How an Upstart Company Might Profit From Free Courses - The Chronicle of Higher Education
Article lists funding models for Coursera proposed in its deal with Michigan -- among other things most important being charging learners per course, there's also university buying/licensing it from Coursera, selling it to community colleges, etc.

These are the revenue models that I took verbatim from another article: http://jime.open.ac.uk/articles/10.5334/2012-18/.
Certification (students pay for a badge or certificate)
Secure assessments (students pay to have their examinations invigilated (proctored))
Employee recruitment (companies pay for access to student performance records)
Applicant screening (employers/universities pay for access to records to screen applicants)
Human tutoring or assignment marking (for which students pay)
Selling the MOOC platform to enterprises to use in their own training courses
Sponsorships (3rd party sponsors of courses)
Tuition fees.
moocs  public_discourse  coursera 
A statement on online course content and accessibility | Berkeley News
UC Berkeley has long been committed to ensuring equal access to students, faculty and staff with disabilities. Despite the absence of clear regulatory guidance, we have attempted to maximize the accessibility of free, online content that we have made available to the public. Nevertheless, the Department of Justice has recently asserted that the University is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because, in its view, not all of the free course and lecture content UC Berkeley makes available on certain online platforms is fully accessible to individuals with hearing, visual or manual disabilities.

The department’s findings do not implicate the accessibility of educational opportunities provided to our enrolled students.

In response, the university has moved swiftly to engage our campus experts to evaluate the best course of action. We look forward to continued dialog with the Department of Justice regarding the requirements of the ADA and options for compliance. Yet we do so with the realization that, due to our current financial constraints, we might not be able to continue to provide free public content under the conditions laid out by the Department of Justice to the extent we have in the past.
moocs  berkeley  public_discourse 
3 days ago
mooc - gsiemens on Diigo
This is where George Siemens collects articles about MOOCs
moocs  public_discourse 
3 days ago
How technology disrupted the truth | Katharine Viner | Media | The Guardian
Useful as a foil for research. It's true that the influence of prestige journalists as gatekeepers has waned, but it's good to historicize this and show that this particular prestige itself was a function of the post-war media landscape with its huge networks basically sharing all the market between them. Still - the loss of objectivity is worrying because we do want something that both produces good content and helps hold institutions accountable.
journalism  media  research  public_discourse 
4 days ago
History, Myths, and Opportunities: Welfare at 20 - Council on Contemporary Families
Nice piece by Stephanie Coontz on TANF. Cites several studies of poverty and the impact of the act.
4 days ago
Clippy and the History of the Future of Educational Chatbots
Basically she's saying bots are not *really* intelligent and people *really* prefer humans. But the tech industry doesn't listen. And oh, bots are really old and not a new thing at all.
9 days ago
No Driver? Bring It On. How Pittsburgh Became Uber’s Testing Ground - The New York Times
What a quote!

“It’s not our role to throw up regulations or limit companies like Uber,” said Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh’s mayor, who said that Uber planned to use about 100 modified Volvo sport utility vehicles for the passenger trials. The vehicles will also have a human monitor behind the wheel. “You can either put up red tape or roll out the red carpet. If you want to be a 21st-century laboratory for technology, you put out the carpet.”
uber  platformization 
14 days ago
Facebook Removes Iconic 'Napalm Girl' Photo From Its Site : All Tech Considered : NPR
Facebook did not reveal details of its internal decision-making process. NPR scraped LinkedIn for the resumes of a few hundred employees and contractors in the "community operations" teams, the self-described "safety specialists" in charge.

In Wake Of Shootings, Facebook Struggles To Define Hate Speech
The team members are scattered around the world — in California, Ireland, India. Many are recent college grads with questionable training on what would be considered, in legacy newsrooms, very tough decisions that only veteran editors can make.

And the volume of work is extraordinary. While Bickert would not say how many posts Facebook removes on average, her colleague Osofsky shared in his non-apology: "It's hard to screen millions of posts on a case-by-case basis every week."

Repeat: millions. That would make the unit an editorial sweatshop.
facebook  platformization 
14 days ago
Computing the Social Value of Uber. (It's High.) - Bloomberg View
How much would be lost if Uber simply went away? That's actually happened in Austin, Texas, and the service has faced legal troubles in France, Spain, Germany and parts of India.

The Sharing Economy

How much is really at stake? A new paper by Peter Cohen, Robert Hahn, Jonathan Hall, Steven Levitt (of “Freakonomics” fame) and Robert Metcalfe comes up with a pretty good, dollars-and-cents measure of how much UberX, the main Uber service, is improving the lives of its users.

Based on their study, here are a few ways of framing the value of Uber ride services to Americans:

For a typical dollar spent by consumers on UberX, they receive $1.60 worth of gain. 
uber  platformization 
16 days ago
U.S. Open Quieted Those Calling for a Roof. Now It Faces a Louder Problem. - The New York Times
Putting a cover on top of Ashe Stadium was an architectural and engineering challenge because the stadium sits on marshy land. But after years of deflecting pressure to build a roof that would prevent the almost inevitable rain delays, the United States Tennis Association relented.

But the solution to one problem has made another one more acute.

With a capacity of 23,771, Ashe Stadium can hold nearly 9,000 more people than two other showcase courts with retractable roofs: Centre Court at Wimbledon and Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open. And the concretelike hardcourts at the U.S. Open only magnify the problem.

At most stadium sporting events, loudness is welcome, or even encouraged. At basketball arenas, football stadiums and baseball parks, video boards frequently implore, “Let’s make some noise!” In tennis, cheering is acceptable after points, but fans are expected to be quiet in the moments leading up to the action and the time during play.
tennis  research 
21 days ago
problem xblock that uses adaptive hint - Google Groups
Hi all,

I'm fairly new to xblock. Not sure what is the right approach here.

I want to have a problem that insert HTML content based on student's submission. I need the HTML inserted in the same component as the problem instead of creating another HTML component. In other word, I want to change the content of the problem after student submit their answer.

Is it possible for me to create such xblock based on the adaptive hint problem? I want the problem be able to give students adaptive hint but also be able to change its content.

How can I altered the original adaptive hint problem to allow change of problem content?

Please help.

Thank you,

xblock  moocs  edx  openedx  forums 
23 days ago
Chase Sapphire Reserve: Deal-Seeking Obsessives Have a New Favorite Credit Card - Bloomberg
Credit card churners! Oh my! A research topic!

