NY Times 2013

You could be forgiven for assuming that the continued growth of online education within US higher ed was a foregone conclusion. We all know it’s happening; the questions is how to adapt to the new world.

But what if the assumption is wrong? Based on the official Department of Education / NCES new IPEDS data for Fall 2013 term, for the first time there has been no discernible growth in postsecondary students taking at least one online course in the US.

From 2002 through 2013 the most reliable measure of this metric has been the Babson Survey Research Group (BSRG) annual reporting. While there are questions on absolute numbers due to questions on definition of what makes a course “online”, the year-over-year growth numbers have been quite reliable and are the most-referenced numbers available. Starting last year, using Fall 2012 data, the official IPEDS data started tracking online education, and last week they put out Fall 2013 data – allowing year-over-year changes.

I shared the recent overall IPEDS data in this post, noting the following:

By way of comparison, it is worth noting the similarities to the Fall 2012 data. The percentage data (e.g. percent of a sector taking exclusive / some / no DE courses) has not changed by more than 1% (rounded) in any of the data. This unfortunately makes the problems with IPEDS data validity all the more important.

It will be very interesting to see the Babson Survey Research Group data that is typically released in January. While Babson relies on voluntary survey data, as opposed to mandatory federal data reporting for IPEDS, their report should have better longitudinal validity. If this IPEDS data holds up, then I would expect the biggest story for this year’s Babson report to be the first year of no significant growth in online education since the survey started 15 years ago.

I subsequently found out that BSRG is moving this year to use the IPEDS data for online enrollment. So we already have the best data available, and there is no discernible growth. Nationwide there are just 77,493 more students taking at least one online class, a 1.4% increase.

Y-o-Y Analysis

Why The Phrase “No Discernible Growth”?

Even though there was a nationwide increase of 77,493 students taking at least one online course, representing a 1.4% growth, there is too much noise in the data for this to be considered real growth. Even with the drop in total enrollment, the percentage of students taking at least one online course only changed from 26.4% TO 27.1%.

Just take one school – Suffolk County Community College – who increased by roughly 21,600 student enrollments taking at least one online course from 2012 to 2013 due to a change in how they report data and not from actual enrollment increases. More than a quarter of the annual nationwide increase can be attributed to this one reporting change[1]. These and similar issues are why I use the phrase “no discernible growth” – the year-over-year changes are now lower than the ability of our data collection methods to accurately measure.

Combine Babson and IPEDS Growth Data

While we should not directly compare absolute numbers, it is reasonable to combine the BSRG year-over-year historical growth data (2003 – 2012) with the new IPEDS data (2012 – 2013).

Y-o-Y Growth Chart

One thing to notice is that is really a long-term trend of declining growth in online. With the release of last year’s BSRG report they specifically called out this trend.

The number of additional students taking at least one online course continued to grow at a rate far in excess of overall enrollments, but the rate was the lowest in a decade.

What has not been acknowledged or fully understood is the significance of this rate hitting zero, at least within the bounds of the noise in data collection.

Implications

Think of the implications here if online education has stopped growing in US higher education. Many of the assumptions underlying institutional strategic plans and ed tech vendor market data is based on continued growth in online learning. It is possible that there will be market changes leading back to year-over-year growth, but for now the assumptions might be wrong.

Rather than focusing just on this year, the more relevant questions are based on the future, particularly if you look at the longer-term trends. Have we hit a plateau in terms of the natural level of online enrollment? Will the trend continue to the point of online enrollments actually dropping below the overall enrollment? Will online enrollments bottom out and start to rise again once we get the newer generation of tools and pedagogical approaches such as personalized learning or competency-based education beyond pilot programs?

I am not one to discount the powerful effect that online education has had and will continue to have in the US, but the growth appears to be at specific schools rather than broad-based increases across sectors. Southern New Hampshire, Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University and others are growing their online enrollments, but University of Phoenix, DeVry University and others are dropping.

One issue to track is the general shift from for-profit enrollment to not-for-profit enrollment, even if the overall rates of online courses has remained relatively stable within each sector. There are approximately 80,000 fewer students taking at least one online course at for-profit institutions while there are approximately 157,000 more students in the same category at public and private not-for-profit sectors.

I suspect the changes will continue to happen in specific areas – number of working adults taking courses, often in competency-based programs, at specific schools and statewide systems with aggressive plans – but it also appears that just making assumptions of broad-based growth needs to be reconsidered.

Update: Please note that the data release is new and these are early results. If I find mistakes in the data or analysis that changes the analysis above, I’ll share in an updated post.

  1. Russ Poulin and I documented these issues in a separate post showing the noise is likely in the low hundreds of thousands.

The post No Discernible Growth in US Higher Ed Online Learning appeared first on e-Literate.

by Phil Hill at January 06, 2015 05:34 PM

January 03, 2015

Dr. Chuck

Moving Virtual Box Images from Mac Internal Hard Drive to External Drive

There seem to be a lot of posts that show how to move a VirtualBox or Boot2Docker image to a new hard drive the hard way using the command line. I just came across an easy way to move a virtual box image to an external hard drive to free up space on my main hard drive. As I start playing more with docker I cannot affort to fill my main hard drive up with docker / virtualbox images. Here is the trick.

virtualbox-prefsGo to Virtual Box Preferences and change the Default Machine Folder to be on your external drive.

