Friday, March 29, 2013

3/29 Job Opportunities

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

RateMyProfessor for MOOCs

The Cavalier Daily's article Rate my MOOC discusses the differences between the standard bearer of student angst RateMyProfessors, and the creation of MOOC review sites, Top Free Classes, Grade My Course, and CourseTalk. The article discusses the inherent biases of the review sites, given the properties of the students. Traditional undergraduates usually use RateMyProfessors when they feel strongly about a course, usually negative feelings. I have found that it is unlikely that a student who passed a course, and enjoyed it will take the time to write a review. The drive to assign blame is unfortunately greater than the drive to offer positive feedback.

Students who use the MOOC review sites, the article claims, are those that strive through the course and complete it. For these students, the blame for not completing the course rests solely on them because there are no outside forces require them to take these courses. Undergraduates on the other hand have to take courses they may not want to take. This proportional relationship between being forced to take a course, and the resulting blame-passing (if you are forced, more blame, if you aren't, less blame) is one that needs to be taken into consideration for all educators. Teacher reform efforts inherently have this bias, as do for-profit colleges, and charter schools; students will rate a teacher/instructor/professor poorly if they are required to take a class and perform poorly. Just another reason why student surveys should always be paired with objective data.

BSN, SoftChalk and Google+ course aimed at K-12 educators

MarketWatch posted this article New Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Delivered by Blended Schools Network Using SoftChalk Platform yesterday about a course offered by Blended Schools Network (BSN), through SoftChalk, using Google+. Hear Mark Radcliffe from BSN discuss the course;

While there is a lot of edu-tech babble and self-promotion in that video, he does have a point. Educators need to become more comfortable using technology. But, my question is, how will this course do that? From the press I don't get a sense of what the assessments and resources will be. It being a MOOC I may enroll as a lurker and pick and choose the parts I want to participate in.

Reading the article I couldn't help but get a little cynical. This is a great visibility booster for BSN, SoftChalk (which is going up against both well-heeled LMS, and open source ones), and Google+ (which could use a boost). On the other hand, it may prove a useful experience. Time will tell.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

MOOC Watch: Open2Study

Open Universities Australia has just released a new MOOC platform, Open2Study. The platform has courses from a number of colleges and universities; International College of Management, Macquarie University, Polytechnic West, and TAFE NSW - Sydney Institute. Their current course offerings are business and humanities focused, with 10 courses to start. The Conversation wrote an article about the new platform.

This new platform may be a good outlet for Australia's over educated workforce, and grow distance education institutions. With Moodle HQ located in Perth, Western Australia, I may have to make a trip out there.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Moodle Conversion Purgatory

My home institution is in the middle of a Moodle conversion from 1.9 to 2.3. We use a Moodle-specific host who has a variety of plug-ins, and enhancements to core Moodle. They're great, but the conversion process for courses that use their products are cumbersome. If anyone has an easy way to move courses from Flexpages in Moodle 1.9, to a weekly format in Moodle 2.3, I'm all ears.

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Job Opportunity: Supervising Editor, Math K-8

I just learned that a New York City based educational publisher is looking for a Supervising Editor, Math K-8 for their print products. Their texts are primarily test-prep focused, but they are looking to expand their offerings. Contact me for more info.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Quality Matters Reviewer Status

This last week I completed the Quality Matters Peer Reviewer Course, and successfully applied to become a Quality Matters Peer Reviewer. It has taken quite a bit of my time these last two weeks, and I'm a bit behind on LAK13, and need to catch up.

I enjoyed the Peer Reviewer Course, and gained a broader understanding of what QM reviews should focus on. The primary area I had difficulty with was providing balanced feedback without sounding repetitive or insincere. I consistently provided constructive feedback that used evidence from the course and the QM Rubric, but was a bit terse and may have turned off the course instructor. I'm generally good at providing positive feedback to students and faculty, but didn't include many positive statements or comment. I suppose I was focusing on the rubric and the course, and not the fact that there was a person behind the course.

I do wish the course relied on individual files less. Almost every link in the course was a separate Word or pdf file. By the end of the course I had two dozen files to wade through. Granted, I have these files for future reference, but having the option to download them, or view them as web pages would be preferable.