Indeed, as credit-card reward programs have grown more generous, online forums and bloggers have become fonts of ingenious ways to exploit them for free travel or cash. To accrue sign-up bonuses, for example, some credit-card churners end up cycling through dozens of credit cards.
Banks, hotels and airlines don't necessarily condone such strategies. But the online buzz among churners and other points-obsessed customers has become a roar that's also reached card offers' broader intended audience: affluent people who travel frequently.
On Reddit's increasingly popular "churning" forum—which has shot up from 42,000 to 53,000 subscribers in just the last four months—a megathread about the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has attracted 10,000 comments.
"I've never seen hype for a card like I saw with this," said Shawn Coomer, a travel blogger in Las Vegas who has been credit-card churning for more than five years.
The card is "magical," said Frank Leppar, a resident of Weirton, West Virginia, who already has his new card. "The sign-up bonus is amazing. It's one of the better, if not the best, card out right now."
What is drawing so many churners, travelers and others to the Sapphire Reserve card are its perks: Cardholders who spend $4,000 in the first three months get a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points, worth $1,500 in travel through Chase's website—and potentially more, some bloggers point out, when transferred to Chase travel partner sites. The card also gives three points for every $1 spent on dining and travel, and its definition of travel—which includes ride-share services like Uber and home-rental services like Airbnb—is broader than other cards'. It also offers a $300 annual credit to reimburse cardholders for travel expenses.

"Once people started finding out about this stuff, it started going crazy" online, Coomer said.
Though both he and his wife applied, he warned against getting too caught up in the enthusiasm online, saying the card might not be right for everyone. Its $450 annual fee raises the stakes for cardholders: That $1,500 in travel rewards isn't the same as $1,500 in cash, and you don't want to pay a hefty annual fee just for travel points you'll never be able to use.
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Credit-card companies use generous perks to lure customers who travel frequently and spend freely, but they're wary of churners aiming mainly for free trips and other goodies. The companies are increasingly cracking down on the most hardcore churners, who take out card after card for their sign-up bonuses. Chase's new card application explicitly warns them away: "You will not be approved for this card if you have opened 5 or more bank cards in the last 24 months."
23 days ago
Koller is leaving Coursera
A New Challenge

Dear Friends,

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the official start of the MOOC movement: on August 16, 2011, a group of us at Stanford University announced our intent to offer the first three MOOCs. In a matter of weeks, to our surprise, each of these courses had an enrollment of 100,000 learners or more - many more than the number of students any of us could teach in an entire career as a professor. And it wasn’t just the numbers: unlike our Stanford students, these online learners came from every age group, every country, and every walk of life.

It was clear that we had an amazing opportunity to help millions of people around the world get access to a great education. This was not an opportunity that we could walk away from. So I put my research on hold and set off, together with my colleague and co-founder Andrew Ng and a small but amazing team, to form Coursera.

The last five years have been a remarkable validation of this vision. Over 145 of the world’s best learning institutions now offer over 1300 courses on our platform, reaching over 20 million registered learners. As we recently showed, tens or even hundreds of thousands of learners have benefited from these courses by getting a better, higher-paying job, or by starting their own business.

With this important initiative well on its way to success, it is time for me to turn to another critical challenge - the development of machine learning and its application to improving human health. This field has been a passion of mine since 2001, when I first started working on it at Stanford. Machine learning is now in the midst of an important transformation, as a variety of high-throughput technologies developed over the past decade are providing unprecedented amounts of data that, when combined with the right analytic methods, can enable novel insights and the development of new therapies for human disease.

I feel compelled to contribute to this important effort, which leverages my background and experience both at Stanford and at Coursera. Therefore, starting next week, I will be joining Calico as their Chief Computing Officer. Calico, an Alphabet company, is focused on understanding the process of aging and on developing interventions that enable people to live longer, healthier lives. At Calico, I will work on the development of new computational methods for analyzing biological data sets, to help move to achieving these important scientific and societal goals.

As I turn the bulk of my attention to this new challenge, I can do so knowing that Coursera has matured into a robust company with amazing forward momentum. Over the last three years, we have put in place a strong leadership team that includes Rick Levin, Tom Willerer, Lila Ibrahim, Kurt Apen, David Liu, Amber Tennant, Julia Stiglitz, and, most recently, Leah Belsky, Nikhil Sinha, and Deanna Raineri. We have also hired a diverse, vibrant, and incredibly talented group of employees, and together, we’ve made great strides toward optimizing our product experience, strengthening our university and industry partnerships, and much more.
coursera  moocs 
24 days ago
SWAYAM, India's MOOC Platform, Launches In Beta — It's Off To A Rocky Start — Class Central
In our deep dive on SWAYAM, we mentioned that we were concerned about the technology side of the new platform. Unfortunately, some of our concerns have come true.

The design of the website looks somewhat dated — it doesn’t feel like it was created in 2016.

Furthermore, we weren’t able to create a new account on SWAYAM, because the CAPTCHA image was broken and so we couldn’t move on to step #2 of the registration process.
india  moocs  openedx 
24 days ago
I Spent 5 Years With Some of Trump's Biggest Fans. Here's What They Won't Tell You. | Mother Jones
Arlie Hotschild's new book on the tea party. Look also for the review of this book by Sean MccCann in the LA Review of Books. Both worth reading.

What the people I interviewed were drawn to was not necessarily the particulars of these theories. It was the deep story underlying them—an account of life as it feels to them. Some such account underlies all beliefs, right or left, I think. The deep story of the right goes like this:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you're being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He's on their side. In fact, isn't he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It's not your government anymore; it's theirs.
politics  america  generalinterest 
28 days ago
The BBC test card: inside a cult YouTube obsession
Test cards - what networks used to show in the deadtime between midnight and dawn before the day of 24 hour television. Might be a fun project for students to do.
generalinterest  research 
28 days ago
What’s the Matter with Cancer Alley? Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Anatomy of Trumpism - Los Angeles Review of Books
"Why is that? In good part, Hochschild tells us, it is because the people she meets value loyalty and take pride in their ability to endure hard trials. They are, Hochschild says, “victims without a language of victimhood.” But, as she further explains, that remarkable stoicism cannot be separated from their harsh suspicion of the less fortunate. They are repelled by dependency and resentful of liberals who seek, as they believe, to compel them to sympathize with the undeserving poor. One woman, an industrious accountant who escaped poverty by working her way through college, makes this attitude especially clear. Knowing that what she says will sound shocking to her listener, this woman complains to Hochschild about “people who refuse to work.” “[W]e should let them starve,” she declares. “Let them be homeless.”
In short, the people Hochschild comes to know are reluctant to pity themselves, but they still more stubbornly refuse sympathy to the less fortunate. Hence their one, very strongly expressed, political desire. They do not want government to restrain corporate power, nor expect that it will be able to do so. (Indeed, unlike the media outlets they favor, Hochschild’s informants don’t seem to view the state as tyrannically powerful. They see it rather as feckless and manipulative. By contrast to corporate power, government sins not out of strength but weakness.) They seethe with resentment, however, at the thought that liberal politicians extend advantages to people less deserving than themselves, and they yearn to see those advantages stripped away.
This, Hochschild says, is the “deep story” shared by the people she meets. In the quest for the wealth and security promised by the American dream, they believe that some people have been permitted to cut the line in front of them. They take pride in the work that allowed them to rise as far as they have. But now, as they perceive their world slipping away, they resent the unfair assistance that they think liberal government gives to the less deserving — to people who, as one man complains in a particularly transparent moment, “lazed around days and partied at night.” They view those undeserving people not as economic competitors but rather as threats to a fragile sense of “cultural honor.” What matters most to the conservatives she meets, Hochschild suggests, is the embattled feeling of pride they take from the conviction that they themselves do not belong among the weak and needy. Indeed, Hochschild reports that nearly all of her subjects have benefitted in direct ways from “a major government service.” Many of them, she adds, are “ashamed and asked me to dissociate their identity from such an act.”
It is among the great strengths of Hochschild’s book to suggest, concisely yet forcefully, how indebted that sense of cultural honor remains to a long history of racial hierarchy. The people Hochschild depicts are reluctant even to discuss questions of racial justice. They are confident, as Mike Schaff suggests of himself, that, because they no longer casually use the word “nigger,” racism has become largely a thing of the past."
generalinterest  politics  america 
4 weeks ago
Uncovering the brutal truth about the British empire | Marc Parry | News | The Guardian
Just as the hearings were set to begin, a story broke in the British press that would affect the case, the debate about Britain’s Gulag, and the broader community of imperial historians. A cache of papers had come to light that documented Britain’s torture and mistreatment of detainees during the Mau Mau rebellion. The Times splashed the news across its front page: “50 years later: Britain’s Kenya cover-up revealed.”

