Professor & Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University

Tag: edtech startups

Thinking out loud about coding bootcamps, nanodegrees, & alternative credentials

Posted on June 29th, by George Veletsianos in scholarship. 2 comments

“The CanCode program will invest $50 million over two years, starting in 2017-18, to support initiatives providing educational opportunities for coding and digital skills development to Canadian youth from kindergarten to grade 12 (K-12).

The program aims to equip youth, including traditionally underrepresented groups, with the skills and study incentives they need to be prepared for the jobs of today and the future. Canada’s success in the digital economy depends on leveraging our diverse talent and providing opportunity for all to participate—investing in digital skills development will help to achieve this.”

The CanCode program is a new funding opportunity in Canada. Similar initiatives have occurred globally. The investment in coding to prepare youth and adults for the jobs of the future is an interesting phenomenon. In a past project for example, we worked with over fifty high schools and developed a dual enrolment course focused on computational thinking and the presence of computing in daily life. The ability to read, write, and tinker with code is one aspect of this course. Our course was about introducing students to computer science – and though coding is an aspect of it, computer science is not coding.

But, coding is a central feature of an ever-expanding market of emerging credentials. Badges. Nanodegrees. Certs. And so on. Providers offer these in many different ways, both in terms of modality (e.g.,  online courses vs. face-to-face coding bootcamps) and pacing (e.g., self-paced vs. cohort-based). Some highlight experiential components (e.g., industry partnerships) while others highlight the flexibility of adjusting to learner’s life circumstances.

In short, providers make a case that their credentials promise employment opportunities in a rapidly changing global economy where coding is in demand. This space seems to be an example of what certain aspects of unbundling may look like. The space configures alternative credentials, digital learning, for-profit education, skills training, and re-training in unique ways. I have a lot of questions around this space

  • What are learners’ experiences with coding bootcamps and nanodegrees?
  • Who enrols? Who succeeds?
    • To what extent do these programs broaden participation in computing?
    • To what degree and in what ways do these programs democratize learning and participation? Do they?
  • What do learners expect from these offerings and how do they judge the quality of their experience and credential?
  • What are the dominant pedagogical practices (within and across providers) in teaching people how to code?
  • What is the role of technology in these programs?
  • What do outcomes look like, and how do those align with providers’ promises? For instance, what proportion of participants find gainful employment and what does that employment look like?
  • What are instructors’ roles in these offerings? Who are they? What is their pedagogical background? Is this their main employment? Are there connections to the gig economy and precarious employment here?
  • How diverse are these offerings in terms of gender and race with respect to students (who enrols?), instructors (who teaches?) and content (are minorities represented in curricular materials? in what ways?)

I’ve been looking for some answers to my questions, but I’m not finding much.

Additional reading

http://hackeducation.com/2015/11/23/bootcamps-the-new-for-profit-higher-ed

https://www.wired.com/2017/02/programming-is-the-new-blue-collar-job

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/education/edlife/where-non-techies-computer-programming-coding.html

https://www.geekwire.com/2015/dear-geekwire-a-coding-bootcamp-is-not-a-replacement-for-a-computer-science-degree/

https://news.slashdot.org/story/16/08/22/0521230/four-code-bootcamps-are-now-eligible-for-government-financial-aid

http://www.chronicle.com/article/Coding-Boot-Camps-Come-Into/239673?cid=cp21

http://hackeducation.com/2011/10/28/codecademy-and-the-future-of-not-learning-to-code

Industry report: https://www.coursereport.com/reports/2016-coding-bootcamp-job-placement-demographics-report

SXSWedu 2014 events

Posted on February 28th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 12 comments

I’ll be at SXSWedu 2014, and I’m hoping that the event has matured a bit since last year’s “learning outcomes come second” suggestion. Austin is probably the best US city to host this event as the city itself is undergoing massive change.

I’ll be on two panels this year, and I’m really excited to participate in both. The first panel is one organized with my colleagues Tanya Joosten, Amy Collier, and Audrey Watters:

Startups Should Talk with Researchers and Educators
George Veletsianos (Royal Roads University)
Amy Collier (Stanford University)
Audrey Watters (Hack Education)
Tanya Joosten (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee)

Educational technology startups seem to ignore the knowledge that educators and researchers have amassed that can help startups succeed. Last year’s SXSWedu event felt more like a vendor gathering than a space for “meaningful conversation.” If we want to change how we do education, these groups must converse. In this panel, we will discuss how educators/researchers can help startups improve products and answer questions pertaining to education research, how people learn, and classroom practice.

