Social + MOOCs + HComp = SMOOCH — Computing Comes to Education

Social + MOOCs + HComp = SMOOCH — Computing Comes to Education

everybody. I’m Dan Russell. It’s my extraordinary pleasure
to introduce to you Ben Bederson from the University
of Maryland. I don’t actually remember
when I first met Ben. But is was in a dim dark
internet past many years ago. He’s been here for the past
two weeks as a visiting scholar, which is a rare
and distinguished thing in and of itself. And so we’ve been sort of
hanging out in building 1200 doing marvelous things. And he’s been visiting around
with some of the people here at Google. So on Wednesday, he gave a
fantastic talk about zoomable user interfaces. That presentation will
be available. If anybody wants a copy or a
link to it, just let me know, and I’ll send that to you. This talk will be recorded
and be available, I guess depending on the outcome, either
internally only or externally as well. But it will be available
for people. So if you’re interested and you
have friends who want to see this, let met know
and we’ll put up. OK? So this is a talk that has been
interesting being in the same office with Ben, because
it’s been sort of evolving as we talk over the past
couple of weeks. So I’m as excited to
see it as you are. So please join me in welcoming
Bed Bederson. [APPLAUSE] BEN BEDERSON: OK. So this is a talk about
education and how all of the excitement around online
education is changing what we know about things and especially
from my perspective as a university professor at a
traditional university with lots of buildings and
all that kind of stuff, what that means. And how does this new online
education impact the new stuff or impact the old stuff? So the reason for the kind of
smarmy title SMOOCH is I’m trying to figure out– and I’m
hoping you’re going to help me in this next hour– figure
out what is the value of getting together. Why are we occasionally
face to face? There’s all this excitement and
all this good stuff about learning online. Are we done? Should we shut down
our universities? Or is there some additional
value in getting together? And if so, what and why? And how do we make it better? Sorry. That’s a key part. So just a very brief
bit about history. All technology has a history. But there is a particularly long
history in trying to take advantage of new technologies to
enhance education, notably correspondence courses in the
early 1900s were very, very popular in this country. I personally have some
experience with television. Not only is there PBS and
“Sesame Street,” but in the 1970s, there was a program
called “Sunrise Semester.” Anyone ever heard of that? So CBS had a national broadcast
of excellent university courses. And I know because my
father taught one. He was a physics professor
at NYU. In 1972 at 6 a.m., he
taught a course called Physics in Society. And I was a kid. It was really dramatic for
me that my kid was on TV. And I got up to watch it one
time, which is an important point because we’re going to
talk about motivation. I think that’s a fundamental
issue that we can’t ignore. There’s of course also– distance education has also
been around forever. This past fall, I visited
South Africa and visited UNISA, the University of South
Africa, which is interesting because they have 300,000
undergraduate students, none of which come to campus. So I was like, wow, we’re
going to have great conversations about MOOCs and
all this new stuff and see how they’re taking advantage of it
and what their different contexts were. And I was all like bubbling. And I brought this up. And they’re like, why would
we care about that? That’s totally irrelevant. We don’t do that. We do correspondence. Our university has the biggest
post office in Johannesburg and their own printing
presses. I’m like what? They don’t have the bandwidth. So they are still supporting
their whole country through pre-online video. And it works. Right? It works to a certain level. All right. So last year was the
year of the MOOC. If you didn’t see this article,
you probably saw one of these other ones. I counted six mainstream
articles on the “The New York Times” on MOOCs plus dozens
of other ones. So it’s hit the mainstream
consciousness. But MOOCs aren’t new. Carnegie Mellon has had online
education that is very similar in many ways for over 10 years,
including bite-sized nuggets of content, some
freely available stuff, built-in question and answering
forms, all the stuff that we like to think is good. But it didn’t hit
the big time. So what was different? So you probably know
a few key things. One is that the new
ones were all free, name-brand suppliers. Carnegie Mellon is nice, but
Google and Stanford is apparently better. And there are some fundamental
characteristics about the user experience that were different
as well, the big one being that this was all text-based. And the new ones are
all video-based. And so it sort of begs the
question as to what is it about video that makes it so
exciting and so engaging. The other thing is that a
combination of free and these other elements broadened the set
of stakeholders that are interested. So of course, students are
interested in cheap but so are administrators. Right? University administrators are
very interested in figuring out how this stuff is going
to lower our costs. Instructors are interested in
how this stuff is going to improve the quality
of education. And everybody more or
less wants to see better, broader access. OK. Of course there’s lots of
content and open systems as well, which means you don’t
have to rely on any of the commercial providers. And I put all this out there
just to sort of set the context is that there’s now
a full and rich ecosystem. Right? So it’s more than just
any one solution. There’s all this stuff. And so if all of this stuff
exists, all this stuff is freely out there. Coursera, I think, is now saying
they have 2 and 1/2 million users. Maybe that’s Coursera
plus Udacity. I’m not sure. Anyway, there’s a lot
of people that are taking these classes. People like them. And yet at least some of you
came here in person when you had pretty good technology
support for attending this talk virtually. So I would like you to all
take out your computers. And even though there’s not
that many of you, this is going to be an interactive
day. I’d like you to go to one
link or the other. If you’re here, go to This is just a moderator
thing. And I wanted to try and get a
sense of if you came in person and you knew you didn’t
have to, why did you come in person? And if you didn’t come in
person, why didn’t you? AUDIENCE: Am I supposed
to use my phone? BEN BEDERSON: Yeah. It occurred to me after the fact
in the Talk announcement I should’ve asked people to
bring laptops, because we’re going to do a few– AUDIENCE: Phones will work. BEN BEDERSON: Phones
will work. AUDIENCE: Can we submit
more than one? BEN BEDERSON: Yeah. Oh, that’s interesting. Try it like this. That’s better. OK. So as it started to come up– AUDIENCE: Can you show
the URL again? BEN BEDERSON: Do you
need the URL? It’s and then
either bbb-here or bbb-not-here, -not-here. Let’s just see if we can get a
quick flavor, even though I’m sure these things
are changing. Does this get updated
dynamically? AUDIENCE: Yes. BEN BEDERSON: OK. All right. So it was convenient,
atmosphere, energy, acoustics, didn’t have anything else to
do, the moderator had no choice, didn’t trust the
technology, nuances, convenience, technology. All right. So that’s a few themes there. And impossible, more efficient,
so health. So basically, all versions– AUDIENCE: Thank you
for staying home. BEN BEDERSON: Yeah, right. All versions of impossible
or health or efficiency. Sorry. Impossible or efficiency. I think that’s kind
of the essence. All right. And I appreciate this, because
actually if you have more ideas, I’m happy to keep
on hearing about them. So one of the reasons I did
that, I’m kind of curious, I think, but the key thing I
wanted to get out of this is that there are clearly
trade-offs in different forms of education. And we all saw different
trade-offs, even in this kind of narrow variation in this. And if there are trade-offs
even among these two very similar but different things,
because they’re both live and synchronous, there clearly will
be even bigger trade-offs between MOOCs– Massive Open Online Courses– and traditional universities. And so I want to try and
understand those. So one of the ways I tried to do
this is to informally make a plot of different educational
approaches based on the physicality or virtuality
and the cost. And when we look at the
difference between these modern systems, we can often
think about MOOCs as being free and virtual versus
completely face-to-face and expensive, where liberal arts
colleges are probably the prototypical examples. But there are lots of other
examples, bigger universities, community colleges, which are
more likely to have some virtual component and
are less expensive. And then there’s also the
commercial online universities. And there’s different
versions of those. So that we kind of know about. But what’s interesting
is there also are things in the middle. So University of Maryland
has what’s called a Shady Grove campus. But it’s not really a different
institution. It’s not like one of our 20
different University of Maryland universities. It’s actually part of my campus,