Foreign Office archives at Hanslope Park
Foreign Office archives at Hanslope Park. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian
The story exposed to the public an archival mystery that had long intrigued historians. The British destroyed documents in Kenya – scholars knew that. But for years clues had existed that Britain had also expatriated colonial records that were considered too sensitive to be left in the hands of successor governments. Kenyan officials had sniffed this trail soon after the country gained its independence. In 1967, they wrote to Britain’s Foreign Office asking for the return of the “stolen papers”. The response? Blatant dishonesty, writes David M Anderson, a University of Warwick historian and author of Histories of the Hanged, a highly regarded book about the Mau Mau war.

Internally, British officials acknowledged that more than 1,500 files, encompassing over 100 linear feet of storage, had been flown from Kenya to London in 1963, according to documents reviewed by Anderson. Yet they conveyed none of this in their official reply to the Kenyans. “They were simply told that no such collection of Kenyan documents existed, and that the British had removed nothing that they were not entitled to take with them in December 1963,” Anderson writes. The stonewalling continued as Kenyan officials made more inquiries in 1974 and 1981, when Kenya’s chief archivist dispatched officials to London to search for what he called the “migrated archives”. This delegation was “systematically and deliberately misled in its meetings with British diplomats and archivists,” Anderson writes in a History Workshop Journal article, Guilty Secrets: Deceit, Denial and the Discovery of Kenya’s ‘Migrated Archive’.

The turning point came in 2010, when Anderson, now serving as an expert witness in the Mau Mau case, submitted a statement to the court that referred directly to the 1,500 files spirited out of Kenya. Under legal pressure, the government finally acknowledged that the records had been stashed at a high-security storage facility that the Foreign Office shared with the intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6. It also revealed a bigger secret. This same repository, Hanslope Park, held files removed from a total of 37 former colonies.
history  research 
5 weeks ago
How to Build a Career in Tech Without a CS Degree — Udacity Inc — Medium
Thsi reads like an advertisement for Udacity but it also has some interesting things - like the advice to avoid hackathons.
udacity  moocs 
5 weeks ago
coaching and masculinity: a “natural” combination? (guest post) – scatterplot
Coaching jobs are coded as male - which is why it is often males who coach females.
6 weeks ago
The Republican War on Public Universities | New Republic

Conservative hostility toward public universities has never been higher. The 2016 Republican platform calls for “new systems of learning to compete with traditional four-year schools: Technical institutions, online universities, life-long learning, and work-based learning in the private sector.” Higher education, it threatens, “must be challenged to balance its worth against its negative economic impact on students and their families.”
moocs  public_discourse 
6 weeks ago
Shocker! Facebook Changes Its Algorithm to Avoid ‘Clickbait’ - The New York Times
FAcebook is going to devalue clickbaity headlines in its algorithm; publishers are worried again -
facebook  platformization 
6 weeks ago
Silicon Valley was going to disrupt capitalism. Now it’s enhancing it | Opinion | The Guardian
The mistake made by many observers of the technology industry a decade ago was to think that Silicon Valley firms would disrupt every other industry as easily as they had disrupted the business of selling music, advertising, or news. This didn’t happen: moving into highly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance or energy proved difficult for firms known for arrogance, disobedience and disregard for industry expertise.

Technology companies’ usual strategy of “moving fast and breaking things”, as Mark Zuckerberg once colourfully put it, might have trivial consequences in advertising; in other fields, though, such a strategy could be lethal. The spectacular downfall of Theranos – one of Silicon Valley’s favourites, the blood-testing startup fell into disrepute despite its one-time $9bn valuation – is proof that promises of innovation do not easily translate into, well, innovation.

Transport is, perhaps, one area, where the tech industry can still put up a good fight – mostly because companies discovered that the vast data troves they had accumulated could be used to develop self-driving cars. But even there the tech firms are busy striking alliances with established players. Even Google, which has developed most advanced technologies, has linked with Fiat Chrysler for the actual development of self-driving minivans.
siliconvalley  platformization 
6 weeks ago
Researchers or Corporate Allies? Think Tanks Blur the Line - The New York Times
Think tanks, which position themselves as “universities without students,” have power in government policy debates because they are seen as researchers independent of moneyed interests. But in the chase for funds, think tanks are pushing agendas important to corporate donors, at times blurring the line between researchers and lobbyists. And they are doing so while reaping the benefits of their tax-exempt status, sometimes without disclosing their connections to corporate interests.

Thousands of pages of internal memos and confidential correspondence between Brookings and other donors — like JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank; K.K.R., the global investment firm; Microsoft, the software giant; and Hitachi, the Japanese conglomerate — show that financial support often came with assurances from Brookings that it would provide “donation benefits,” including setting up events featuring corporate executives with government officials, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.
research  sts  regulation  sciencestudies 
6 weeks ago
Make Algorithms Accountable - The New York Times
Those computer-generated criminal “risk scores” were at the center of a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision that set the first significant limits on the use of risk algorithms in sentencing.

At ProPublica, we obtained more than 7,000 risk scores assigned by the company Northpointe, whose tool is used in Wisconsin, and compared predicted recidivism to actual recidivism. We found the scores were wrong 40 percent of the time and were biased against black defendants, who were falsely labeled future criminals at almost twice the rate of white defendants. (Northpointe disputed our analysis.)

