Adaptive learning is the use of data-driven tools to design coursework that responds to individual students’ abilities. Courses featuring adaptive technology typically use assessments to constantly adjust content, giving students extra help to master difficult concepts or to skip ones they already understand.
AllstonX (HarvardX for Allston)
HarvardX for Allston, presented officially as part of the community benefits package to Allston-Brighton residents, is a collaboration between HarvardX and the Harvard Allston Education Portal. AllstonX aims to bring the local community together with live events that are also livestreamed to learners from around the world. It intends to build upon the principle that technology should not take away from human interaction, but can transform in-person interactions and supplement learning experiences.
Coursera and Udacity
Along with edX, Coursera and Udacity (both for-profit) represent the big three of MOOC providers. Both companies were created by faculty affiliated with Stanford University; unlike edX, however, no university has a direct investment/role in either. Coursera is similar in focus to edX, but is venture-capital backed and offers more “plug and play” content (meaning template-based courses). Udacity is focusing more on using online learning to enhance corporate training.
Credit, Honored and Verified Certificates, and Credentialing
At this time, edX and HarvardX do not offer for-credit MOOCs. Students who successfully complete a course (per the requirements of the instructor) may be able to receive an Honor Certificate through edX or a Verified Certificate (a fee-based option that requires users to “verify” their identity via webcam to prove they completed the course on their own). As of yet, HarvardX has only offered Honor certificates via edX (co-branded with edX and HarvardX). Experiments are being run through the Division of Continuing Education to offer fee-based HarvardX certificates of success (non-credit) that provide online students with greater access to on-campus resources and instructor and TF time and attention.
In May 2012, Harvard joined forces with MIT to form edX (edx.org), a not-for-profit enterprise that features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web. Backed by a shared $60 million commitment from both institutions, edX is an enabling platform, allowing select university partners the ability to readily distribute course content and other academic materials. The goals of edX are to: 1) expand access to education worldwide; 2) improve teaching and learning on campuses and beyond; and 3) advance teaching and learning through educational research.
By “flipping the classroom,” faculty use technology to enable students to engage with video lectures or other online materials in advance to free up class time for more experiential or hands-on activities. The concept is not necessarily new, having long been used in engineering and lab based settings. Researchers are interested in exploring the flipped classroom concept to determine: How can the development and use of digital resources improve the learning experience in the classroom and how will we know that they work? Can digital resources enable more active engagement with our students?
MOOC stands for ‘massive open online course.’ This means that all of the course assets (including assessments and discussion forums) are open to anyone and typically free to audit (non-credit/degree). The New York Times called 2012 “The Year of the MOOC” because numerous online education endeavors (such as edX, Coursera, and Udacity) all launched and gained rapid attention and momentum. These platforms take advantage of recent technologies like social networking and scalable networks that can support thousands of global learners simultaneously. True, online and distance learning are not new---both date back several decades. Yet MOOCs have often been called a “disruption” as they came about during a time of (a) growing global appetite for knowledge, (b) faculty and major institutional interest in improving teaching and learning, and (c) tech-savvy students eager to embrace enabling technologies.
In the context of edX/HarvardX, a course is an online learning experience that combines video elements, assessments and other interactive tools and is the equivalent of a full course experience as defined by the faculty member’s school or department. For some this could be a semester-long course, for others an intensive 3-week experience.
A module is an online learning experience that combines video elements, assessments and other interactive tools that address a specific topic and its associated learning outcomes. This could be the equivalent of a week to three weeks of a semester-long course and might also be thought of as a discrete unit within a larger course.
An open source platform, such as edX, Linux, or Android, is a way of developing software that provides programmers with free access to the “code” so that they can develop and refine it for their own use and then share their innovations back with the community. In addition to being a platform for running courses and modules, the open source edX platform can also be used as a place for teaching and research experimentation, meaning a sandbox for discoveries and development of new tools.
SPOC stands for ‘small private online course’ and describes courses with limited enrollment and course assets that are not necessarily open to all. Limited enrollments often allow for greater interaction and discussion. SPOCS are also a common way to run an experience for residential enrolled students.