so same degrees. But we basically lease some
office space over in Rockville, about 40 minutes away
where there’s some other population centers, and get the
same professors to go and teach over there. And students that live over
there can take some of their courses in that facility,
because it’s more convenient. But by doing so, they
essentially give up all of the social aspects. Right? They don’t get our gym. They don’t get to run into
people at the student union. They’re not really
office hours. And they give up
all that stuff. That’s sort of interesting
because it’s in the middle. This was more of a
surprise to me. University of Minnesota in
Rochester has online courses but face-to-face social. So they have a nursing program
and a few other programs where they lease space. It’s like the second
floor of a mall. I haven’t been there. And students get together there
for office hours and for study groups and to be able to
work together on projects. But all of the courses
are online. So the point of this– sorry. And of course, the other thing
is that all of the physical ones are strongly and actively
considering ways to have more virtual movement. And so if there are all of these
different ways of doing things, that means our society
clearly recognizes there’s lots of different points in
this trade-off space. And we might be able to pull
values from one and apply them to the other. OK. So I want to look at a little
bit more as to what the nuances are that Dan thought
that he might appreciate by coming here face-to-face. Right? What do we get by coming
face-to-face? And by being aware of that, my
goal is to try and then say what can we do to improve
our face-to-face based on all this stuff. So I start off by saying a
little bit about motivation. I want to go back to this. Books have been around
for a long time. They’re wildly successful. And now you can buy them used
for $1 or $2 and more or less take any class and learn
anything you want. And lots of people do that. Of course, a lot more people
don’t do that. Right? And so it’s not that
they don’t work. It’s that they only work
for some people. There’s a motivation problem. And what the new version of
MOOCs, the new video does, it’s not so much that they
do something better. It’s that they do it differently
for a different set of people. They offer a different
set of trade-offs. So they increase the number of
people that can do it or that choose to do it. But there’s still
many that don’t. I think you’ve probably all
heard sort of the standard that typically around 90% of the
people that sign up for a MOOC don’t end up
finishing it. There’s lots of other numbers
that are interesting. But the point here is that
it’s not working for everybody, at least
not all the time. And so why not? There’s this quote that’s
attributed to Marvin Minsky. I don’t know if it’s
true or not. But he says, “Every educational
reform is doomed to succeed,” by which he
means is doomed to succeed for some students. Right? No matter what you do, it’s
going to work great for some. It’s really nice that the new
MOOCs work for 2 and 1/2 million people. But what about the
other 7 billion minus 2 and 1/2 million? Right? Maybe it will end up working
well for them. But on the other hand, the small
amount of public data on who finishes these courses makes
me a little skeptical. At least for this course, almost
3/4 of the students that finished already had
a bachelor’s degree. Now this was a pretty technical course, and lots of caveats– maybe it will get better. But the point is this is
3/4 of 10%, right? Most of the people who were
successful already had significant training. So do we really want to push
our students to be doing online as their primary
education? And it’s not clear
that anybody– well, I can be friendly and
say it’s not clear that anybody is trying
to push that. But that’s completely false. These companies are very
actively trying to push that. They’re working really hard
at offering credentials. And once they offer credentials,
then there are going to be people
offering degrees. And last week, there was a
university that is going to be willing to offer you a degree
based on your assessment only. Take your online or your
assessment and skip all of the regular stuff, and you
can get a degree. So this is something we’re
moving towards. So this is why I want to step
back and say why do we care. So last week, there was another
article in “The New York Times” by Thomas Friedman
that was really a cheerleading article, saying how great
all this stuff is. And the comments were really
interesting, because a lot of them were supportive. And a lot of them were
cautious, right? This is from a teacher. And it doesn’t even really
matter exactly what it says. But the point was what
the teacher does goes way beyond lecture. There’s lots and
lots of stuff. And especially in a smaller
institution where you get to have a relationship with a
student over a period of years, you have a very, very
meaningful experience. And I’m sure you all have had
experiences like this as well. I remember as a student I
had a couple of favorite instructors that were really,
really meaningful to me. I remember one of my math
teachers early on asked me to stay after class, which
is never a good sign. And I remember– it was 20
years ago, and I remember exactly what he said. He said, Ben, you need
to buckle down. Those were his words. And I was like, what
does that mean? Why? He’s like, I know you’re an a
student if you want to be. But you’re not right now. And it’s because you’re not–
it’s the traditional father-son. You’re not applying yourself. You need to be more serious. You’re fooling around. And I’d already had a good
relationship with him. And that was enough to
change my attitude. And I did buckle down. And I ended up doing well. It’s not clear how we’re going
to have those kinds of relationships. And those things are super,
super important. You disagree? I think you’re going
to disagree with everything I say today. But go ahead. AUDIENCE: I mostly agree with
most of what you say. So certainly, I agree it’s
motivation not information that’s key. In terms of the one-on-one
guidance, I taught a class simultaneously online
and at Stanford. And I felt like I knew really
well about a dozen people in the classroom at Stanford, the
ones who came and sat near the front and went to office hours
and interacted with me. And I also knew really well
about a dozen people online, the ones who were in the
discussion forums all the time and we had conversations
back and forth. Now so in that sense
they’re equal. In terms of percentages, they
had a much lower percentage for online. But I felt like I had the same
type of one-on-one presence with these people, even
though they weren’t physically in the office. And I could write them a letter
of recommendation just as well as I could for a student
in the classroom. BEN BEDERSON: I will definitely
accept the argument if I delete “as well as.” So I
certainly agree that you can have a nontrivial
relationship. And I think there’s a question
as to whether it’s really the same kind of relationship and
whether it’s as good as. Some people are willing to have
a girlfriend that they’ve never met, right? So we know that you– AUDIENCE: My girlfriend died. It was really awful. BEN BEDERSON: I mean
I hear you. I’m a little skeptical. But maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re right. All right. I think I’ve said
most of this. Let’s go on. OK. Mark Guzdial, who many of you
may know is a well-known Georgia Tech professor focusing
on CS education for many years, and his perspective
is that teaching is not about lecturing. It’s about figuring
out how to teach. Right? There’s lots of different
modalities of teaching. There’s lots of different ways
of teaching and engaging. And one of his concerns is that
online video is fine as one modality. But there’s lots of different
modalities. And even if you do different
things on video, it’s still a little bit too constrained. And it’s just not
as enriching. And as an example of something
that might be a little bit harder to do in video, I’m going
to tell you a different undergraduate experience I
had by my other favorite professor, Annette Kolodny,
who’s a women’s studies professor at RPI, which was an
interesting place for her. And one day we came in and
all the chairs were arranged in a circle. So we sat down in the middle. And we’re told that some
students are going to sit in the middle. They get to talk. And there’s a bunch of other
students that are going to be on the outside. And they can only observe. And if the observers want to
talk, they have to tap the shoulder of someone
on the inside. They swap. And then only the person
on the inside can talk. And the reason for this we were
told is so that we can really focus the discussion and
make sure that if you’re going to say something, you’re
not just randomly blabbering, but you actually really were
deliberate about choosing to say something. Of course that’s not
why she did it. This was all subterfuge. She had one student who was
observing and coding the interactions for the class
and counting something. And the thing that she was
counting was the sex of the people doing the tapping,
because there is this long literature that says that men
are much more likely to be assertive in their learning and
raise their hand and talk in these kinds of settings. And she wanted to see and show