Some have argued that these failure rates are still better than the human biases of individual judges, although there is no data on judges with which to compare. But even if that were the case, are we willing to accept an algorithm with such a high failure rate for black defendants?
The court ruled that while judges could use these risk scores, the scores could not be a “determinative” factor in whether a defendant was jailed or placed on probation. And, most important, the court stipulated that a presentence report submitted to the judge must include a warning about the limits of the algorithm’s accuracy.
platformization  algorithms  data  bigdata 
6 weeks ago
Design Doesn’t Scale. — Medium
This is a very odd use of the word "scale." What might he mean by this? He's talking about team fragmentation - and therefore product fragmentation. But what does this have to do with "scaling"?
scale  spotify  platformization 
7 weeks ago
This Is The Smartest Thing Facebook Ever Did — Backchannel
All this promises to be very profitable to Facebook. While the company hasn’t lured advertisers to spend significant ad dollars on Messenger yet, that’s the future plan. In this week’s earnings call, chief financial officer David Wehner said the company develops its apps in three phases. In phase one, Facebook grows the user base. “We’re really at the beginning of phase two,” he said, in which the company focuses on growing organic interactions between people and businesses. Once businesses see this is working, the company launches stage three, in which it asks companies to pay up. This strategy has worked well for the company’s other products: Facebook reported $6.44 billion in sales this year, up 59 percent from a year ago. The company’s profits almost tripled to $2.06 billion.
facebook  platformization 
7 weeks ago
chhotahazri: Starring Scripts, Scripting Stars
But, I think it wasn't so much new plots, but new ways of presenting them and snappy, witty dialogue that made their films seem fresh. And, as with their scripts, it was the 'how' rather than the 'what' of their careers that really made them gamechangers: because unlike pretty much all Bombay screenwriters before them — and most who came after — Salim-Javed managed to position themselves as sole custodians of their scripts.

"Earlier when writers put together a script," says Salim Khan, "it had contributions from the novelist from whom the story was taken, the director who would make the film, the actor who would act in it. When we started working together, we said we will give you the complete script. You will neither interfere in the writing, nor change the finished script."

It was remarkable. They may have cobbled together ingredients from everywhere, but their recipe was sacrosanct. This confidence — which many in the industry perceived as arrogance — began to seem more justified as film after film became a box office hit.
movies  india  generalinterest 
8 weeks ago
How Sponsored Content Is Becoming King in a Facebook World - The New York Times
In recent years, publications large and small have invested in teams to make sponsored content — written stories, videos or podcasts that look and feel like journalistic content — hoping to make up for declines in conventional advertising. To varying degrees, they have succeeded.

Younger companies like Vice and BuzzFeed have built whole businesses around the concept. The Atlantic has said that three-quarters of its ad revenue now comes from sponsored content. Slate, the web publisher, says that about half of its ad revenue comes from native ads, as sponsored content is also called, and the other half from traditional banner or display ads. Many major newspapers, including The New York Times, have declared sponsored content to be an important part of their strategies.

But as the relationship between publishers and social platforms like Facebook grows closer — and as more straightforward forms of advertising are devalued by ad-blocking and industry automation, the role, and definition, of sponsored content has shifted. Now, publishers, social media companies and advertisers are negotiating new relationships.
platformization  journalism 
8 weeks ago
The Scope of edX | Technology and Learning
Let me share some edX numbers that blew my mind:
There are 8.3 million (unique) lifelong learners on the edX platform.
Between 2012, when edX started, and today - there have been 27 million course enrollments.
Over 1,000 courses have been offered.
There have been over 2,300 faculty and staff that have taught on edX.
Over 840,000 certificates have been earned by edX learners.
EdX has over 100 schools, institutes and organizations in the Consortium creating open online courses.
Who exactly are all these lifelong learners on the edX platform?
Seven-in-ten lifelong learners are 25 years old or older.
The media age of an edX learner is 29.
About 36 percent are women, and each year the proportion of women learners on the edX platform grows.  It will be interesting to see if the gender distribution for open online learning starts to match that for post-secondary education as a whole (~57%).
Over two-thirds have a bachelor degree or higher, with over a quarter having a masters. (And 4% having a PhD).
And where do edX lifelong learners come from?
There are lifelong learners in every country of the world (save North Korea).
A bit over a quarter (27%) of edX learners come from the U.S. The next biggest country is India (11%), the U.K. and Brazil (both 4%) and China, Canada, and Mexico (3% each).
Over four-in-ten edX learners live in emerging economy countries.
moocs  edx  public_discourse 
8 weeks ago
Dear Google, the future is fewer people writing code | TechCrunch
Google recently launched Project Bloks — a “platform” that will enable developers, educators and designers to work together in order to build “physical programming experiences” for children.

This actually has the potential to be a great educational tool — but not in the way Google presents it (or at least not in the way it’s being written about). Our goal as a society should not be to create a generation of pre-teen coders.

There’s a reason why, in the United States, for example, a college education still demands a level of proficiency in various topics, as well as offers a bulk of elective credits. Even at 20 years old, most people haven’t found enough intersectionality between what they enjoy and what they are good at to pick a career — so why are we having a serious conversation about grooming children to become software developers before they’ve even gone to middle school?

The real benefit of something like Project Bloks is that it actually removes the code; it allows children to begin thinking programmatically, without the obstacle of syntax. And this is a tough distinction to make, because people often use “programming” and “coding” synonymously. But the fact of the matter is thinking programmatically needs to be divorced from writing code: the former offers large educational value to a broad range of students, while the latter offers very little.
platformization  coding 
8 weeks ago
I Interviewed Dozens Of Tech Executives About Trump and Thiel. Here’s What The Numbers Tell Us. — The Ferenstein Wire — Medium