Then control-click on the image that is stored on your main disk and clone it. Since the default is now your external drive it will clone it to your external drive.

Then boot your cloned VM to make sure it is OK and then delete your original VM from the VirtualBox UI. Then just to be doubly sure it still works.

As an added bonus, if you make new VM’s (i.e. perhaps you downloaded and installed boot2docker) they will be placed on the external drive as that is now the location where all new VMs get created.

Of course it means that you need to plug in your external drive whenever you do anything with boot2docker of VirtualBox. But you have a bunch o disk freed up on your main hard drive.

by Charles Severance at January 03, 2015 05:31 PM

December 23, 2014

Steve Swinsburg

The spirit of giving

At work, we love cake. Everyone brings in cake, all the time. End of sprint, during sprint, because someone’s mum made way too much, or just because the day ends with ‘day’. It’s surprising that we aren’t all obese, and a little ironic since we work in health care.

So I decided to turn that into a fundraiser and over the past couple of weeks we have been asking for gold coin donations for the cakes, to go towards making some little kids Christmas’ a bit brighter this year through the Salvation Army Christmas Appeal and K-Mart Wishing Tree.

We raised $45 and over the weekend I took the boys out to help pick out some gifts. So this year some needy kids are going to enjoy a brand new digger, a ‘Planes’ Dusty Crophopper figurine and a ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ Dragon Battle Kit!

Here’s a pic of my boy as we put the toys under the K-Mart Wishing Tree.

2014-12-20 12.09.54

by steveswinsburg at December 23, 2014 12:12 AM

December 21, 2014

Aaron Zeckoski

Apereo Learning Analytics @ Open Apereo 2014

I and other members of the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative (LAI) will be presenting at the Open Apereo 2014 conference in Miami the first week of June.


You can see the schedule of Learning Analytics presentations on our Open Apereo 2014 conference Learning Analytics sessions wiki page. If you are not sure what Learning Analytics is, we have some information for you here (and a nifty diagram to help it make sense).


If you are interested in working towards a community sourced learning analytics infrastructure, incubating software, sharing requirements, cross validating analytics pilots, while working in a wider community of interest then please contact the Apereo LAI coordinator  analytics-coordinator@apereo.org or join the mailing list analytics@apereo.org
We hope to see you in Miami at Open Apereo 2014!

by Aaron Zeckoski (noreply@blogger.com) at December 21, 2014 12:08 PM

Apereo Learning Analytics Processor begins

The Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative is beginning work on our first open source analytics pipeline processor this week. Learn more about Learning Analytics Processor project on our wiki.
Our goal is to build an Open source Java based Learning Analytics Processor (LAP) which initially automates the Marist OAAI Student Early Alerts and Risk Assessment model. We also hope to establish a framework for automation and execution of learning analytics models (which is possible for others to extend with additional model pipelines). Finally we plan to establish input and output specifications for data used for learning analytics model processing.
The Learning Analytics Processor (LAP) is meant to flexible enough to be extended to support many possible models and pipelines for analytics processing. The first one will be Early Alert but we want to support future additions and even multiple versions of the Early Alert model.




by Aaron Zeckoski (noreply@blogger.com) at December 21, 2014 12:08 PM

December 16, 2014

Dr. Chuck

Idea: Split Secrets for OAuth

We are talking about ways to establish shared secrets where both the Tool Consumer and Tool Provider contribute key material to an overall shared key used to sign and validate OAuth messages. Often these “secrets” are treated as strings of varying length. Common practice is to choose random numbers wih something like the uniq() PHP function or Java’s UUID() and then hex encode the random bits for strings of varying length.

Using the current approach, (a) we cannot assume the serialization of this data and (b) the secrets can be of effectively any length (short or long). By not specifing an encoding that allows us to transmit bit-level randomness, we implicitly shorten key lengths by using a non-predictable encoding so we have to fall back to strings and likely strings with a very limited character set.

We have not yet seen situations where secrets include non-Latin1 characters. As we move to moving secrets across web services – serialization becomes inclreasingly important and if we get too tricky with character sets we might find ourselves with some interoperability problems.

My proposal is to define the binary bit-length of the two halves of the “split secret” and insist that these are serialized using a known serialization so both sides can de-serialize these pieces to cryptographically strong secrets with a well understood bit length.

So each of the sides contributes 512 cryptographically random bits to the shared secret. When each side communicates the secret – they are serialized and transferred using 128-character hex encoded using only lower case letters for a-f. An example of a half-secret is as follows:

941c7f8f929ad915b0a8810a6eedee5e5a5cedbab1bee5e4e2f05df6ed926e8042bca5127a7fac88ab581526e78b193b99fdfe234d40496eca32431447b752af

To form the OAuth consumer secret the two hex halves are just concatenated as hex strings. Since the OAuth signing simply appends the key to the message and computes a digest, we can make use of all 1024 bits of randomness by using a 256 character hex-encoded key. While this means that the pad has a known character set (0-9) and (a-f) – it makes up for that by being 4 times longer. Also we avoid any encoding problems if we allow non-latin1 characters in the OAuth shared secret.