us if it was going to happen in real life. And even though there were three
times as many women as men in the class, of course,
it worked out that more men than women actually
asked questions. I, of course, was
one of those men apparently raising my hand. And I don’t remember even what
book we were discussing or what the topic was. But I remember this
very, very well. Right? It was one of those experiences
where the whole experience I think would be
hard to duplicate online. Again, maybe I’m wrong. But it was part of the social
relationships and knowing the people and thinking about
how to do it. So part of our challenge is to
figure out how do we get the richness of physical
to take it online. And the other part of our
challenge is to take part of the richness of online
and add that to where it’s missing in physical. OK. So– AUDIENCE: Excuse me. BEN BEDERSON: Yeah. AUDIENCE: You touched on
something and I’m not sure if you’re coming back to it. It’s the issue of gender and how
different genders react to online learning. Is that something that people
have looked at? BEN BEDERSON: So Mark Guzdial
is probably looking at this more than anyone. And I don’t think– he’s written a little bit about
different communities, including more advantaged
versus less advantaged communities in general. I don’t know if his focus on
this has been on women. But there is certainly a general
concern that even though this democratizes
education, it democratizes it in a way that may make it more
accessible to people that already have the skills for
knowing how to do this. And they’re going to be
the ones that are most socioeconomically advantaged. I don’t know if this
disadvantages women in the same way. I’m not sure of any research
around that. So one of the things that’s very
clearly happening is that there is this huge market
pressure to push to reconsider on our traditional universities
what we’re doing in the classroom and how
we can take advantage– well, the administrators
want it to be cheaper by taking advantage. And the students want
it to be better. Right? We haven’t traditionally, we
the professors, haven’t traditionally had much
market pressure. We can teach as badly
as we want. And really there’s pretty
much no impact whatsoever or very little. Now, of course, it’s changing. In the near future, any of these
courses that are online, students are going to
be knowing and not showing up to class. And the next year, we’re going
to start to be noticing. So it begs the question of
what’s going to happen. And very clearly it’s already
happening at my university. And we’re kind of slow. Many faculty are thinking about
moving more of their lectures online and using our
face-to-face for what we should be, which is more active
learning and taking better advantage of being
face-to-face. But that begs the question of
what do we do to take better advantage of being
face-to-face. So if we are in the same room,
we can have a lecture. But if you’ve got computers
and students are doing something on a computer, surely
there must be a way to take advantage of the fact that
everybody is in the same room simultaneously using a
computer to do something. And at least conceptually, the
way I think about it, is two likely areas are
peer learning. If we’re all doing something
together, then maybe we can observe what we all are doing
and learn something by it and classroom management. Teachers can have the potential
for being more aware of what the students are
doing when they’re working in their groups. So we’re going to try first one
and then later a second piece of very experimental
software to see if we can just get a sense of whether we can
gain anything by doing something together. So let’s see. Sorry, this one. So if you have a computer– this is going to actually work
less well on a phone, but maybe it’ll work. Visit this URL, And this is a tool we’ve
been building. I’ll show you how to log
in in just a second. Actually supported by Google and
motivated by Dan’s power searching course to say if
people in a classroom are learning to search together,
then how can we figure out what’s going on when
they’re doing that. All right. So what you’re going to do is
you’re going to log in as– there’s a student link
on the top right. Again, this side unfortunately
was– well, actually, it’s OK. And what you want to do is just
put in a pseudonym and activity code 07186. AUDIENCE: What’s
the URL again? BEN BEDERSON: OK, good. I see a bunch of students
logging in. Right? So I can see in real time
who’s logged in. And then there are two tasks. These are actually taken
from a Google a Day from this morning. The first task is the
golf club task. The earliest golf club to form
outside of Scotland came into existence in 1766
in what country? And so I will– actually, I’ll log in as a
student too just so we can for those of you without computers
just to demo what’s going on here. All right. So you’ll just do your
search over here. Or if you’re in mobile,
it’ll be down lower. You’ll see links. You can click on a link. I’ll just say golf history. Right? Click on a link. And then you can rate
those links as helpful or not helpful. So as you’re doing that, I can
go over here and see what kind of queries people are doing. So for this query,
interestingly, nobody has typed in exactly the
same query yet. A few of you, those queries have
resulted in links that you followed and then rated
those pages as being helpful, some as being unhelpful. OK? And especially for those that
are not doing it, we can see something about how are people
thinking about this. A lot of people are using
exactly the same terms from the question. Some people are changing it
and realize that golf club might be, I’m guessing–
actually, let’s see who this was, because it’s a different
golf course. Dan. Another Dan. Is Dan here? So what made you at the
beginning change golf club into golf course? I can guess, but I’m curious
what you’re thinking. AUDIENCE: I wasn’t thinking
of anything. It was just instinctive. BEN BEDERSON: Interesting. Well, but it’s interesting
because golf club is the literal term. But golf club is tricky, because
it means the actual thing that you’re swinging as
opposed to what the question is really getting at,
which is the place that you do your golfing. And my guess is this is probably
why it ended up on a Google a Day, because a lot of
the Google a Day queries, in order to be successful, you have
to take some word in the question and somehow transform
it into a way that’s going to help you more likely see this. Golf history. Gulf of Mexico. Right. OK. We can look at the words that
people used in their queries. Sort by frequency. There we go. Golf, club, date. And then we can see the links
that people have followed and what kind of responses. And look at that, Black
Health Club, London. I think it’s Blackheath. There’s a typo. So we got some answers. And the answer is in England. AUDIENCE: So you should point
out that you’re actually showing very different
things here. This is the response graph. BEN BEDERSON: Sorry. Yes, I did it too quickly. So the first thing I showed was
what queries people typed, then the words that people had
used/extracted from those queries, the pages
that they loaded. These are the titles
of the pages. And then if you notice that
there was a response area, you could actually type
in the answer. This is the answer that
people typed. AUDIENCE: I actually thought to
type England before I even typed a query. BEN BEDERSON: Well, that’s
one of the reasons– AUDIENCE: That would be one
answer to this question. BEN BEDERSON: That’s one of the
reasons that assessments are problematic, isn’t it? AUDIENCE: So in essence, what
we’re seeing is kind of a real-time update of what
everybody is doing to solve this problem collectively
or individually. BEN BEDERSON: The collective
aggregation of all of the activity in real time
as it’s happening. And so, and again, the two
fundamental motivations for me is to support classroom
management, so that when a teacher has a room of 50
students with their backs to the teacher– they’re all sitting
in front of their computers maybe in pairs– you could go around and one by
one asks students what they’re doing and look over
their shoulders. That’s a fine thing to do. But it seems like it’s a lot
nicer if you can do that with some dashboard that gives
you an overview of what they’re doing. And then secondly, currently,
this aggregated view is only on the teacher’s display,
designed either for a tablet and/or for a shared display
in the room. But conceptually, some of this
information could be pushed down to the students’ view, so
that if you wanted to give the student some aggregate view of
what the other students were doing, we can do that as well. But we haven’t decided
exactly what that information should be. So it was originally called
Search Party, because it’s a group of people searching
together. We’re now kind of
generalizing it. So we’re calling it Xparty. And the thinking is that rather
than focusing it– well, searching just one
specific activity. But really, at least
conceptually, this should work for any kind of computer-based
activity in a classroom. And so we’re exploring a few
different technologies for how to build that. One is to try to make it easy to
build specialized web apps like this, sort of a platform
for doing that. And the other is we have a