Much of the tech industry subscribes to a unique political ideology that sees “government as a platform” for innovation — a phrase famously coined by publisher Tim O’Reilly. Under this view, the government has an essential role in innovation as an investor in research, education and immigration, while providing ample low-regulation opportunity for experimental entrepreneurship (after all, the Internet began in a military lab, spread to public universities like Berkeley, and then was adopted by startups in the surrounding cities).
For adherent’s to government-as-platform, the state is a pillar of stability.
platformization  siliconvalley  politics 
9 weeks ago
The Socialist Singularity - Los Angeles Review of Books
Just as refreshing is the way that The Year 200 allows us to imagine and think along with different contradictions than the ones that we currently face. As Slavoj Žižek frequently observes, we live in an era where everything seems possible when it comes to technology, yet nothing seems possible when it comes to politics. The tech industry promises us a future of infinite convenience and frictionlessness in all realms — but if we want to pass a carbon tax, house the homeless, or regulate hedge funds, the range of what is possible abruptly shrinks. De Rojas’s novel projects a future in which the progressive political agenda has been achieved: material abundance is equally distributed, hard labor is done by machines, a means of extracting unlimited solar energy has been discovered, and the hierarchies of the family have been dissolved. What has been declared impossible, however, is the full integration of human and machine, and the result, as de Rojas portrays it, is an apathetic stagnation comparable to ours. In our own moment, David Graeber has argued, the key task is to reassert political possibility as the only means to socially equitable technological progress. De Rojas’s novel makes the opposite move, suggesting that the Confederation can only achieve full collectivism by taking technology to its full consequences — as the cybos have already done.
generalinterest  cybernetics  research 
9 weeks ago
A Postcolonial Look at the Future of #EdTech — Not Evenly Distributed — Medium
There are four main ways in which MOOCs (and the wider internet) reproduce privilege:
a. The majority of content comes from Western, developed countries — where is the voice of the rest of the world? Not only that, but within those countries, the content comes from the privileged institutions that are able to afford paying their professors to offer MOOCs (ironically while continuing to employ adjunct faculty).
b. The majority of content comes in English (and a handful in a few major world languages) — again, where is the voice of the rest of the world? What about people who are not fluent in English? And moreover, what is the English-speaking world missing out on by not reading the content written in other languages? Translation apps continue to leave much to be desired.
c. There are still many people in the world without internet access, or with insufficient infrastructure to support richer forms of media including audiovisual and synchronous communication. Giving people content on CDs, as some suggest, would not solve the problem because I believe connectivity is necessary to realise the power of the internet in enabling learners to find the content they are interested in, and to empower learners to connect with others.
d. Digital literacies, not just digital skills, are needed to navigate the potential of the internet for connection and learning — and not everyone who has access to the internet has these skills and literacies. These literacies are needed also for people to become producers of content and not just consumers of it. This all explains why the majority of people benefiting from MOOCs have been those who already have a college degree — it takes a
moocs  public_discourse 
9 weeks ago
What's Wrong With Public Intellectuals? - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The huge personal disappointment—and it puzzled me for a long time—was that junior professors did not, by and large, give us work I wanted to print. I knew their professional work was good. These were brilliant thinkers and writers. Yet the problems I encountered, I hasten to say, were absolutely not those of academic stereotype—not esotericism, specialization, jargon, the "inability" to address a nonacademic audience. The embarrassing truth was rather the opposite. When these brilliant people contemplated writing for the "public," it seemed they merrily left difficulty at home, leapt into colloquial language with both feet, added unnatural (and frankly unfunny) jokes, talked about TV, took on a tone chummy and unctuous. They dumbed down, in short—even with the most innocent intentions. The public, even the "general reader," seemed to mean someone less adept, ingenious, and critical than themselves. Writing for the public awakened the slang of mass media. The public signified fun, frothy, friendly. And it is certainly true that even in many supposedly "intellectual" but debased outlets of the mass culture, talking down to readers in a colorless fashion-magazine argot is such second nature that any alternative seems out of place.

This was emphatically not what the old "public intellect," and Partisan Review, had addressed to the public. Please don’t blame the junior professors, though. (Graduate students, it must said, did much better for n+1, as they do still.)

Suppose we try a different, sideways description of the old public intellectual idea. "Public intellect" in the mid-20th century names an institutionally duplicitous culture. It drew up accounts of the sorts of philosophical, aesthetic, and even political ideas that were discussed in universities more than elsewhere. It delivered them to readerships and subscriberships largely of teachers and affiliates of universities—in quarterly journals funded by subscriptions, charitable foundations, and university subsidies. But the culture it made scrubbed away all marks of university affiliation or residence, in the brilliant shared conceit of a purely extra-academic space of difficulty and challenge. It conjectured a province that had supposedly been called into being by the desires, and demands, of "the real world." And this conceit, or illusion, was needed and ultimately embraced on all sides—by the writers, by the readers, by the subsidizers—even, in fact, by parts of that "real world" itself, meaning bits of commerce, derivative media, politics, and even "official" institutions of government and civil society. The collective conceit called that space, in some way, into being.

But the additional philosophical element that made this complicated arrangement work, and the profound belief that sustained the fiction, on all sides, and made it "real" (for we are speaking of the realm of ideas, where shared belief often just is reality), was an aspirational estimation of "the public." Aspiration in this sense isn’t altogether virtuous or noble. Nor is it grasping and commercial, as we use "aspirational" now, mostly about the branding of luxury goods. It’s something like a neutral idea or expectation that you could, or should, be better than you are—and that naturally you want to be better than you are, and will spend some effort to become capable of growing—and that every worthy person does. My sense of the true writing of the "public intellectuals" of the Partisan Review era is that it was always addressed just slightly over the head of an imagined public—at a height where they must reach up to grasp it. But the writing seemed, also, always just slightly above the Partisan Review writers themselves. They, the intellectuals, had stretched themselves to attention, gone up on tiptoe, balancing, to become worthy of the more thoughtful, more electric tenor of intellect they wanted to join. They, too, were of "the public," but a public that wanted to be better, and higher. They distinguished themselves from it momentarily, by pursuing difficulty, in a challenge to the public and themselves—thus becoming equals who could earn the right to address this public.

Aspiration also undoubtedly included a coercive, improving, alarmed dimension in the postwar period. The public must be made better or it would be worse, ran the thought. The aspiration of civic elites was also always to instruct the populace, to make them citizens and not "masses." Both fascism and Sovietism had been effects of the masses run wild (so it was said). The GI Bill, and the expansion of access to higher education after 1945, funded by the state, depended on an idea of the public as necessary to the state and nation, but also dangerous and unstable in its unimproved condition. This citizenry would fight for the nation. It would compete, technically and economically, with the nation’s global rivals. And it must hold some "democratic" vision and ideology to preserve stability. Even the worst elitists could agree to that. Hence the midcentury consensus that higher education should "make," or shape, "citizens" for a "free society"—which one hears from the best voices, and the worst, from that time.
politics  research 
9 weeks ago
The Calling | Dissent Magazine
In search of an answer, Fish identifies five schools of academic freedom, “plotted on a continuum that goes from right to left.” (It’s worth pointing out that this ideological framing is Fish’s; I would argue that there are left and right versions of all of the positions he describes.) At the conservative end of the spectrum, we have the “It’s just a job” school (Fish’s own position), which holds that, “[r]ather than being a vocation or holy calling, higher education is a service that offers knowledge and skills to students who wish to receive them.” Thus, “academics are not free in any special sense to do anything but their jobs.” Second is the “For the common good” school—the mainstream position in the American academy today—which insists that academic freedom has special value to a democratic society; Fish traces it back to a founding document, the American Association of University Professors’ 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure (drafted by Arthur O. Lovejoy and John Dewey, among others). Third is the “Academic exceptionalism or uncommon beings” school, which essentially treats academics as an elite class with special privileges. Fourth is the “Academic freedom as critique” school, which finds the real value of the academy in the “ruthless criticism of everything that exists”; fifth, and most radical, is the “Academic freedom as revolution” school, which travels further down the same road by advocating not only the critique but the abolition of existing social structures.
Fish presents his book as a “taxonomy of approaches” to academic freedom, a study in its varieties—or versions, as he puts it—and the arguments by which they are justified. But, as long-time readers of his work will not be surprised to learn, he has a dog in the fight himself, and he doesn’t treat all these approaches with equal generosity. The left-of-center positions all bring out varying degrees of exasperation in him, particularly the “Academic exceptionalism” school, which he clearly sees as total hogwash. (Despite devoting twenty pages to it, Fish is not entirely persuasive that anyone actually holds this view.) The “Academic freedom as critique” school—represented here by Judith Butler—is too abstract and diffuse for him. It is also, in his view, “the very antithesis of academic freedom” since it challenges the legitimizing authority of the academy itself, a move that consummate professionals like Fish are not willing to make. The “Academic freedom as revolution” school is even worse: it not only lacks the theoretical sophistication of the “Academic freedom as critique” school, but it also insists that “when university obligations clash with the imperative of doing social justice, social justice always trumps.” Its vision of academic freedom is, in other words, freedom from the academy, and it is embodied by the Canadian physicist Denis Rancourt, who in 2005 refashioned a required course in environmental physics at the University of Ottawa into a class on social activism. (The symmetry with Fish’s scrupulous conduct at Berkeley in the 1960s is almost too neat; Rancourt is the anti-Fish.) Fish’s opposition to the emancipatory politics advocated by the likes of Rancourt and the Free Speech Movement is not a reactionary one; he doesn’t dispute their rights to agitate, he just doesn’t think it should be justified in the context of the university. “A passion for justice is of course a good thing,” Fish admits, magnanimously; “it’s just not an academic good thing.”
research  higher_ed  college 
9 weeks ago
Amazon’s Quiet Dominance of Higher-Ed Learning Platforms - The Chronicle of Higher Education
The big change occurred around 2011 with the release of Canvas, an upstart challenger to Blackboard’s course-management system released by a company called Instructure. This LMS was designed natively for the cloud and built on top of Amazon’s cloud service. Initially this approach was viewed with some trepidation by the higher-education community. You mean my data is not even at the vendor’s site, and I share computing resources with potentially hundreds or thousands of other schools? We’re all running the same application without true versions to control? With the rise in popularity of Canvas, these concerns started to fade away. But colleges gradually accepted the change as they saw that using the cloud meant fewer crashes and the ability to temporarily add more processing power during peak periods, such as the start of the term or during finals.
Meanwhile, new niche learning platforms such as those for competency-based programs and adaptive-learning products were also designed natively for the cloud.