The second panel is a meetup organized by Coursetalk:

Karen Francis, Chairman and CEO of AcademixDirect, parent company to CourseTalk
Dr. Anant Agarwal, President, edX
Jason Palmer, Deputy Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Dr. George Veletsianos, Canada Research Chair/Associate Professor, Royal Roads University
Stephanie Banchero, National Education Writer, The Wall Street Journal
Jane Swift, CEO, Middlebury Interactive Languages
Education, Training, and Professional Development technology innovations have disrupted the way we learn across the globe. Some are calling online education and MOOCs the pathway to solve the skills and knowledge gaps of today’s global workforce. Others are predicting these technology innovations are the road map to an influx of loss of jobs as more things become automated. Many are collaborating and developing models to improve student outcomes and to connect students with the resources needed to grow and succeed in a global and competitive job market.

Startups should talk with researchers & educators

Posted on August 19th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, my research, online learning. 16 comments

If you believe that educational technology startups can learn a thing or two from educators and education researchers in their quest to improve education, then we’d love your vote for our 2014 SXSWedu proposal.

Tanya Joosten, Amy Collier, Audrey Watters and I have proposed a panel during which we will discuss how educators/researchers can help startups improve their education technology offerings, and answer questions pertaining to education research, how people learn, and classroom practice. If we want meaningful and transformational change in how we do education, it is imperative for
entrepreneurs and educators/researchers to converse. We’ve called for this over and over. And it’s not just us four that have noticed a disconnect between what educational technologies companies do and what we know about education and learning:

In discussing the flipped classroom model Schneider, Blikstein, and Pea note that “by failing to pay attention to the research, we were applying what is possibly a good idea in the wrong way. That’s why research in education is crucially important to improve our schools. Intuitions are good, but science is better.”

Neil Selwyn notes “The current understanding of schools in the digital age [is] hampered by a curious amnesia, forgetfulness or even willful ignorance of past phases of technology development and implementation…”

Rolin Moe argues, “In education, innovators and disruptors consistently reinvent the wheel, hyping revolutionary ideas that are often unaware of existing research, replications of prior models, or proud of their ignorance of history of the field’s theory and pedagogy.”

In short, our panel will provide answers to the following questions:

1. How can educational technology startups use knowledge generated through education research to improve their products and services?
2. How can educational technology startups partner with educators, researchers, and educational institutions to improve their
innovations?
3. Why have education technology innovations failed in the past, and what can startups learn from those experiences, so as to avoid making the same mistakes?

If you feel that we have something meaningful to add to the conversation about how technology, pedagogy, and emerging ideas can improve education, then we’d love your vote.

EdTech Startups: Exceptional Courses or Exceptional Students?

Posted on February 29th, by George Veletsianos in emerging technologies, learner experience, my research, online learning, scholarship. No Comments

This blog entry was supposed to go out next week, but I am sharing it today because it is relevant to the entry that George Siemens wrote today.

I gave a talk to Curt Bonk’s class a couple of weeks ago and the central premise of that talk was that we should be designing experiences, not products. This is not a new idea. It goes back to the beginning of my career and it’s a passion that I share with a lot of folks, most notably Aaron Doering and Charles Miller at the University of Minnesota (who incidentally just landed in Sydney for their most recent Adventure Learning project). For example, see  Raising the bar for instructional outcomes: Towards transformative learning experiences (2008) and Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies (2011). A central tenet of the 2008 paper is the following:

There exist “strong pressures to produce mediocre instructional products based on templates and preexisting content.”

That was in 2008. Now consider 2011/2012: Interest in open courses and in large online classes has exploded. The edtech entrepreneur is eager to leverage online education and capitalize on efficiency, by focusing on the delivery of pre-packaged content. Scale and efficiency are key in that if one is able to efficiently deliver content (read: low cost) to large numbers of people, s/he can charge a small fee that will yield high profit. This isn’t a new idea either. David Noble talks about the commodification of education, the attempt to market and sell education as a commodity.

Sebastian Thrun, who was one of the faculty members teaching the Stanford AI class last Fall recently “showed emails from a student who took the AI class, when he could get Internet access, amidst mortar and rocket attacks in Afganistan; and another, a single working mother, who refused to quit the class because it gave her a sense of accomplishment.” Are these statements describing exceptional courses? Are they describing experiences that pull students and engage them to their core? Or are they describing exceptional people? When you provide access to exceptional people (like the two individuals above), they will amaze you, because, well, they are exceptional! How do you design courses that are exceptional, that adapt to all learners, and provide support structures for individuals who are not exceptional? You provide opportunities for personally relevant and meaningful transformation. How do you do that, you ask? Here’s my (free) advice to any hopeful edtech startup: Designing Opportunities for Transformation with Emerging Technologies (pdf).