Chrome plug-in that’ll put a banner on top of the page. So it will work with any
existing website and do some very minimal monitoring of that
website or let you type in the answers. But that way you don’t have
to go and do any work for creating your new website. So there’s kind of a trade-off,
as always, between how much custom work you want
to spend versus the richness of the observation of the
student activity you can get. But the interesting idea here
is to try and think about if you’ve got a collection of
students that are doing something synchronously,
how can you take advantage of that. AUDIENCE: With the Chrome
plug-in, do you somehow tag a tab that you’re doing stuff
for the course? BEN BEDERSON: So the
answer is no. Actually, I can show
you really quickly what it looks like. AUDIENCE: There’s point
queries on the side. BEN BEDERSON: Exactly. Anyway, so the answer is
today the answer is no. So if you go to now any website
where we get this– it just pushes down this little
thing on the top. Specifically, we disable
some things. Like it won’t run on your Gmail
and a few other things. I suppose we should disable
porn sites. But this is supposed to be
in a classroom setting. We would just inform students
very clearly that anything you do on your browser when this
plug-in is on is going to be tracked except for the
following things. AUDIENCE: Can you
open a new tab? BEN BEDERSON: Yeah. There you go. AUDIENCE: Yep. There it is. BEN BEDERSON: Yep. So alternatively, we could make
it so it’s targeted to only a specific set
of websites. It depends. Obviously, that’s configurable,
but it depends on how you want it. But anyway, that’s the
way it works now. AUDIENCE: If they’re in class,
they shouldn’t be on it. BEN BEDERSON: Exactly. I mean we are having a lot of
debate in my department on how much we want to encourage or
discourage student use of computers in the classroom. And it’s a substantial issue. And faculty make their
own choices. And so there are some faculty
that ban all use of computers in the classroom, a significant
number. And there’s an equal number that
actively encourage it and have social policies saying, you
know, I really don’t want you to do it for bad stuff. And if I see you doing it for
irrelevant stuff, I’ll ask you to turn it off or leave. AUDIENCE: Although this is
a neat middle ground. BEN BEDERSON: That’s right. AUDIENCE: You could say you
must use computers in my classroom, but you must
have my plug-in. BEN BEDERSON: Yeah. Yeah. I mean it’s not that different
than a lot of companies that block all kinds of social
websites when you’re on company time. Why not? AUDIENCE: I was thinking
actually if you had a plug-in that could just project
everyone’s– randomly their browser
up there. BEN BEDERSON: Well, that’s
actually part of the plan for this, right? Once you’ve got this plug-in,
I do want to be able to, for positive reasons, say hey,
Dan, what are you doing? You’ve got a cool thing. Let’s show the class. So absolutely. AUDIENCE: I also think
for negative reasons. BEN BEDERSON: Yeah. No, you’re right. AUDIENCE: Oh, really. You want to go out with Susie? Good to know. BEN BEDERSON: All right. Let me see on time
how we’re doing. I want to make sure I save– AUDIENCE: 20 minutes. BEN BEDERSON: All right. So I’m just going to briefly
say a couple things about programming. So this has been so far about
student activities that are kind of modest activities,
kind of search and find answers and do simple things. Of course, we also want to use
computing to teach students programming and more
technical skills. So what’s that look like? And this came up very
specifically for me because I’ve been on sabbatical. So I had a couple of
interesting trips. My other trip was I went
to Moscow and Minsk. And the reason is it turns out
I have a cousin that runs a company called EPAM, which is
Eastern Europe’s largest software engineering services
or outsourcing firm. It turns out Google, apparently,
is a large customer of theirs. So you apparently have
some EPAMers around. He’s hiring a few thousand
software engineers next year in Minsk and Kiev
and Budapest. And he cannot completely
rely on the educational institutions in those cities. So he has a real training
problem. It turns out it’s
worse than that. I mean it’s not only that. It’s everywhere. While I was talking to him, I
ran into these guys in Russia. They asked me if I wanted
to move to– what was the name of it? It started– eNopolis. eNopolis– has anyone ever heard
of eNopolis? You know Disney made
Celebration. Well, Russia is making
eNopolis. It is a new city outside or the
city outside of Moscow, somewhere close to half way to
Siberia, which is basically going to be a technical city. And they are building a new
university, eNopolis U. And they’re going to 20,000 students
there in a few years. And they have if this company
needs to train 2,000 or 3,000 new software engineers next
year, Russia is expecting to train 25,000 new software
engineers next year or every year. Anyway, how do they
do it, right? We have massive issues
of scale. And of course, this is where
MOOCs have great potential, if you believe that they can work
as well as face-to-face, which I don’t quite believe. So how we do scale? And the state of the art is
not that great, right? We’ve got these super cool sites
that are excellent for your first programming class but
not a lot of really good online learning tools beyond
that I would argue. So how do we scale up the
learning technologies? So one answer is– so the Xparty vision, is that
when you have your students doing these things, what kind
of higher level metrics are there that we can monitor to
show the dashboard of their student programming activity. So one is instead of seeing did
you get your Google a Day answer right, maybe it’s how
are you doing on the unit tests for this bigger
assignment. And this is sort of what, at
least I understand, Udacity and Coursera are doing behind
the scenes, doing this analysis of student activity
after the fact. But can we integrate this into
the teachers’ dashboards in a real-time setting? The real time is important if
it’s a face-to-face classroom. And if not, I think we need to
unfortunately take the good work that these guys are doing
in the proprietary settings and democratize them and make
them available to all of the teachers, which is yet done. There are couple of interesting
specific efforts that are being done. One of my colleagues,
Bill Pugh– some of you may know him. He had spent some time at
Google over the years– built a system that we’ve now
used for over five years at Maryland, which is this
automated unit test server. So when the instructor makes
an assignment, they can essentially supply the unit
tests with the assignment. The student has a button
in Eclipse. So they press the
button and boom. It submits their solution. Gets their unit tests run. And not only does
it show you– it shows kind of both
how you’re doing in the public tests. But there’s also all kinds of
motivation to encourage students to not wait until the
last minute, because, again, motivation is a huge issue. And students are very likely to
do most of their coding in last 24 hours. So there’s a bunch of tests
that you can only one run twice a day. And so you have to, if you start
early in the assignment, at least you’ll get more
feedback there. It also has integrated
code review. So it has support for
some peer oversight of what you’re doing. So that’s kind of an
interesting tool. It at least works in a more
automated way and has some bigger scale that this kind of
thing I don’t think has seen really wide use yet. A couple of years ago when I
taught the intro class, I was using submit server. And it was great. And I wanted to have a little
bit more social motivation. So I built a tournament
server. So the idea was I made
assignments that were two-player games. And if your student’s solution
passed all of the unit tests, then their solution got
automatically entered into a tournament. The tournament would run
every 10 minutes. And you’d have this leader
board showing what was going on. And you could dive into your
name and see a interactive history of the games
that your solution played against the others. So it was kind of fun and
motivating and would let you see how your system worked
against adversaries. This was interesting going back
to how well does this work for women. This worked incredibly well– in Marvin Minsky’s term– for a few students or for
some number of students. I got emails in the middle of
the night saying, oh my, this is awesome. I’ve been working for 36 hours
and I’m at number two. I’m going to get
to number one. It’s like, yeah, this thing
is working great. And I was really excited until
I did a survey at the end of the semester. And I found out that half the
students never logged into look at the tournament server. Right? So there’s very different
distribution. And basically, the people that
were motivated by competition or because they were
doing really well were super excited. And then there are others that
either weren’t doing well and didn’t want to see where
they were or they just couldn’t care less. In fact, I had one– actually, she wasn’t a
student, but it was a colleague of mine, a woman, who
was actually kind of mad at me for doing this. She was offended. She thought this was
antithetical to teaching. This was anti-motivation. This would take all of the good
