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iversity.org: A new MOOC on the block

There's a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in town and…

Well, it's not in town. In fact, it's actually in Europe. Germany, to be precise. Berlin. Smart people, them. Anyway, iversity.org is the site.

At the moment, iversity offers 10 courses in German and 14 in English, with more on the way. The courses actually look pretty rad, not the typical boring university fare that is usually proffered up on some of the other MOOCs.

Examples:

They also offer European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits, if you know what that means and could benefit from it. I can barely get my community college credits to transfer within the same state, let alone some fancy European online credits, so I assume you'll want to focus on skills learning rather than degree getting.

Here's their intro video “What is a MOOC?”:

If you're not taking advantage of all the free educational opportunities the interwebs are now providing you, you're missing out. I have too many online courses to keep track of at the moment, but I would highly consider some of these for next time.

NYTimes Spotlights Idaho Education

In the New York Times Tuesday, reporter Matt Richtel spotlights the rear-guard action of Idaho teachers against Superintendent Tom Luna's push for online classes. Richtel begins his support by focusing on Post Falls teacher Ann Rosenbaum of Post Falls: “Ann Rosenbaum, a former military police officer in the Marines, does not shrink from a fight, having even survived a close encounter with a car bomb in Iraq. Her latest conflict is quite different: she is now a high school teacher, and she and many of her peers in Idaho are resisting a statewide plan that dictates how computers should be used in classrooms.” You can read the rest here.

Question: What do you make of the ongoing reluctance of Idaho teachers to march lock-step with Luna, Gov. Butch Otter, and the Idaho Legislature in embracing online education?

Luna Compares Foes To Occupiers

Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna believes that opponents of having for-profit companies deliver online school courses in Idaho have a mentality not unlike protestors in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Luna also said that those worried about for-profit education companies providing online school courses might be anti-capitalist in nature. The superintendent was interviewed last week by IdahoReporter.com. “This undertone that somehow because for-profit companies are going to want to compete for educations dollars is the end of public education as we know it, that is an Occupy Wall Street argument that we see going on all across the country,” Luna said, “where there’s this attack on capitalism and an attack on profits”/Dustin Hurst, Idaho Reporter. More here.

Question: Is Luna right in comparing opponents of online education in Idaho to online foes? Or is he simply creating a straw man to marginalize opponents in the referendum campaigns next year?

Media Eye Idaho’s Educational Role

National publications are spotlighting Idaho's roll in the shift to online learning, according to Dan Popkey/Idaho Statesman. In a blog post today, Popkey quotes Lee Fang of The Nation: “From Idaho to Indiana to Florida, recently passed laws will radically reshape the face of education in America, shifting the responsibility of teaching generations of Americans to online education businesses, many of which have poor or nonexistent track records. The rush to privatize education will also turn tens of thousands of students into guinea pigs in a national experiment in virtual learning — a relatively new idea that allows for-profit companies to administer public schools completely online, with no brick-and-mortar classrooms or traditional teachers.” More here. (SR file photo)

Question: In view of Idaho's pellmell rush to expose school children to Superintendent Tom Luna's radical online education plans, I wonder where all those concerned Idahoans went — you know, the ones who identified education as a top priority in survey after survey?

State Board sets final approval of online course requirement for Thursday

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho — Idaho would become the first state to require students to take at least two credits online under a plan headed to Education officials for final approval. The state Board of Education is expected to consider the measure at a special meeting Thursday. The board gave the online requirement initial approval in September despite heavy opposition at public hearings this summer. Trustees collected more feedback during a 21-day public comment period last month. A majority of the commenters said Idaho shouldn't require online learning, according to board staff. Schools nationwide offer virtual classes, but just three states — Alabama, Florida and Michigan — have adopted rules since 2006 to require online learning, according to the International Association of K-12 Online Learning. Idaho would be the first to require two credits online.

Vestal: Idaho Ignores Its Teachers

If you want to “fix schools,” apparently, there’s one group of people you should ignore. Teachers. And when, in the course of fixing schools, you ignore this group of people, you should make it clear that you are not really ignoring “the people.” They’re just teachers. If you want to fix schools and put students first – well, first after taxpayers and “customers” and federal standards and ideological opponents of unions – what you should do about this group of people is remove them from the equation altogether. Make ’em leave the room while kids learn on computers. Teachers. If only we could have schools – very cheap, very effective schools – without them/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here. (AP file photo of Superintendent Tom Luna)

Question: Why do Idaho political leaders have such disdain for teachers?

Goedde Dismisses Online Ed Criticism

Apparently, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde is dismissing the overwhelming testimony against online education at 7 hearings around the state. Reports Betsy Russell/Eye On Boise: “He dismissed the negative testimony at the public hearings, saying, 'I don't know the makeup of the people that testified. … I was there for the Coeur d'Alene testimony, and without exception, every person that testified was either an educator or a former educator. And I think that is just consistent with their insistence that education reform is a bad thing.'” Betsy goes on to report that Goedde's subcommittee of the state Board of Education voted today to approve a two-online-course requirement for high school graduation in Idaho, starting with next year's freshmen (the class of 2016). Story here.

Question: Do you feel that Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, represents your interests on the issue of online education that faces a refendum vote in fall 2012?

Hearing pans online ed proposal

Here's a news item from the Associated Press and the Idaho Statesman: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Attendees of an Idaho Board of Education hearing in Nampa largely panned a plan to require students to take two online courses to graduate, starting with the class of 2016. Thursday's meeting was the sixth of seven public hearings on the rule passed this year by the state Legislature. Teachers and others Thursday expressed doubts about the plan. The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/mX7NkX ) several don't want the proposal to require a course to be held without a teacher in the classroom. Former state Rep. Branden Durst, who teaches at the College of Western Idaho, says requiring online classes would add stress to students who are already under a lot of pressure. A board committee will meet Aug. 25 to review the comments and come up with a recommendation.

Luna, Online Ed Firms Go Way Back

In October 2009, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna held a re-election fundraiser in the Capitol Hill offices of Dutko Worldwide, one of America’s top lobbying firms. Sponsors included two leading voices in the Republican education re-form movement: former U.S. Education secretaries William Bennett and Rod Paige. The event marked an important moment in Luna’s re-election bid, as he won support from education technology companies interested in changing state policy to boost their business. If Luna’s “Students Come First” proposal passes the Legislature, online education will be mandated in Idaho and a laptop will be available to every high school student. That means 115 school districts, with 82,000 high school students, will be in the market for computers, software and online courses/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Does Luna's ties with online education companies cause you to question his education reform plans that rely heavily on computers?

Albertson Heir Cashes In On Online Ed

Since 2007, Joseph B. Scott’s investment company, Alscott Inc., has brought in more than $15 million by selling part of its stake in Virginia-based K12 Inc., which sells online courses and other services to public schools. Meanwhile, his family’s tax-exempt foundation has helped K12 tap Idaho taxpayer dollars and now is supporting state schools chief Tom Luna’s plan to require every high school student in the state to take online classes. For nearly a decade, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has chipped in millions toward Idaho’s online public education system. One of those online schools, the Idaho Virtual Academy, has, in turn, directed tens of millions of public dollars into K12’s company coffers, for services ranging from curriculum to administration. … With debate over expanding Idaho’s Internet-based education system now dominating the 2011 Legislature, Scott, who is Joe Albertson’s grandson, and an avid skier with his own helicopter, isn’t staying on the sidelines, either/John Miller, Associated Press. More here.

Question: In a speech Friday, Luna denied that his radical plans for education reform were influenced by thousands of dollars in contribution from online education sources, like K12. What do you think?