As a personal preference, the course used an anthropology course as a sample course to review, and I wish they had chosen a different discipline. Out of all social sciences, I've always had the most difficulty understanding anthropology. A friend of mine just earned their masters in anthropology, and called anthropology the study of human behavior that doesn't fit into any other social science. This is obviously useful, but a discipline that has no clear definition or guiding topic area rubs against my training in axiomatic thinking.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Job Opportunity: Math Standards Aligner (Vancouver)

Saw this ad and thought you all might be interested: Math Standards Aligner (Vancouver). I know as much as the ad says, and am not affiliated with the poster. Good luck! via craigslist portland | all jobs search "math" at March 05, 2013 at 03:28PM

Monday, March 4, 2013

Job Opportunity: Math Educator (Remote)

Saw this ad and thought you all might be interested: Math Educator (Remote). I know as much as the ad says, and am not affiliated with the poster. Good luck! via craigslist new york | all jobs search "math" at March 04, 2013 at 09:53AM

Sunday, March 3, 2013

LAK13 Assignment #1 - Analytics: Logic and Structure Postscript

In Learning Analytics and Knowledge 2013, the first assignment, Analytics: Logic and Structure (link is live only if you are registered for the course), has the following description:
For this assignment, develop an analytics model to gain insight into a complex topic using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Select a particular topic or subject area that interests you (current events, historical activities, a learning challenge) and detail how you will "interrogate" this subject using various analytics tools or techniques. Your project can be in the form of a presentation, a blog post, a video, a simulation, or other digital artifact. The important aspect of this assignment is to walk through the processes and considerations that pre-date tool selection.
There are additional details, but this is the core charge of the assignment. I commented on the assignment in the forums:
Our first assignment seems to allow for a wide variety of projects. This is understandable, given the variety of backgrounds of students, varying understandings of statistics, and the convergence of a number of fields that contribute to Learning Analytics.
I then went on to ask some clarifying questions, and made some suggestions as to the structure of the project, specifically getting a data set to work from and then developing an analytics model. Looking back I realize my suggestions were running counter to the intent of the assignment. Mr. Siemens is looking to replicate the situation that people in analytics are dealt with; hodgepodges of data silos, inconsistent objectives from the different institutions (or within a single institution), regulatory barriers, and a legion of other issues. By having us develop a relevant question we would be put in a position to deal with these barriers, and share our experiences in getting around them.

I appreciate his commitment to using authentic contexts, but feel a bit more direction would have been helpful. The description doesn't specify that the context is necessarily learning analytics, and if it were, the issues above would prevent real data from being gathered. In a later post I mention:
It is starting to look like getting a usable dataset is going to be the primary issue for our projects for this course. The sort of data sets that we are looking to use usually contain sensitive information, and in the case of our US colleagues (myself included), using them in such an open setting would run afoul of FERPA. I have a dataset I am working with, but do not feel my institution is in a place to intelligibly create a data policy, let alone a data openess policy.
All this points to a disconnect between my goals for this course, and Mr. Siemens' goals for this assignment. This course being part of my personal and professional development, I want some clear tools and techniques to analyze student-generated data with when I leave this course. I have serious reservations about using my real data, and thus want an available data set that will help me develop those tools and techniques. In this assignment Mr. Siemens is more concerned about the way we frame our analytics questions, and our plans for how to answer them.

To satisfy both of our goals, I've decided to look at student and teacher performance. There is a wide range of open datasets available, and there are powerful questions about learning analytics that can be approached. LA focuses on related, but different datasets, however the tools and techniques to analyze this data set should transfer to analyzing student generated data in an LMS.

LAK13 Assignment #1 - Analytics: Logic and Structure


There is an effort within US public K-12 schools to analyze student performance, and use that analysis to improve schools. The most public and political aspect of this effort has been the use of this data to measure teacher effectiveness. A few school districts have released student and teacher information (Los Angeles, New York City, etc.), and have made them widely available. This data can be used to answer basic questions about student and teacher performance.


My main question; is this a good idea? Are student scores a good reflection of teacher effectiveness? There are a few other related questions I'd also like to explore:
  • Are the analysis methods between school districts transferable? 
  • Is the value-added model a 'good' one?
  • Should parents use the teacher ratings/rankings to make decisions about where their child goes to school?
  • Do these ratings/rankings say anything useful about college and work readiness, unemployment, crime, etc.?
Potential Issues

This issue is a politically charged one, and I'm concerned about getting an unbiased dataset, and that the ratings/rankings contain hidden assumptions that are not based on fact. Having this concern does not mean that I won't use certain datasets, but I will work under a trust and verify policy. 

Pulling in datasets from multiple school districts, agencies, and bureaus may cause issues of data comparability. I'm unsure of how to deal with these issues, and would appreciate any suggestions.

Data Sources

There is a wide range of raw data, and measures based on this data, available to the public;

The only student and teacher performance data that is in an accessible state is the Colorado School Grades' data from Kaggle. The data from NYC Open Data has always been fairly accessible, but with the wide variety of data types, I'm a bit unsure of their usability. At this time I am unsure if I can get access to the LAUSD data in a usable format.

Next Steps

I would like to continue researching available datasets, and from there identify the ones that seem most usable. Once those have been identified, use R to perform exploratory data analysis, and identify any useful trends. Using the ratings/rankings of different school districts on student and teacher data that has a different measure may also help identify potential flaws in each measure.