Loving the hands on experience!


In between the import-export operations (see previous post) I can’t not to share my excitement (again, thanks to my  T-509 Massive classmates, who mentioned the resource). Powtoon! For a person with a background in law, government studies, humanities (all reading-paper-driven environment, good memory and striving to get things right from the first and only try) hands on is scary. How can I?

However, the curious mind would not be so curious without trying new things. And here I absolutely must credit my colleagues and classmates: for mentioning the resource (Bobby and Lindsay), Carli  (for walking me through and sharing expertise), Merisenda (for inspiration), Rachel (for being a great project mate) and the rest of the T-509 Massive class. I know, without this fantastic group, none of this would have been unfolding the way it looks now.

So, I told myself, I want to try it and to convert my semester-long hard questions and answers (on best practices of managing MOOCs)  into a carPowToon. Something between PowerPoint and a cartoon.

In no way perfect, but a huge step into the unknown. I’m not brave enough to youtube it quite yet, but aiming to do it. So, stay tuned!

Import-Export disaster!


I just got comfortable in the blogosphere and wanted to proceed to the next step: building a portfolio. Portfolio, hmmmm, sounds pretty powerful and implies expertise. Can’t wait to learn how to build it, can’t wait to have one!

But, wait! Here I will give a quick overview or my disaster (to be fixed). Apparently, some blog spaces have truncated features (specifically, lacking the “portfolio” option). Not a problem – since it is claimed to be easy to transfer the content from one blog to another, from one platform to another. My compulsive mind felt settled on a migration idea into a regular wordpress, rather than my original, customized home.

All I need to do is to “export” the content of the old blog and “import” into the new space. Right? Not so fast. The import-export operation got busted somewhere in the digital space. I am yet to figure out where and how and, most importantly, to place my precious content where it belongs, in the new space, with the portfolio function.

Before that, however, the thoughts are bubbling in the compulsive mind and need to be expressed, hence, blogging in the “old” blog. Afterall, I’ll just export everything at once and import the same :-). Just bare with me!


On Shanna Smith Jaggars’s post “Democratization of Education for Whom? Online Learning and Educational Equity”


I found Shanna Smith Jaggar’s article in Association of American Colleges and Universities confirming my earlier suspicions about MOOCs, which I cautiously expressed in an earlier post (Flipped classroom doubt). Specifically: knowledge obtaining process in a face to face setting is more successful than that obtained online. Also, not to well prepared students won’t get as much out of an online class as would those better prepared.

So, I continue believing that MOOCs would enhance the learning for those well prepared and well motivated to handle the content and the process. I am assuming (without citing any date here), that educating one from scratch, based on online education only (massive, specifically) might be challenging, while not impossible. There are always some very motivated and dedicated learners. But the general trend, I think, holds: those better prepared will be able to add another layer of knowledge.

For higher ed, I remain a strong believer in value of live interaction with academics, peers and mentors as a core educational experience, perhaps supplemented with online educational experience.

H2O: what do you think it is?


Well, it is known as a formula for water. Not only.

H2O  is also a tool and it is worth giving it a little more attention here. For this purpose I have interviewed Shailin Thomas (@shailinthomas), a research associate at Harvard Law School.

Here is what I found out:

Q: What is H2O, why the name?

A: H2O is an online, Web-based platform for creating, customizing, and sharing course materials.  H2O started as the brainchild of Professor Jonathan Zittrain over a decade ago, and has since evolved into an innovative tool used by professors at more than 14 universities.  The materials on H2O are in the public domain, and the collections of course materials — known on the platform as “playlists” — are licensed through Creative Commons, allowing anyone to copy, edit, and repurpose a section of another professor’s course for her own pedagogical goals.  The name H2O — and that’s literally an “O,” not a zero — is, to some extent, an artifact of history.  H2O was christened at a time when 2.0 names were quite popular.  Calling the platform H2O was meant to invoke the idea of an ocean of free and open materials from which professors could draw, while also giving a nod to the concept of Harvard 2.0.