thing about teaching, which was learning for its own
sake, and turn it on its head and replace that with American
imperialist competition. She was French. The point is that there is a
wide variety of motivations. And things that work for
some groups don’t work for other groups. And you have to be really
cautious about all of these aspects. All right. So I’ve got 15 minutes,
just enough time. So I’m going to just tell
you very briefly. So where am I going with us? Two things. So first of all, I’m building
a new course. It has to be new so I can start
over and throw away all the old stuff we’ve done and see
what can I do that’s going to build on top of all the
things that we now know and take advantage of these MOOCs
and hopefully do better. So there are few key
characteristics for this course that I think also have
the potential for having some more general utility. The first is like the MOOCs,
it’s going to be competency-based. Our universities
are time-based. You take a course for a semester
and then you see how well you do. Instead, I’m going to promise
all my students an A if they complete. Or they can withdraw, which has
all kinds of implications. I’m going to have milestones
every few weeks. And if you don’t pass your
milestone, then you can’t advance to the next milestone
with that cohort and you sort of stay behind. There are going to be
a whole bunch of mini-courses every few weeks. It’ll be a flipped classroom. It will have all of the
content online. And the classes will all be
doing some kind of activity, hopefully using technologies
like Xparty or whatever technologies we can come up
with, breaking students into groups, problem solving, peer
learning, try and take the best of active learning and
see what we can do. And it brings up this really
basic challenge. When I was starting to
think about this, I emailed Mark Guzdial. And I said, hey Mark, the master
of all this, can you just point me to where’s
the literature. I’m having trouble finding the
literature on how people use active learning in the classroom
to teach technical topics, because this is
what we’re all saying you should be doing. He said, oh no, there
isn’t any. There’s a few ad hoc things
that people are doing. So that’s kind of an interesting
issue clearly that we need to do more of it. It could be very
problem driven. Instead of focusing on the technology, pick a fun problem. Have students build simulations
for artificial life and environmental
simulation so they can build little creatures that respond
to whatever– rising water. And then their creatures will
start by running on their own little simulations. And when they get good enough,
then they will interact with others in this world. And one of the lessons I’ve
learned is it can’t only be competitive fighting metrics. There have to be cooperative
metrics as perhaps being the primary thing to motivate people
who are going to have the same kind of issues again. Obviously, tools will be–
they’ll be building Python on the back end. I’ll provide web-based front-end
things so it will be interactive and visual. It’ll be mobile. Have your little creatures
connect to the real world so you can control them
by texting. So anyway, it’s going to
be a fun thing to do. This my spring project to see if
I can develop this course. So hopefully in a little
while you’ll see. AUDIENCE: One comment about that
game you played in that it’s interesting– I think in sports they
all know this. But the challenge is you put
everybody in one pool. And you get the same thing if
you think of a sport and you’re playing one-on-one
basketball. The reality is, the problem is
they’re all in the same pool. And there’s one thing about
the competitiveness. But I do think the other
challenge is a single winner, and it’s all in a common pool,
as opposed to having much smaller cohorts where there’s
some sense of relationship. BEN BEDERSON: So that’s
a good idea. So maybe there should
be multiple levels. You start off in
your own world. And then you get to pick your
friends and maybe you work in a world of three
or four people. And it grows and maybe
eventually you get to the broader world. AUDIENCE: Some people may want
to be in that more bigger but most won’t. BEN BEDERSON: Good point. I think sort of figuring out
this dynamics of how you get the students to work together
even if it’s just the students’ systems working
together is important. OK. I’ve got 10 minutes. I want to do one last activity
if you’ve got your computers. So while I’ve been here for a
week, I’ve, slightly against my better judgment, built a
little experimental prototype that we’re all going to try. And I want to– I told you some examples of some
of my favorite teachers and why they were
so good for me. I want to understand what
some of your favorite teachers were and why. Well, not who they were
but why they were your favorite teachers. What made your best
face-to-face experiences so good? And so what you’re going
to see when we go to this tool is– actually, I need
to activate it. Just a second. You do have to log in with
Google authentication. And I will show you what
this looks like. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. BEN BEDERSON: Well, I don’t
care what you use. But I will see your ID but
nothing more than that. So you should see something
like this. It should work OK on mobile. You’re just going to
ask a question. And then what we’re going to do
is I’m going to be able to now show you this. And you can enter things
multiple times. No one is there yet. Are people able to log in? So we’re going to go through
a couple of steps. You can enter multiple
things if you have multiple favorite things. There we go. Actually, I’ll make this
a little bigger. We can see what you’re
finding. And then I’m assuming
we’re going to get a lot of things here. And then we’ll do a little group
analysis to see if we can figure out are there any
classes of things that made them work or not work. But I’ll give you a couple
minutes to enter things. I apologize for those on mobile
phones or any other kind of phone. AUDIENCE: Not a mobile phone,
you really apologize. AUDIENCE: Especially the
rotary dial ones. How do I enter the text? BEN BEDERSON: So
I apologize for displaying email addresses. I’m just displaying nicknames. I’m not sure why sometimes
nicknames show up as email addresses. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. BEN BEDERSON: Yeah. That’s strange. I don’t understand that. AUDIENCE: There’s a lot of
different Google accounts, probably different kinds
of Google accounts. BEN BEDERSON: Apparently. AUDIENCE: But wouldn’t nicknames
be the same? AUDIENCE: No. There’s so many kinds
of Google IDs. AUDIENCE: There’s my
[email protected] account that I used to log in with. BEN BEDERSON: I’m hearing
the amount of typing noise decrease. So what we’re going to do is
we can read through these. But I want to see if we can
collectively look at these and see if we find any way
to cluster them. So I wrote a lame textual
cluster analysis myself. And then you guys are
going to help me. We’ll break them into
three clusters. We’ll try that. AUDIENCE: If you click on the
other submissions, you can get it on your own. BEN BEDERSON: Yeah. You can see this yourself. Correct. There was a link on the
bottom of that page. And now, so we can
see a tag cloud. And then what I’m going to do is
I’m going to give you a new activity which is I’m going to
assign you each randomly to one of these three clusters. And now if you click on that,
you should now see a new button that says start tagging
on the bottom of your screen. And then you’ll get one
of the clusters. And I’d like you to try and read
the items in your cluster and see if you can write a word
or two that describes what those– that sort of characterizes those
items in that cluster, recognizing that the clustering
is not perfect. And there’s not enough
data to really put these things together. So maybe this will work
and maybe this won’t. And then as you type in
your tag, they should show up over here. And we’ll see if we can come
up with any collective agreement on what the
tags are for these. So I’m starting by not showing
you what the tags are that you type yet. I’ll show those in a minute. But I thought, so you’re not too
influenced by what other people are doing, I’ll let you
spend a minute or two writing your own tags independently. Then I’ll let you see the
other people’s tags. And we can– AUDIENCE: How do
we create tags? BEN BEDERSON: You should have a
button on the bottom of your screen that said
start tagging. AUDIENCE: I don’t see one. AUDIENCE: Oh, you
have to go back. BEN BEDERSON: Oh, sorry. Correct. On the first screen. On the first screen. That’s what it was. Thanks. Design bug. Yeah, so you’ve been
given one cluster. So one of the things we can
see here is how much agreement there is. It’s kind of like ESP game
or Google Image Labeler. Actually, I thought there might
be no agreement at all. So I’m happy that there’s at
least two tags that people have agreed with. I’ll give you another minute. Then we’ll look at the tags and
see if it made any sense. And of course, the point of
this is my clustering algorithm is surely particularly
poor, because I did it in a few hours. But the point is if you’ve got
a classroom of students that are trying to think about
something together, then what are the tools that we might
develop to collectively learn from each other and think