Established providers such as Blackboard and D2L (formerly Desire2Learn) eventually shifted with the market. D2L recently announced its move to the cloud and, for an increasing portion of its platform, AWS. Blackboard in the past week announced a new partnership with IBM to manage its existing data centers and to expand the cloud option using AWS. In fact, as part of this new partnership, Blackboard is moving away from its own data-center technology and adopting AWS as the default. I expect cloud-based options on AWS for both of these vendors to become the norm for all of their customers in the coming years.

Open-source platforms like Moodle are increasingly adopting AWS. And the newest LMS competitor — Schoology — is based on Amazon's cloud service. Among the MOOC providers, Coursera also runs on AWS and is featured in an Amazon case study. Udacity runs on Google App Engine but does a segment of its homework and grading on AWS. The nonprofit MOOC provider edX has a partner company that runs the platform on AWS.
lms  moocs  platformization 
10 weeks ago
In a nutshell, why do a lot of developers dislike Agile? - Quora
Being one of the people that participated in the creation of the Agile Manifesto, I find myself very disappointed by the reaction of engineers to the question “Are you practicing Agile?” Their shoulders drop. They tell me agile is horrible. I ask why. Reasons that stand out are:

We’re being micromanaged
The pressure is constantly on for every two week deliveries so quality suffers
All they care about is the date
Unfortunately, none of those activities are part of Agile, though I can see how it comes to be. The usual starting point is one of mistrust (note they above). Then you get a Scrum Master with two-days of training and pressure for two week deliveries; engineers will get the idea they are the Scrum Slaves.

They won’t be as happy as these slaves either.

I’ll dig a little deeper, why do you feel micro-managed? “We have to update the boss every morning instead of once a week.”

Why is there so much pressure in your two week iterations? (I don’t use the ‘S’ sprint word, but that is another story) “The stories we are told to do are so huge there is no way to get the work done with any quality. The PO says they are priority one. We have to do what the PO says, right? No documentation; no thought; just do it! That’s Agile! Right?”

No, that’s not Agile but that is a demoralizing way to work. As one manager told me when In the early days of coaching and training Extreme Programming “This all sounds great, but instead of being beat up once every six months now I get beat up every two weeks!” (His VP was definitely not quite on board with the realities and values of Agile.)

Agile shops like this are really missing a lot, even in just plain old Scrum, like:

Choosing your work
Committing to how much can be done in an iteration
Updating each other in the stand up. It’s not a manager update, though they participate.
Talking responsibility for design and other technical decisions
Retrospective to identify problems to facilitate continuous improvement
agile  platformization  software  software_engineering  softwarestudies 
10 weeks ago
Are MOOCs Forever? - The Chronicle of Higher Education
As of now Coursera has 145 partners!

Q. There’s been a lot of talk about MOOCs as an experiment because you have these large student populations that have never been gathered before. At this point, now that it’s been a few years, what’s the most interesting or important thing you’ve learned from the MOOCs?

A. I think what we learned is the extent to which, once you have learners or students who know their own mind, what they’re looking for is so very different than the kind of experience that we’ve been providing on campus. They’re looking for shorter, more-to-the-point modules of knowledge. They’re looking for things that have direct relevance to problems that they’re trying to solve, and I think one of the transformations that we see when talking to instructors is first the realization that you can’t teach your MOOC students the same way you teach your on-campus students, because your MOOC students are going to just walk away and not complete the course.