By speicfing the bit length and encoding – both sides can build database models that store secrets in fixed length fields.

By insuring there are 1024-bits of cryptographically strong randomness – other uses like sending data between the sides with two-way encryption approaches like Blowfish or AES can create shorter bit length keys from the known 1024-bits of randomness.

I am just putting this up because I like openness in the design of any security scheme in case I made any mistakes or incorrect assumptions.

This design is not at all final – comments are very welcome.

by Charles Severance at December 16, 2014 11:03 PM

December 12, 2014

Sakai@UD

Submitting final grades to UDSIS

As the semester comes to an end, it’s time to submit your final grades to UDSIS. In addition to the regular process described on the Registrar’s Web site, Sakai users can use a Web form titled Grade Submission from Sakai to UDSIS A couple of caveats regarding the use of the Web form: 1. Must […] more >

by Mathieu Plourde at December 12, 2014 02:35 PM

November 26, 2014

Dr. Chuck

Tracing History from to “Imitation Game” to the Modern-Day Internet (#IHTS)

In a sense Alan Turing’s cryptography, code breaking and computer science work at Bletchley Park featured in the Imitation Game movie was the kickoff for the modern day Internet and well as modern day electronic computing technologies. For the first time in history, communication was essential for survival and applying computation to understanding communication was critical to success or failure in World War II. There was unprecedented funding poured into research into mathematics, computer science, social science, linguistics, and many other fields. Bletchley Park was one of the world’s first great large-scale cross-disciplinary research labs. The creativity and innovation at Bletchley Park had a tremendous impact on the results of World War II and the shape of our world to the present day.

If you are interested in learning how we got from Bletchley Park to today’s Internet – I would invite you to attend my free self-paced Internet History, Technology, and Security course on Coursera.

IHTS was one of the first 20 pioneering MOOCs as Coursera was rolled out in 2012 (yes two years seems like a long time ago). And now IHTS is one of the first Coursera courses to pioneer a new self-paced format that allows students to start and take courses at any time and at their own pace.

We initially have soft-launched IHTS so students can view all of the lectures and supplementary materials. Over the coming months, we will be adding quizzes and other assessments so that the self-paced offering includes all the features of the previous scheduled cohort based offerings on Coursera – except with no deadlines :).

The course is a mix of lectures and interviews with Internet innovators. All of the course materials are open and available under a CC-BY Creative Commons License to allow reuse of the lecture materials.

I hope to see you in class.

by Charles Severance at November 26, 2014 10:45 AM

November 24, 2014

Steve Swinsburg

Movember 2014

It’s the tail end of Movember, just a few days to go and my team has almost raised raised over a thousand bucks for the Movember Foundation!

What is Movember you ask? It’s about raising awareness for men’s health issues like depression, testicular cancer and prostate cancer. In Australia, the life expectancy of men is 5 years less than for women, 50% of men struggle with mental health issues at some point, and 50% of men will be diagnosed with cancer by age 85.

50%.

1 in 2.

Either you or me.

Fuck that.

I’ve been doing Movember for the past 6 years to try to tackle this issue and have raised a few grand in doing so. This year I setup a team with my work mates and we’ve collectively raised over $1000 already, with more donations promised this week. Our original goal was $1000, with your help we can make it $1500.

All donations are tax deductible  and you can donate here:
https://www.movember.com/au/donate/payment/member_id/51531/

Here’s a pic of my latest Mo efforts for your viewing pleasure. You can see past Movember efforts on my Movember page.

movember_20141124

by steveswinsburg at November 24, 2014 10:56 AM

October 29, 2014

Steve Swinsburg

Sakai Wicket Maven Archetype updated and released to Maven Central

The Sakai Wicket Maven Archetype has been updated to the latest version of Wicket 6 and styling issues fixed for the latest Sakai portal. It’s also been released to Maven central.

The Sakai Wicket Maven Archetype allows you to generate a sample Sakai app via a single Maven command. The app demonstrates how to get a Sakai tool styled, internationalised and registered, setup your own APIs, wire them up with Spring and inject them via annotations. The app also also includes multi database support via Spring JDBC. It could easily be used as a base for a real tool.

Generate an app:

mvn archetype:generate -DarchetypeGroupId=org.sakaiproject.maven-archetype -DarchetypeArtifactId=sakai-wicket-maven-archetype -DarchetypeVersion=1.5.0 -DgroupId=org.sakaiproject.example -DartifactId=exampleApp

More info here:

https://confluence.sakaiproject.org/display/BOOT/Sakai+Wicket+Maven+Archetype

by steveswinsburg at October 29, 2014 07:46 PM