In the country of Trinidad and Tobago, university education to the bachelor’s level is free. The currently oil-and gas-dependent Caribbean nation is trying to transform itself into a knowledge economy. It recently announced the creation of a “national knowledge network” to promote free online learning in partnership with Khan Academy and Coursera. This represents a possible future path for massive open online courses, or MOOCs — not as a replacement for a college degree but as a resource for hybrid and lifelong learning. Visitors to knowledge.tt will find a curated selection of video-based courses, divided into categories like “entrepreneurship” and “creativity.”
It’s a global version of the flipped classroom, where the lecture may have been recorded at Vanderbilt or Rice, but the class discussion is unfolding thousands of miles away. What is really new here? This Trinidad and Tobago initiative takes the level of coordination up a notch. Their focus is on connecting MOOC-powered learning to jobs. Graduates will receive a government-issued certificate of participation from knowledge.tt. They’ll also be eligible for an internship program with more than 400 participating employers.
This is a new use of a disruptive technology, and no one knows where it will lead. We are moving from a teaching model that has been around since the 1600’s – the “sage on the stage” – to…something else. Like most disruptive technologies it will have far ranging consequences, both positive and negative. In ten years, higher education is going to be fundamentally different from that of today.
1 “E-learning” is a very broad term
It refers to all internet-based education, which could be anything from a free maths lecture on iTunes to a colour-coded language app or even a fully interactive eight-week course in musculoskeletal anatomy from Harvard.
2 It’s been around for a while
The Open University began using an internet-based conferencing system as a learning tool in the late 80s and now offers entire degree courses online. Since 2000 the web has been used by schools and universities as a means of distributing audiovisual material and course documentation.
3 It hasn’t found its niche yet
Some argue that the internet works best as a subsidiary to traditional studies, so-called “blended learning”, but others think the main thrust of e-learning should be to provide free education to disadvantaged people worldwide who don’t have access to university. Detractors feel feel it has no place in mainstream education and should only offer “learning for learning’s sake”.
4 It comes in various shapes and sizes
The non-profit Khan Academy is a bank of free video lectures given by charismatic academics whereas popular software platforms such as Blackboard and Canvas allow teachers and students to connect more effectively online. Moocs (Massive Online Open Courses), which are free short online courses offered by reputable universities, are becoming immensely popular and often comprise multimedia material and interactive game-like environments.
5 Moocs are free, but they have potential to be lucrative
The biggest US Mooc network, Coursera, hosts courses from 100 universities worldwide, who hope the free courses will encourage people to sign up for paid modules.
6 The UK is already being “Mooced”
The British equivalent to Coursera, Futurelearn, now offers courses from more than half of the top 40 UK universities.
7 Not all e-learning is free
In a few universities Mooc certificates have been exchanged for actual college credit, which could become increasingly valuable in the job market. Full degree qualifications remain available only to the paying student.
8 e-learning could threaten teaching as we know it…
Mooc pioneer Peter Norvig argues it is easier to achieve a one-on-one teaching experience online than in a crowded classroom. Also, online forums and communities allow users to discuss problems in real time with fellow students stuck on the same issue.
9 … But not everyone thinks it’s fulfilling its potential
Some critics believe that a computerised environment will stifle creative expression and independent thought. Others point out that, although Moocs might theoretically offer schooling to disadvantaged students, so far almost all participants in the courses are already highly educated and hail from the developed world.
10 Either way, e-learning’s big data could be valuable
Millions of people have signed up to hundreds of apps, lectures, tests, platforms and courses and because every right answer and every flunked exam will be documented, a huge quantity of data will be collected. These “learning analytics” could be used to provide teachers with agreater insights into a deeper understanding of education as a whole.
This article was written by Kit Buchan, published in the Observer, May 11, 2014.
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author David Mamet is the latest in a string of established writers who are starting to self-publish, according to this story from The New York Times.
“Basically I am doing this because I am a curmudgeon,” Mamet is quoted as saying. “and because publishing is like Hollywood — nobody ever does the marketing they promise.”
Lack of marketing follow-through is often cited as the biggest reason established authors are switching from traditional publishing to a self-pub model.
The New York Times article says:
For one thing, as traditional publishers have cut back on marketing, this route allows well-known figures like Mr. Mamet to look after their own publicity.
Then there is the money. While self-published authors get no advance, they typically receive 70 percent of sales. A standard contract with a traditional house gives an author an advance, and only pays royalties — the standard is 25 percent of digital sales and 7 to 12 percent of the list price for bound books — after the advance is earned back in sales.
None of this is news to independent authors, but it is interesting to see how even famous writers are now abandoning traditional publishing in favor of self-publishing solutions.
So, the moral of the story is: if you’re handling most of your book marketing yourself — don’t despair; you’re in the same boat as Pulitzer Prize-winners!