Q: Who does H2O serve: a) by academic discipline (is it law only?); b) by geography

A: H2O is freely open and available for use by anyone anywhere — both for the consumption and creation of materials.  It has received the most traction in law, in part because the subject matter of law school courses predominantly consists of public domain judicial opinions, but we are hoping to expand the platforms adoption to other disciplines as open-access resources proliferate.

Q: What problems does it solve?

A: Currently, professors are forced to tailor their courses to fit a small number of dominant textbooks on a given subject.  In law, not only are they stuck with a particular set of cases in a given book, but they are also stuck with the edits made to those cases by the casebook authors.  H2O allows professors to craft their own materials exactly the way they want them, without the restrictions imposed by the traditional textbook publishing market.  Not only can they pick their own cases, but they can edit them to fit their own pedagogical objectives.  In addition to the benefits for professors, H2O solves a number of problems for students.  Students today are asked to pay $300 per course per semester for books that they have to lug around all day and of which they only read a small portion.  H2O course materials are weightless, as they can be accessed from any internet-aware device, and they are completely, 100% free.  Over the last few years, H2O has saved students hundreds of thousands of dollars in aggregated textbook costs.

Q: Are there competitors to this initiative/tool?

A: There are tools by which professors can send a PDF of their course materials to a service that will make them a course packet — often made available to students at a reduced price compared to a traditional casebook.  But I am currently unaware of another platform that seeks to create a community of professors sharing and repurposing each other’s materials.  Our hope is that, in the future, professors will be able to find a number of sample syllabi on the platform relevant to a course they would like to teach, giving them the opportunity to pull from those existing syllabi as they construct their own course.

Q: Are there institutions outside Harvard which adapted H2O?

A: While the code is open source, I know of no universities running their own instances of H2O.  However, there are a number of faculty members at more than 14 universities across the country that are using the H2O platform in some capacity for their course materials.

Q: What trajectory do you see H2O moving (space, content, disciplines)

A: Our hope is that, as open-access models and materials proliferate, an increasing number of educational resources will become shareable in the ways that make their inclusion in H2O possible.  Any resource on the Web can be linked to from an H2O syllabus, but the customized editing capabilities require that it be freely available in ways that traditional copyright prohibits.  As more and more materials become available on H2O, we hope to incorporate many more types of content on the platform and expand to other academic disciplines.




Is there a place where I can keep a list of valuable tools I’ve recently discovered? There must be another tool for keeping the tools organized.

Why don’t I start my list here, in a form of a blog?

PowToon (just discovered, thanks to my class-mates): creating animated presentations and uploading on YouTube.

Diigo: marking up the sources online (I should switch to that, but yet to invest the time into figuring it out).

Storify: create stories, dragging tweet posts and other sources into one place.

NodeXL: yet to figure out what exactly it is and what value does it create

MockFlow wireframe: obviously, for wireframing.


Google docs: pretty much sky is the limit.

And the classics, of course: Twitter, blogging, Canvas.

Email sounds like an obsolete thing now, doesn’t it?


Worst case scenario in massive online learning: what are the risks of an increasing reliance on large scale learning environments in our educational systems?


A couple of days ago I had a small elevator talk with a professor:

– How are things?

– Great, I am taking a class.

– Which class/where?

– Massive online education/HGSE.

– Hm…

– Well, the education is going massive to some extent, this is the reality today.

– I hope I’ll still have my job.

This last phrase made me wonder. What is the worst case scenario in massive online learning? I’ve already set my opinion that in order to benefit from MOOCs (and any online learning sources, frankly), one has to know what to look for, have an internal motivation to learn, to absorb. That said, MOOCs are not panacea and I agree with Bill Gates to some extent, where he says that maybe the excitement (and fears) about MOOCs are exaggerated. I personally think that MOOCs should be taken as is: they exist, they provide information and access. They are fabulous for those with curious minds and motivation. They are not panacea, however, they are not miracle which make all learn in an instant.

What if, though. What if MOOCs were replacing traditional higher education? There is fear of just this.

Ok, the worst case scenario to me is something like this: all higher education is replaced by massive online learning. Grading, instruction, forums, peer review, labs, anything imaginable is done remotely without any human participation in the process (other than the initial recording of an actual professor/teacher). Mass production of de-humanized information processing is the worst case scenario for me.