They come to a point of view, it’s like, "OK, my campus students are different from my MOOC students." The next stage of their evolution is like, "No, they’re not actually different." It’s just that the MOOC students have the option to walk away, whereas your on campus students don’t, and maybe what we should be providing to our on campus students is actually more like what we’re providing to our MOOC students.
moocs  public_discourse  coursera 
10 weeks ago
Why Higher Ed Must Resist the ‘Platform Revolution’ | Technology and Learning
The bad thinking that will lead to higher ed leaders wanting to turn their schools into platforms should not be blamed on the authors of this excellent book.  Platforms are changing the world of business, and business writers (and academics that study business) have every obligation to explain this trend.
Where the authors of Platform Revolution get themselves in trouble - and the reason that you should preemptively read the book before your president/provost/dean can get their hands on it - is when they claim that higher education is ripe for transformation by platform.
platformization  moocs  public_discourse 
10 weeks ago
The Only Good Tarzan Is a Bad Tarzan — Pacific Standard
Director David Yates’ new Legend of Tarzan is not a cartoon, and it doesn’t try to gloss over the character’s unsavory past. Indeed, you could call it the first post-Tarzan Tarzan: Instead of reviving or rebooting the franchise, it’s the first iteration that begins by attempting to reckon with the franchise’s anachronisms head-on. Thus, the title: Tarzan comes with such baggage that his legend itself turns out to be what the film is about. It could be a self-conscious metaphor for the very making of the film: A famous but basically retired Tarzan gets called back into service, forcing him to face, for the first time, a shameful past from which he has been hiding.
movies  research 
10 weeks ago
The Best Time I Pretended I Hadn’t Heard of Slavoj Žižek — The Hairpin
ind someone who is crazy about Morrissey, and pretend you have no idea who that is. It drives people nuts. I don’t know why, but it does. Just kidding, I know exactly why, because I myself have been on the receiving end of the Žižek Maneuver. This girl I had a bit of a crush on told me she had never watched “Twin Peaks,” and it damn near killed me. The reason I had a crush on her in the first place is because we liked so many of the same books, and movies, and music. How could she have never watched “Twin Peaks?” Was she messing with me? How? It did not for a second occur to me that she just hadn’t got round to it. My immediate response was to believe that she had deliberately not watched it in order to get on my nerves. When she told me later that of course she had watched “Twin Peaks,” my eye started twitching.
10 weeks ago
Who are the Uber & Lyft drivers? — Uber Screeds — Medium
For months, I’ve been running around the U.S. and Canada, interviewing drivers from Uber, Lyft, other ridehail services, and some taxi drivers, to find out more about who the drivers are and how they manage their work across a diverse set of regional contexts. I’ve heard some stories over and over again, like driver dissatisfaction with unfair ratings, or driver appreciation for being able to set their own schedules. There are fascinating edge cases too, like anxieties around information privacy, that might anticipate other services companies can offer to help drivers. I’m going to start writing out some of my early findings (all the names are changed to protect driver privacy).
Some drivers are using Uber and Lyft to improve their English language skills. This is one of the amazing things about ridehail work — you can be instantly employed with limited or no dominant language skills. One driver in Palo Alto spoke no English, and the app instructed him in (what I think was) Mandarin.
uber  platformization 
10 weeks ago
Udacity Turns Five, by Sebastian Thrun — Udacity Inc — Medium
Fast forward to today. Udacity is now rapidly becoming the place to go for lifelong learning, where millions are learning the latest skills that Silicon Valley has to offer. Tech giants like AT&T, Google, Facebook, Amazon, GitHub, and MongoDB are using us to reach any willing learner in the world. And companies are eagerly hiring our graduates. We have educated more students than many four-year colleges. And recently, we started placing our graduates in jobs in the tech industry and beyond, based on their Nanodegree program credentials.
Our fifth anniversary is a great moment of reflection. To many, education is a numbers game. It’s about tuition, graduation rates, enrollment. To me, education is all about people. Every time I receive a thank-you note from a student, a letter on how we changed a person’s career, I am in tears. I have this very deep belief that if we open up high-quality education, if we truly democratize it, if we give every human being on this planet a fair chance, we will make a huge difference. Today, high-quality education is a privilege of the few. Our vision at Udacity is to make high-quality education a basic human right. If we do this, I truly believe we can double the world’s GDP.
moocs  public_discourse  udacity 
10 weeks ago
Online learning could help more people achieve — if they knew about it — Medium
Note the word "tools":

"Raising awareness of today’s digital learning tools will take much more than sharing information and signing people up for classes. The real issue is getting people to accept that all of us need to continue our education beyond high school and even college. I experienced my own dose of reality a few years ago when I did my first broadcast interview and realized afterwards how much better I would’ve done if I’d been media-trained. Today’s workplace is evolving so quickly, you’ll get a wake-up call like that too, if you haven’t already, but you’re probably not about to drop your career and go back to school."
platformization  research  moocs 
12 weeks ago
A Student’s Guide to PC Meetings — Medium
How computer science papers are accepted or rejected in program committee conferences

"To a limited extent, a paper’s review scores can dictate its destiny. The committee progressed quickly through the highest and lowest rated papers (perhaps the top and bottom 5% in terms of aggregate score), accepting or rejecting most of these with minimal deliberation. Almost all other papers received more significant discussion.
Of course, this discussion is the most interesting aspect of the meeting. And it’s largely controlled by ACs. While in theory the committee makes decisions as a whole, it relies on each paper’s ACs to frame and interpret its contributions. When both ACs think a paper should be accepted or rejected, that’s almost always the end of the story, whatever the state of the external reviews. And for the majority of papers, ACs are in agreement.
When ACs disagree about a paper, things become a bit more interesting. External reviews are more likely to be leveraged in discussion (“Why did famous person X recommend rejection?”), and there is room for other members of the committee to play a stronger role. Papers with disagreeing ACs tend to create conflict at the meeting, and these papers are usually tabled for further discussion. But more often than not, if one AC is strongly opinionated the argument will resolve in her favor, often after both ACs have discussed the paper privately.
In practice, these private deliberations play an important role at the meeting: most AC disagreements are resolved off the record. The rest of the committee becomes involved only when its clear the ACs won’t be able to reach a consensus among themselves.
What does this mean, then, if you’re new to the reviewing process? The obvious lesson is that you should pay attention to what ACs say about your paper: these are the people who control its fate, and you should aim to convince at least one of them to be your advocate. You also shouldn’t be too worried about one cranky, negative reviewer. If it’s clear this person falls outside the consensus, their review won’t play much of a role at the PC. Finally, you shouldn’t take paper rejections personally — especially those that garnered high scores from some subset of reviewers. This was, for me, the most visceral takeaway from the meeting. When you see two senior members of the community arguing over the merits of a paper, it becomes clear about how subjective and noisy the review process can be."
computer_science  platformization  research 
12 weeks ago
The Good News at Trump’s Least-Favorite Paper -- NYMag
"Data is now at the heart of virtually every strategy discussion. Last year, the Post built an analytics system, Loxodo, that can track virtually all the ways readers engage with Post content. It tests which headlines and photos are encouraging the most readership, a feature common to widely used industry software like Chartbeat. But Loxodo’s algorithm automatically publishes the winner of each test so editors don’t have to continually monitor it. Another project analyzes reader behavior in the days leading up to when they subscribed, so that, instead of putting up a universal paywall of a certain number of free articles per month, the Post can better target potential subscribers. For instance, if a reader clicks on mostly articles on health, then he would be asked to subscribe after reading a fifth health article, when he’s most likely to want to keep reading.

Recently, the Post unveiled software that allows readers to bookmark articles and continue reading across multiple devices. It also gives the Post a fuller view of how readers are engaging with content. That 7,000-word investigation of a sexual assault in the Marines had an average reader engagement of 21 minutes. “This is an insanely high number. Higher than any other story we’ve done in the past year,” says Kat Downs, the graphics director.