about what’s going on. So let’s see what these are. So this group said there was
experience stories, approach real-life anecdotes, practical
passion anecdotes, real world, similar passionate. AUDIENCE: Anecdotes appears
twice there. BEN BEDERSON: It’s
capitalization. AUDIENCE: Lower case
everything. BEN BEDERSON: Fair enough. Touche. OK. Wow, so there is definitely
a different feel between these clusters. And there’s definitely some
consistency here. Personal goals, social,
personal caring. What was that? AUDIENCE: My tag went to
the wrong cluster. AUDIENCE: Mine did too. BEN BEDERSON: Your tag went
to the wrong cluster? Really? AUDIENCE: Yeah, it did. BEN BEDERSON: Really. Did they all go up one? Am I off by one? Do have I an off by one bug? AUDIENCE: Yeah. BEN BEDERSON: But how
could there be– AUDIENCE: I had the
number two group. And I appeared in number one. AUDIENCE: Yeah, same here. BEN BEDERSON: Did everybody’s
appear in the wrong one? AUDIENCE: No. Mine were good. AUDIENCE: Was anybody
else in cluster one? AUDIENCE: Yeah. Mine went to three. BEN BEDERSON: It
wrapped around? That’s a very weird
off by one bug. AUDIENCE: I was on mobile
if that does anything. BEN BEDERSON: Nah. All right, well– AUDIENCE: If you have
a log file somewhere you can debug this. BEN BEDERSON: Yes. AUDIENCE: Send us
the postmortem. BEN BEDERSON: OK. So technical postmortem is
interesting but not the point. AUDIENCE: One of the things
that’s interesting is that as you point out in cluster
three there’s a bit of agreement there. BEN BEDERSON: I think on
all three clusters there’s some agreement. AUDIENCE: In spite of the fact
that your clusters weren’t very good to begin with, there
were several things that talked about real-life
experience in all of them and several of them that had passion
in all of them that probably should have been
clustered together rather than where they are. BEN BEDERSON: I don’t do
synonyms or anagrams or anything, just words. So I’m kind of done with
my part for today. So I guess the point I want to
leave you with is not so much as an answer as a question,
which is– or maybe you can give
me more answers. How do we want our world
to go forward? We’re the designers
of our new world. We can make a world where we
get rid of our traditional universities and
do online only. That’s easy. That’s going to be a
natural outcome. We don’t have to do
anything for that. We’ll just follow the lawyers. They apparently have 30%
decreased applications in law schools this year compared
to last year. Or we can say, no, there is
real value in face to face universities. Let’s figure out what
we want them to be. Do we want to just not do
anything different at all? That seems like a path towards
failure, because there are these real competitive
market forces. Or do we figure out how to
make university teaching better by having– The pedagogy says that’s likely
to be around more active learning and
problem-centered designed and more relationships, more people
working together. And do we use technology
to support that? Seems less likely to be
part of the equation. And if so, how? So these are some first
experiments. And I welcome your thoughts
about what we might do going forward. So with that, I think I’ll stop
and take any questions. Or I think it’s time for
discussion if anybody wants to hang around. AUDIENCE: We’ll write
it to a class. So let’s thank our speaker. Thank you, Ben. And we have this room for
another 30 minutes. So we can hang around here or
just go outside and get coffee or whatever. So questions? AUDIENCE: So Ben, several times
in your talk you talked about the premise that MOOCs
are going to be as good as face-to-face education. BEN BEDERSON: Wait, no. Did I say that? I think I said they’re providing competitive pressure. I don’t think they’re as good. And it’s for us to
figure out– AUDIENCE: No, no. That’s what you mean. You were saying that they’re
not going to be as good. You were challenging the
assumption that they could be. BEN BEDERSON: I think they’re
better at– well, there are trade-offs. They are better in some
ways and worse in other important ways. AUDIENCE: So what I wanted to
bring you to was let’s step away from the premise that MOOCs
are trying to be as good as face-to-face education
for a second. Let’s just assume that it’s
going to be worse. The question is how much worse
and also whether the trade-off is reasonable. And I think you were already
stepping toward that direction, which is anticipating
my question. I think there is an interesting
interaction with sort of a policy question about
what the goal of the education is, because as an
engineer at Google, I might imagine saying, you know what,
I don’t care about training 20,000 programmers. I care about training 2,000
really, really good ones. So depending on your goal, if
you’re goal is equality, everyone has access and everyone
is at least at a certain competency, then perhaps
online MOOCs are the right solution. But if your goal is to train
those 2,000 really, really good ones, it seems like exactly
the wrong thing to do. So have you thought about what
is these kinds of interactions with what the real goal of
university education is supposed to be? BEN BEDERSON: Well, I guess
I’m not even convinced– I mean I guess the motivation
issue, I think, is huge. I don’t think there are many
people that will be able to teach themselves a
full discipline entirely on their own. Do you disagree? AUDIENCE: No, I agree. Very few people can do that. BEN BEDERSON: But nevertheless,
you can easily see the market forces that
kind of make traditional universities only be available
to the 2,000. But the thing is it’s not
2,000 versus 20,000. That’s actually not realistic. It’s like we need 200,000
programmers probably in this, right? I mean we need vast,
vast amounts of– and that’s just programmers. We need everybody
educated, right? We really want to get
100%, maybe 50%, of the people educated. So I’m not convinced that the
online stuff is good enough to get even our lower levels. I think we may need the
community colleges, which may be the first ones to go,
to get the larger numbers of our students. My fear is that the MOOCs may
actually be elitist in this strange kind of way. Dan has been doing
this power MOOC. I’ve been seeing some of these
students that come and take his class. And they’re like remarkable. And this one woman really
blew me away. She called in from Ecuador
to Office Hours. She sells flowers. And she wanted to learn to
become a better searcher in order to basically increase her
business so that she could find where the flower shops are
in big cities and other countries so that she could,
basically, find them and address them and sell to them. She’s a flower seller in Ecuador
but clearly a super entrepreneur, a very good
communicator, had good technology. So she’s someone that’s
going to succeed because of this stuff. And it’s an opportunity
that she wouldn’t have had otherwise. So this is like where we all
like to raise the flag and say, wow, the world is so
wonderful that here’s this person that’s having this
incredible opportunity that wouldn’t have otherwise. And it’s true. But there’s probably another
flower seller that didn’t think of going to this thing and
even if they thought about it might not have had the
capacity to figure out how to do it, unless they already had
finished their undergraduate degree and had enough training
to get there. So I’m kind of rambling. But I’m not quite sure
that the premise of your question is right. It may actually be the
exactly reversed. Schuman, maybe you had
a comment about this? AUDIENCE: So you mentioned this
long history of different kinds of education programs
and technologies. Is there any new study to the
results or just simple statistics on things like open
universities and other types of universities? BEN BEDERSON: On these issues,
who do they work for? What kind of students
do they work for? AUDIENCE: How successful their
students are in the long run. Do we know of any stats? BEN BEDERSON: No, I guess
I don’t really know. AUDIENCE: I know a little bit
about the success rate of Open University in the UK. And they were able to bring sort
of a classic education for a university using their
model, which is somewhat different than the these
but same kind of distance learning thing. And they also had kind
of a big fall off. They would start with 100,000
and graduate 50,000 by the end of a 4-year period. But that’s a remarkable number
when you think about it. In some sense, I think this is
a red herring to worry about the fall off. It’s the total number graduating
at the end. And Open University has changed
the face of education in the UK substantially by
increasing participation rate among stay-at-home-moms for
example, who would never otherwise get a chance
to do that. So it really changed the
class structure of education in the UK. It’s a really interesting
case study. BEN BEDERSON: I half
agree with you. I mean I agree that looking at
the overall impact of the number of graduates
is crucial. And that’s 50,000 new students
that wouldn’t have graduated is fantastic. But that doesn’t mean
that you can shut everything else down, right? The way society works is
there are ecosystems. And we have lots of different
kinds of learning environments. That’s 50,000 students that
might not have graduated. But there’s a whole bunch of
other students for which this doesn’t work. So if it fills in a niche, so