But, realistically thinking, I stick with a healthy balance of liking the MOOCs for what they are: nothing more, nothing less.

Best practices in managing a MOOC


As MOOCs are rapidly emerging, new types of questions emerge with them. For example, in the online environment, traditional methods of dealing with troubled students (who may be suffering from mental illness or threatening harm to self or others, not to be confused with cyber-bullying) rarely apply.

I am wondering about the strategies or best practices to address student mental health in the MOOC context.

While in a physical classroom the process is more or less clear, as well as the identity of a student is defined (real name, address, background), the process is not so clear in MOOCs, where the identity is often blurry (a nickname can be used, a statement of mental condition could be false, etc.).

Do best practices or the sense of responsibility of a course provider shift when the course is related to personal development topics (rather than more strictly academic ones)?

The resources are scarce, and I was able to identify a couple (Rivard’s “Dangerous and Possibly Anonymous” and Monahan & Riggs “MOOCs and the Institution’s DUties to Protect Students from Themselves and Others: Brave New World or Much Ado About Nothing?”), but will continue searching for my veritas.

While the best practices are still emergent and uncertain, I am trying to set the stage and sketch a picture made of the resources and applicable practices.



Diving into learning with no chance to fail.


“Mama, draw me a helicopter, please” says my 4 y.o. precious daughter after she watched another episode of one of the favorites Robocar Poli (Hyundai’s social responsibility project for children).

Drawing helicopters, to put it mildly, is as far from my expertise as it is from my interest. Add to it lack of time, a hefty to-do list, an infant on my laps, some pressing matters – and this project’s attractiveness deteriorates dramatically.


The retaliation of a disappointed 4 y.o. is a powerful motivator and a push. Basically, there is not time for deliberation, no opportunity for a dialog or negotiation. No luxury of wondering whether I can do it. There is only one option: to draw a helicopter as fast as possible, to smile at all times, make it fun (to cover up for the shortcomings of the horrible skill-less drawing) and to move on, being ready to please my little patron with yet another deliverable, in which I most likely won’t have the right background either.

Interestingly, the helicopter (Heli) sketch was approved by my 4 y.o., then followed the drawing of an ambulance (Amber), a track (Roy) and a police car (Poli). It all happened so dramatically fast, that I haven’t noticed my imagination taking over, materializing in drawing a forest, an ocean (with sharks), an island and more.

What happened? I swear I can’t draw, I am busy and the theme (tracks and cars and all that) is not exactly in the scope of my interest (give me something “girlier” any day!) .

I guess, the motivator outside of anything rational dictated the successful outcome. There was not much of a choice, but to succeed and to do it fast, with the resources immediately available.

I wonder: if we are not aware of the spectrum and criteria (“this is easy”, “this is difficult”, “this is for humanities majors”, “this is for techies”), but only have a task and an assumption that it is doable somehow, would we then trick ourselves (or rather free ourselves from what’s stopping us otherwise) and succeed? The answer would rightfully be “it depends”. But I suspect there will certainly be more room for creativity, leading to succeeding.

Another random thought.

What if there is no Twitter?


Being relatively new to twitter, I won’t be able to tell whether its crashing is an ordinary even or something outrageous. It did however make me worried.

What would the world be without twitter?

Twitter crash 10-24-14

Flipped classroom doubt…


A couple of days ago we had a panel discussion with leaders in massive online education. Many question were touched upon, many themes: unbundle, innovate, free-up.

A mention that students take increasingly poorer notes and increasingly fall asleep during classes. We need to flip [the classrooms]. Well. This is exactly what made me doubt. If the students increasingly disengage in the classroom, what makes us think that the students will engage with the online streaming lectures? Those of us who has taken classes online might have falling asleep experience, regardless of how important the content was. My own strategy was to take notes (stop and rewind, until everything is captured), a proven method against falling asleep.

In other words, how much audience’s attention we are capturing in the flipped content v. a traditional lecture, is yet to be found.

Another questions is this: striving for efficiency and “massivity” in education, are we not compromising the quality of education?

Food for thought indeed.


Log in