Beyond the Buzz, Where Are MOOCs Really Going?

Wired • 20 February 2013

Just in time. Michael Horn and Clayton Christensen say the real disruptive potential of MOOCs lies in their ability to provide customized learning experiences as demand moves from the traditional degree toward on-the-job education. And although a few big-name universities have jumped into the game with their own brands, the authors predict the ultimate advantage will go to "adaptive learning platforms—like Khan Academy and Knewton—[which] may actually be better positioned than MOOCs (in their current forms) to improve learning and serve numbers of students with tailored offerings."

It's all very well and good to ask (over and over again) "whither the MOOC," but consider what the participating institutions stand to gain. Hint: it's not learning how to educate the masses better. It's learning new tricks for those enrolled in residential programs on campus. And when the campus doesn't scale, institutions will be able to develop better online "fees and degrees" programs for those in online cohorts. Institutions that excel at this will do more than merely move the existing classroom online; they will exploit the online environment for its strengths. Change is gonna come, and no one knows where that change will lead. Which makes it a great time to experiment. (Proffitt)

The University's Dilemma

Strategy+Business • 27 November 2012

Think massive. Check out this essay by University of Virginia business professor Tim Laseter for a couple of new ideas on re-imagining higher education in the age of MOOCs. Pointing to today's evangelical megachurches and the online gaming phenomenon World of Warcraft as examples, Laseter offers a fresh take on alternative ways to organize and sustain massive online communities.

When I read articles like this I wonder if the business of a university is business. Laseter argues that the business of the university is teaching (not research?) and that it is failing miserably in the face of "disruptive innovation." This failure is demonstrated paradoxically by education of too many (50% unemployment or underemployment of recent college grads) and education of too few (e.g., not enough STEM grads or the churn over MOOCs). Laseter got his MBA (and he adjuncts) at the University of Virginia, locus of the kerfuffle last spring over the business of that university and its president, Teresa Sullivan. It's not just the library that is becoming disintermediated from academics and students; it's the university itself. (Schaffner)

The Behavionomics of Paywalls

The European • 31 January 2013

Evolutionary. Social psychologist Jonathan Cook offers a behavioral science perspective on consumer resistance to new restrictions on online content. Read on for Cook's opinion on why a "one-size-fits-all" strategy is at odds with marketing psychology and suggestions on ways to take the sting out of paywalls.

In this short article, social psychologist Jonathon Cook considers the impact of paywall strategies on circulation and revenue in online media. Noting that people are generally resistant to policies that appear to limit their personal freedom, Cook offers a few tips to overcome consumers' natural reluctance to embrace paywalls: for example, rather than limit readers' options by imposing a paywall over all content, offer a number of premium options (e.g., advertising-free content) instead. The key point is that understanding the psychology of consumers is important in designing effective pricing plans; this echoes the ideas popularized a few years ago in the book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, which stressed the importance of psychology in designing effective public policy. (Lavoie)

Can You Trust an Amazon Review?

IEEE Spectrum • 19 February 2013

Behind the curtain. Check out this interview with Cornell science professor Trevor Pinch, who shares his insight into all the ways that Amazon's book review process is being manipulated. Who knew there were so many ways to game the system?

Can Amazon reviews be gamed? Of course they can. Can they also be absolutely hilarious, and a tremendous time waster? Yep, that too. So let me save you the time of reading this podcast that was transcribed virtually verbatim, with all of the weird sentence fragments included. In a nutshell: caveat lector: "let the reader beware." Take any online review by someone you don't know with a grain of salt. Except of course for the ones you read in this publication. Would we lead our friends astray? Of course not. (Tennant)

Moneyball for Music: The Rise of Next Big Sound

Forbes • 13 February 2013

Could it work for books? Startup enterprise Next Big Sound crunches Big Data to identify likely up and coming musicians for big label clients. And while old-timers like to credit their "golden ears" for talent discovery, Next Big Sound's system uses datapoints like Facebook fan numbers to predict album sales within 20% of accuracy for 85% of artists. Read on for more on the music industry's next disruptive innovation.

Traditional ways of measuring trends in popular culture (e.g., Billboard charts, Nielsen ratings, New York Times Best Sellers) are becoming less relevant. The context of streaming, downloading, liking, and tweeting is more indicative of current tastes. Next Big Sound is mining user activity and social media interaction to predict the upcoming musicians to watch. Drawing from the plethora of book sites and apps (e.g., Bookish, goodreads, LibraryThing), we could learn a lot about current trends in reading. Lorcan Dempsey talked about mining intentional data to draw conclusions about library usage. A mash-up between the two might result in actionable intelligence for public libraries. (Erway)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, how are viewers of the “MOOCs and Libraries: Massive Opportunity or Overwhelming Challenge?” webcast encouraged to participate in the event remotely on 18-19 March?

Get the answer.