if fills in part of this trade-off space that supports
a set of students that wouldn’t have been supported
otherwise, then that’s great. But my fear is that if it pulls
people away from other things because it’s so much
cheaper and it provides lesser quality, then you might actually
have a hard time finding your 2,000 top. AUDIENCE: I can think of a
similar example in China. So I entered university. That was a year that had
previously 10 years of closure of universities. So there was 10 years
of backlog. So reportedly 100 people
got in in that year. So there was lots of people who
were qualified and wanted to have a higher education
and couldn’t. I remember they had so-called
CCTV university, this Chinese central television network
by this university. And they offered university
classes. And I actually know even a
personal friend who went to that kind of university. I don’t know how successful they
are usually but probably had the same impact. That is there were people who
at least felt like they had some version of a higher
education that they wouldn’t otherwise have had. My friend who went today is
a president of a major investment bank in China. So maybe they have
a role to play. AUDIENCE: I would love to
know the data from that. BEN BEDERSON: Clearly there’s
a role for this. Obviously, I have my job
to try and protect. So maybe this is all just
protectionism in a disguise of quality. So I guess two issues. One is I want to think
about what do we want our society to be. And my gut says we probably
don’t want to shut down our universities. And in order to not do that, I
think we need to think about what is the value of
universities and be more clear about what is it they do and
how to make them better. So part of this is me trying
to think about that and try out some small experiments on
where are the places where we can take advantage of technology
to potentially improve education. Likely, these are
not the answer. But they’re a week’s effort. AUDIENCE: Let me try a different
direction, because I think we can talk about
educational policy forever. And we’d be here for another 30
minutes if we just stay on that topic. One thing that I really enjoyed
in your class today, lecture today, is the
interactive aspect of it. The lesson here seems to be
something about engagement. And the key that you opened
up with was motivation. One of things that I thought was
particularly intriguing in several of the tools
that you showed was this continuous feedback. And I noticed a little bit of
this weird tension just me trying to use it in your
experiment essentially, which is there’s this tension between
me paying attention to my own task versus paying
attention to what other people are doing. I was wondering as a CI expert
if you would want to talk a little bit about this
design tension. And how have you tried
to deal with that? BEN BEDERSON: So excellent
question. So first of all, you’re
absolutely completely right. In fact, when Dan and I did some
studies with Xparty this summer with a student that was
visiting for the summer, Mike Gubbels, we very much ran into
that same tension, in that if we’re saying we’re designing
this tool because we want students to pay attention to the
rest of the things other people are doing. But if the students are paying
attention to what the other people are doing, then they’re
not paying attention to their primary task, which is
to do their own work and to think, right? And if they’re not pay attention
to everybody else, then what’s the value? So one answer is that this is
a fundamentally bad idea. It fails either one
way or the other. You can choose your
failure mode. So that’s why I have a backup
plan, which is classroom management. The teacher does have to
pay attention to what the class is doing. So at the very least, the
teacher can use this as a way to see what the class is doing
while they’re doing it and then use that to direct the
teacher’s attention and how they’re going to interact with
individuals and so on. In this particular case, I
obviously wanted to also demonstrate the concept. So I wanted to show it to you. But I do think there’s
a tension. In fact, so that’s why in this
particular case I started off by hiding the labels
on the tags. So even though you can see that
something was going on, that was supposed to
be the fun factor. And for people that didn’t have
laptops or computers, they’re not just sitting there
twiddling their thumbs for three minutes. But at least they can have
something to look at. And then when it’s time
to say, OK, now you’ve done some work. Let’s look and see
what’s going on. So this was a not very
sophisticated but a design for that particular problem. That’s also why we started by
having the aggregate view on the teacher’s display. And the teacher can choose
what to display or not to display to the students. I showed it to everybody
in the classroom. But I obviously didn’t have
to show it to you. I could’ve said do you work
for 10 minutes, and then afterwards we’ll all
go look at it. AUDIENCE: The interesting
thing about our classes running right now is we have
something analogous to this which are the forums. So we have people commenting
on solving the problems in the forums. And it has a similar
kind of tension. Should I be solving
the problems? Or should I be paying attention
to people talking about solving problems? So it’s analogous. Our thing that was scattered
over hours. BEN BEDERSON: If it’s not
synchronous, then it’s less of an issue. AUDIENCE: Well, it’s not just
that it’s not synchronous. It’s over a longer period, so
you can spend 30 minutes working on a problem and then
spend 5 minutes doing the context test, not
the actual test. And so when you’re doing this in
the space of three minutes, it’s a different tension. It’s like I only have
a few seconds. How do I switch? In my class, it’s not such a big
deal, because you can work for a couple of hours
and then look back. So I think it’s not just
that it’s synchronous. It’s time pressured. And this is time pressured. My class is not. AUDIENCE: So one of the things
that strikes me is I took a distance learning class at the
University of Minnesota in ’90-’91, somewhere in there. We had newsgroups. We had mailing lists. We had video tapes, because
that was the thing. BEN BEDERSON: It’s nothing
new under the sun. Is that what you were
going to say? AUDIENCE: Well, no. It’s just that it’s always
worked for the same type of people. So you’re talking about
this 10% of the 10%. Those people have always
been able to do this. For the last 20 years,
you’ve been able to take a class remotely. How are we going to
get the other 99%? This clearly doesn’t
work for them. We’ve been trying essentially
this exact thing for 20 years. BEN BEDERSON: I think, well,
increase the amount. Just like videos are more
accessible than texts. The number of people
will increase. But my gut says it’s
still going to tend to be a minority. AUDIENCE: That’s what
I’m getting at. If it is, then how
are we going to get those other people? Just this fundamental
style of learning doesn’t work for them. Are you seeing anybody trying
to directly say why doesn’t this work for you. What can we fix? How would you learn? BEN BEDERSON: I think MOOCs
are probably here to stay. But maybe universities are
really are here to stay too. It may be that MOOCs are really
a small minority of people in a relatively small
minority of subjects for which they work well. AUDIENCE: What I’ve actually
seen is the people that universities work for,
this also works for. I think they are more or less
the same people who can read a book on their own, are
motivated, can watch a video– BEN BEDERSON: But there’s more
than 10% of the people in this country that can succeed
at a university. AUDIENCE: Are you claiming that
less people can learn this method– BEN BEDERSON: I have no idea. AUDIENCE: That’s what
I’m saying. Is anybody actually deliberately
going out– what about the 10%
at the other end? What’s going on? AUDIENCE: I’ve had a little
bit of data on that. And one of the resounding things
that comes through all of the surveys that we do on the
MOOCs is people saying I would go to university. But I can’t for financial
reasons, for time reasons, for work reasons. BEN BEDERSON: And that was the
same reason that people didn’t come here today mostly. AUDIENCE: It’s exactly
what I was going say. There’s all these exogenous
reasons. So those are people who don’t
get to these other kinds of traditional education
opportunities. AUDIENCE: And this opens up more
people that maybe they work during the day
and other things. What about the 10% at the other
end with just this style of learning? AUDIENCE: Well, you could
argue that they’re also failing with traditional
classes. AUDIENCE: I’m saying
exactly that. The people that are failing in
the university model or the MOOC model, they’re all
the same people. BEN BEDERSON: I don’t know
that that’s true. I suspect that more people can
succeed at a university than in a MOOC, because I think that
there is a lot of social support and motivation. AUDIENCE: I think another factor
of this is the low cost of entry of this style of
instruction makes it possible for a lot more people
to try it. And that’s a non-trivial
thing. AUDIENCE: Absolutely. AUDIENCE: Because the cost of
getting into a university is a huge barrier for a
lot of the world. So I agree with you. I think there’s an ecosystem