It’s not just technology helping to sell the editorial brand; the editorial brand is being used to sell technology. Last year, the Post began licensing its custom publishing platform to publishers and universities. So far, only about a dozen publishers have signed on, including the Toronto Globe and Mail, Alaska Dispatch News, Willamette Week, and Santa Fe Reporter, but the Post believes it can eventually generate $100 million a year from the business. This spring, it launched software that solves certain problems for digital advertisers: One rapidly reduces load times for mobile display ads; another reformats video ads for vertical cell-phone screens. The goal, again, is to sell to other media companies. “I want the New York Times to call me and say, ‘Holy shit, I want that,’ ” says Jarrod Dicker, the Post’s head of ad product and technology."
amazon  journalism  platformization 
12 weeks ago
Guide of creation of modules of Lms and cms for the open edx - Google Groups
Course data is stored in Mongo, and student data is stored in MySQL.  But we strongly recommend against talking directly to the database.  The schemas are not guaranteed public interfaces, and they can change without notice.

Can you tell us more about the interface you are desigining?
edx  openedx  forums  debates 
12 weeks ago
What it’s like to be a political moderate working in a ridiculously polarized Senate - Vox
Great piece on how on issues that very few people care about "rational" and "technical" solutions can be drafted. This is a first-person narrative.

"A few months into the job, I was offered the opportunity to help on an issue almost no one was following — the adoption crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hundreds of international families, including Americans, had legally adopted children from the DRC. But in 2013 the DRC blocked their departures from the country, so these children were in limbo. Some children had even died of disease while waiting to go to their adoptive families.

The first meeting I attended on the DRC crisis was unlike anything I had seen on Capitol Hill before. There was no clear ideological divide on the issue, just reasonable people who differed reasonably over the best solution.

I was proud to be part of Sen. Warner's efforts to draft a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the DRC government calling for action. And I hoped that the letter, along with other efforts by our Democratic and Republicans colleagues, would make a difference.

It was what I dreamed of when I went into policy: Republicans and Democrats sitting together, where all smart ideas are welcome and politics does what it should –- sorting through competing ideas to achieve the best possible outcome. It was the political equivalent of unicorns and rainbows. But the only reason we could operate this reasonably was because the issue didn’t fall along ideological lines. No interest groups were calling in and telling anyone not to budge."
research  sciencevspolitics  polarization  expertise 
12 weeks ago
Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems | Books | The Guardian
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us
Paul Verhaeghe
Read more
Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.
research  neoliberalism  platformization 
12 weeks ago
A DSM for Achievement — Learning Machine Blog — Medium
Author visualizes a DSM-like system for cataloging abilities - and decoupling credentials from institutions so that employers know what skills they have. Article is based on lecture by Arthur Levine who founded the MIT organization that Justin works for. Interesting insight into what's driving MOOCs - the social imaginations.
moocs  higher_ed  public_discourse 
june 2016
Who's Responsible For the Euromess? | Mother Jones
Great piece from Drum on how core EU countries share blame for what happened to Greece and Spain and Portugal during the Great Recession
generalinterest  politics  europe 
june 2016
Society in the Loop Artificial Intelligence — Medium
Silicon Valley ideology of empowerment in action.

"Human-in-the-loop machine learning is work that is trying to create systems to either allow domain experts to do the training or at least be involved in the training by creating machines that learn through interactions with experts. At the heart of human-in-the-loop computation is the idea of building models not just from data, but also from the human perspective of the data. Karthik calls this process ‘lensing’, of extracting the human perspective or lens of a domain expert and fit it to algorithms that learn from both the data and the extracted lens, all during training time. We believe this has implications for making tools for probabilistic programming and for the democratization of machine learning.
At a recent meeting with philosophers, clergy and AI and technology experts, we discussed the possibility of machines taking over the job of judges. We have evidence that machines can make very accurate assessments of things that involve data and it’s quite reasonable to assume that decisions that judges make such as bail amounts or parole could be done much more accurately by machines than by humans. In addition, there is research that shows expert humans are not very good set setting bail or granting parole appropriately. Whether you get a hearing by the parole board before or after their lunch has a significant effect on the outcome, for instance.
In the discussion, some of us proposed the idea of replacing judges for certain kinds of decisions, bail and parole as examples, with machines. The philosopher and several clergy explained that while it might feel right from a utilitarian perspective, that for society, it was important that the judges were human — it was even more important than getting the “correct” answer. Putting aside the argument about whether we should be solving for utility or not, having the buy-in of the public would be important for the acceptance of any machine learning system and it would be essential to address this perspective.
There are two ways that we could address this concern. One way would be to put a “human in the loop” and use machines to assist or extend the capacity of the human judges. It is possible that this would work. On the other hand, experiences in several other fields such as medicine or flying airplanes have shown evidence that humans may overrule machines with the wrong decision enough that it would make sense to prevent humans from overruling machines in some cases. It’s also possible that a human would become complacent or conditioned to trust the results and just let the machine run the system.
The second way would be for the machine to be trained by the public — society in the loop — in a way that the people felt that that the machine reliability represented fairly their, mostly likely, diverse set of values. This isn’t unprecedented — in many ways, the ideal government would be one where the people felt sufficiently informed and engaged that they would allow the government to exercise power and believe that it represented them and that they were also ultimately responsible for the actions of the government. Maybe there is way to design a machine that could garner the support and the proxy of the public by being able to be trained by the public and being transparent enough that the public could trust it. Governments deal with competing and conflicting interests as will machines. There are obvious complex obstacles including the fact that unlike traditional software, where the code is like a series of rules, a machine learning model is more like a brain — it’s impossible to look at the bits and understand exactly what it does or would do. There would need to be a way for the public to test and audit the values and behavior of the machines."
machinelearning  moocs  platformization  siliconvalley 
june 2016
A DSM for Achievement — Learning Machine Blog — Medium
Rather than degrees, certify competencies; take DSM as guide. See also Chris Petersen's response...
moocs  public_discourse  higher_ed 
june 2016
On Story and Execution: Sebastian Thrun, Udacity, and The Future — Udacity Inc — Medium
Written by a udacity employee and has some choice quotes from Thrun

“We’re now at this place where we can make the evolution of academic content match the evolution of the world.”
udacity  moocs  public_discourse 
june 2016
The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems — The Development Set — Medium
et’s pretend, for a moment, that you are a 22-year-old college student in Kampala, Uganda. You’re sitting in class and discreetly scrolling through Facebook on your phone. You see that there has been another mass shooting in America, this time in a place called San Bernardino. You’ve never heard of it. You’ve never been to America. But you’ve certainly heard a lot about gun violence in the U.S. It seems like a new mass shooting happens every week.
You wonder if you could go there and get stricter gun legislation passed. You’d be a hero to the American people, a problem-solver, a lifesaver. How hard could it be? Maybe there’s a fellowship for high-minded people like you to go to America after college and train as social entrepreneurs. You could start the nonprofit organization that ends mass shootings, maybe even win a humanitarian award by the time you are 30.
research  technology  technologyvspolitics 
june 2016
The worst thing I read this year, and what it taught me… or Can we design sociotechnical systems… — Medium
Am I advocating codesign of prisons with the currently incarcerated? Hell yeah, I am. And with ex-offenders, corrections officers, families of prisoners as well as the experts who design these facilities today. They’re likely to do a better job than smart Yale students, or technology commentators.
design  research  technology 
june 2016
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