or at least what you said. There’s an ecosystem to
get to the 100% case. But we’re going to
get 50% more. That’s and incredible feat. BEN BEDERSON: Some university
people will say, hey, my MOOCs is better than the university. I don’t want to pay for this. I’ll drop out and
take the MOOC. Other people will take
a MOOC and say, wow, this is fantastic. I didn’t know I could do this. I want to do this full time. And they’re going to join
the university. In the back? AUDIENCE: It looks like your
presentation has been focusing on online education in the
setting of a university or professional training. I’m interested in knowing you’re
take about the role of online education in the setting
of high school or elementary school, where
you might reach a much wider audience. BEN BEDERSON: So I mean I think
technology certainly has their place. But I think, generally speaking,
the younger you get, the more these issues become
problematic in motivation and focus. There are some high school
students that are capable of learning independently and are
motivated enough to stay on task and to actually get through
a course, but I think fewer high school students
than adults. And elementary school
I think it’s a vanishingly small number. There are already online and
combined high schools in this country, quite a few of them. There are hundreds of thousands
of students now being educated in online or
blended high school settings. Our university is
building one. Our new town high school
is going to be blended. There’s going to be an online
learning curriculum. And some of your stuff
will be online. And I don’t know how well
it’s going to work. So I guess I’m not quite sure
how to answer you, except I think that all these issues
are the same but probably more so. AUDIENCE: Just to
give a scenario. Let’s say the kids now like
smartphones and computers. And they grow up with
smartphones. And they start [INAUDIBLE] computers at a very early age. It’s going to be computer
literate at the age of five or six. I’m sure computers will play
key role in their education growing up. So I wonder how— BEN BEDERSON: Just because
they know how to use the technology doesn’t mean they
have the focus to work three to five hours a week
for 20 weeks. To take what we think of as a
course or 10 weeks or whatever requires a tremendous amount of
follow through that I think most humans don’t have without
an external force. AUDIENCE: And that underlines
the argument that you’ve been making, that in a university
setting that provides for that structure and that force that
causes you to stick with it. AUDIENCE: You get one
more question and then let people go. AUDIENCE: So during your
presentation, you mentioned that all the books had been
available for a buck or two and yet people go to actually
to watch these books and videos online. So I don’t necessarily agree
with the assertion that books are not easily and
freely available. And I think one of the reasons
actually why MOOCs are so popular is because they’re
freely available, both in the sense that they’re free
and actually there is easy access to them. But watching a video actually
compares to reading a book. It seems to me just
a one-time thing. After you watch the video,
then it’s difficult to search the video. You can’t use it as
a reference after the course is over. And a book seems like a thousand
times better to me than these videos. And the same time, books have
not, in my opinion, as freely accessible as the videos in
the MOOCs, especially in developing countries
let’s say. The basic computer science
textbooks, they cost over $100. BEN BEDERSON: Well, a lot
of them are available. You can buy one that’s five
years old for a few dollars. But I agree. In this country, not necessarily
everywhere. Although you can get copies
of it in other countries. AUDIENCE: So going to developing
countries, you can’t do even this. And you haven’t a need
actually any bandwidth for books. So I wonder actually if one step
better than MOOCs even is making actually a major
books and textbooks as accessible as MOOCs are. BEN BEDERSON: But I think this
goes back to this what motivates people to actually
deeply engage for a long period of time. And I just think that fewer
people have the– you may have the capacity to read a book. I personally barely do. And I suspect most people
just don’t. So I mean I agree with you about
the quality for those people that are willing to
do it and follow through. I just don’t think that
most people do. If there’s anything that
interface design has taught us and especially the web is that
lowering the barriers to entry increases the number of people
that will participate. When the web came out, it
didn’t add anything new. There was already FTP
and Gopher, right? And so web added nothing new. It just increased the
accessibility to existing information. AUDIENCE: Mosaic. It added nothing new. BEN BEDERSON: Yeah. Mosaic and not the web. The mosaic added nothing new. What was HTML? It just is a different file
format and a particularly ugly on at that. But it made it so that a larger
number of people could do a particular kind of
formatting that would have been harder for them
to do otherwise. And so I think what the MOOCs
do is they just increase the accessibility to the content. It’s not that they couldn’t
reach it through text. It’s just that the way that the
market works is that most people won’t. AUDIENCE: So you could pose
same question for MOOCs. So why do people actually
sign up about MOOCs? You need to know that these
MOOCs are online and things like this. And it seems to me that it’s
pretty much the same argument. MOOCs are very widely
available. So people will find a way
to learn about them. They’ll find a way, actually,
to organize meet-ups and social group to actually
study in these MOOCs. And so if books are not freely
available in developing countries, people will find a
way actually to use them. BEN BEDERSON: It’s not only
physical access to the books. It’s also the– I’m not sure what the word is. It’s the ease of
access, right? When people had mosaic,
it made it easier for people to do things. And so more people did it. If you have a grocery store
that’s around your corner, you’re more likely
to buy groceries. If someone is selling drugs
around your corner, you’re more likely to buy drugs. I mean this is the way
the market works. You make things easier to use. In fact, if you make Google
search results a tenth of a second faster, Google makes
an extra $100 million. So there’s all different kinds
of ease of access. And markets respond to that. AUDIENCE: I guess I don’t see
why we can’t make easy access for books let’s say. BEN BEDERSON: It’s not just the
physical books themselves. The information in a book is
harder for most people to access by reading then
by watching a video. AUDIENCE: So the second point
about the books thing– trust me. People have tried this. The biggest problem is copyright
and publishers. Trust me. For example, a lot of the
computer science textbooks are available in India printed
differently on cheaper paper and all of this stuff. You cannot import those books. And they’re available for
like a dollar in India. You can’t import those books
into the United States. You will get your rear-end sued,
because they are limited distribution. And so that market force
actually dominates. You’re right. BEN BEDERSON: If you solved the
first problem, then you’d have a second problem. AUDIENCE: Exactly. Libraries have been around
for a long time. And you don’t see spontaneous
eruptions in theoretical physics communities, right? It would be a lovely idea. It just doesn’t happen. And so this other issue then
rears its ugly head. So we should quit here. But we can hang on
and chat after. Thanks again, Ben.

8 thoughts on “Social + MOOCs + HComp = SMOOCH — Computing Comes to Education

  1. TxFw – I was referring to the fact that many used textbooks (that are an edition or two old) are available quite inexpensively. For example, Designing the User Interface, 5th edition by Ben Shneiderman is $104 new, but the 3rd edition is available new for $3.87 or used for $0.01 (plus shipping) from Amazon.

  2. It was mentioned, that only 10% of mooc-students succeed their courses. Is there already data what percentage of mooc-students passes their courses if only those are considered, which also have the qualification to study the subject in a regular university? Comparing success-rates of similar groups?

  3. I think we miss the point and will be disappointed if all we do is try to take the "richness" of f2f and try to move it online. Instruction has to be transformed.The key is that online has its own affordances. Knowing these and building knowledge of human development,sociology and learning should lead to effective online design. Programmers and designers for the ethical treatment of people online.

  4. The only teacher I have ever been inspired by is an online teacher ! (e.g. check out Richard Buckland Ethics).

    I am graduating from University of Manchester in neuroscience this Friday and have been disappointed by teaching style for many reasons too long to go into now.

    Next year I will migrate to Brazil where I plan to work part time and do MOOCs in AI and comp sci part time.

    I guess I am one of the people that MOOCs work for. Although, I have yet to complete a MOOC.

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