Category Archives: Education

Infographic: Major Players in the MOOC Universe (Nigel Hawtin)

Nigel HawtinNigel Hawtin is the editor of New Scientist and newscientist.com He is a Designer, Graphics reporter, Illustrator and Manager. He is a freelance infographics designer specialising in science and technology. His portfolio can be found on http://newspagedesigner.org/profile/NigelHawtin.

Major Players in the MOOC Universe

Infographic: Where in the World are the Best Schools and the Happiest Kids?

enhanced-buzz-wide-4600-1389758007-13

Source: Jake Levy, BuzzFeed Data Analyst, January 15, 2014

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s triennial international survey compared test scores from 65 countries. Happiness was ranked based on the percentage of students who agreed or disagreed with the statement “I feel happy at school.” Test scores were ranked based on the combined individual rankings of the students’ math, reading, and science scores.

enhanced-buzz-wide-8599-1389753504-12

How We Learn: My Critique of the Time Magazine The Price Of College Graph – Part 4

Over the past three days, I have been discussing a Special College Report article that is in the current issue of Time Magazine (October 7, 2013). It is titled Class of 2025 How They’ll Learn and What They’ll Pay.

The first three parts are as follows:

Part 1, Teaching Methods that involved critical thinking I experienced early in my education when I took a course on the History of Napoleon at Texas A&M Univerity in the early 1980s from the late Dr. Shirley Black.

Part 2, I discussed the Time Magazine article, Online learning will make college cheaper. It will also make it better by L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT, Mr. Reif states that “digital learning is the most important innovation in education since the printing press.” He then describes the benefits of digital learning.

Part 3, I discussed the a MOOC class I took earlier this year from Professor Alberto Cairo titled introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization.

Today, in this fourth and final part of this series, I provide a critique of The Price of College graph from the aforementioned Time Magazine article.

The Price of College Graph

The question the Time magazine graph wants to answer is if rising tuition has made the price of a degree out of reach as opposed to other big-ticket expenses a family would have. The graph is a horizontal line graph with five series: house, 50 most expensive colleges, public tuition, private tuition, and new car price. The series is based on 2012 dollars and runs for 12 years from 2000 – 2012.

I tried to first focus on the lines related to tuition. As we can see, all of them are increasing over the 12-year period. However, the author of the graph then projects what these costs will be by the year 2025, which is the focus of the Special College Report. They show us the projected numbers, but just have then linearly following the path of the existing line. I have shown with red arrow lines where they actually would appear based on the Y axis (cost). I think if they had allowed the lines to increase to its value on the Y axis, the rise of tuition then shows the dramatic increase in the future. More specifically, the 50 most expensive colleges has a dramatic increase.

It would have also been nice to see them also project a single family home and a new car out to the year 2025. I realize the house market is in flux, but again, we are projecting. Will the housing market fully recover and houses double by then? Will new cars continue its incremental increase or will there be a spike upward or downward?

Also, it would be nice to have some indicator that shows that private college tuition is approximately double of public college tuition. Is there a want to quantify (or justify) the additional cost of sending your child to a private school (I’ll pick on my alma mater for this; is four years at Harvard worth the extra cost versus going to Texas A&M?).

The small graph in the bottom left corner is interesting in that it shows the actual increase for the past 40 years. However, should it have been overshadowed by the larger graph in this example or have been shown separately so it is in front and in full focus? Clear, over the 40 year span, all costs are dramatically increasing except for the housing bubble crash of the past 5 years or so.

Time - The Price Of College Graph - Revised

In Summary

I hope you enjoyed this four-part series on The Class of 2025 and How We Learn. I will be working in New York City the next few weeks and will be blogging about interesting data visualization topics related to New York.

Until next time.

Best Regards,

Michael

How We Learn: Online Learning, MOOCs, and Alberto Cairo – Part 2

L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT

L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT

Yesterday, I started discussing a Special College Report article that is in the current issue of Time Magazine (October 7, 2013). It is titled Class of 2025 How They’ll Learn and What They’ll Pay.

Time discusses the debates going on over traditional education with a core curriculum and other academics who would rather have students attend a more specialized set of courses that allows them to set their curriculum. It seems, however, that all parties involved are most concerned with students having the skills to do critical thinking upon graduation which will make them more successful in the work force.

I had two personal life experiences I wanted to share. Yesterday, I discussed a course I took on the History of Napoleon at Texas A&M Univerity in the early 1980s from the late Dr. Shirley Black.

Today, I am moving ahead in time and discussing a MOOC class I took last year from Professor Alberto Cairo titled introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization. I am also sitting in the current section of this course Professor Cairo is teaching that began this month.

Before I discuss Mr. Cairo’s MOOC class, I would like to discuss the benefits of online learning discussed in the Time magazine report.

Online Learning Makes College Cheaper and Better

In the Time Magazine article, Online learning will make college cheaper. It will also make it better by L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT, Mr. Reif states that “digital learning is the most important innovation in education since the printing press.” He then describes what digital learning is good for.  His first point is that it is good at opening possibilities for billions of human beings who have little or no access to higher learning. He cites the success MIT has had with its OpenCourseWare as an example.

Mr. Reif then points out that online learning is very good at teaching content such as the concepts of circuits and electronics, the principles of chemistry, and the evolution of architectural styles. He then points out that his classroom students are not necessarily ready to apply the concepts that are taught. However, by contrast, compatible students taught through online exercises – including immediate practice, feedback and reinforcements retained the concepts better and were better prepared to put them into practice. Also, by moving the introductory materials to online courses, instructors can now take the time that was previously reserved for lectures and use it to exploit the power of innovative teaching techniques.

Time Magazine - Class of 2025Another advantage of digital learning technologies, although harder to quantify, is flexibility. Traditional colleges require four years at a physical academic address like a university campus where students have to meet regularly at the same place and time. Digital learning allows students to engage the material anytime, any day, as often as they need to, anywhere in the world. I know there were times as a student I wish I had certain lectures from my professors that I would like to have been able to listen to multiple times to reinforce what they taught us.

The next advantage of digital learning is the ability to analyze and gain information from the vast data that is being generated about how people actually learn best.  A systematic, data-driven approach to analyze the way we learn will provide us testable conclusions that could improve teaching methods and strategies for both online and in-person instruction.

With all of these benefits mentioned above, we also need to discuss the major drawback of digital learning-the ability to have face-to-face interaction. Judgement, confidence, humility and skill in negotiation that come from hands-on problem solving and teamwork; the perseverance, analytical skill and initiatives that grow from conducting frontline lab research; the skill in writing and public speaking that comes from exploring ideas with mentors and peers; the ethics and values that emerge through being apprenticed to a master in your field and living as a member of a campus community.

However, online learning may indirectly provide these benefits. The online courses will allow more time to focus on education; detailed discussions; personal mentorship, and project-based learning. It becomes more of a blended model as online tools are used more strategically. Students could, in the future, be able to complete their first year of college online, thus reducing their costs of education. Or, in their junior year, work in their field of interest while attending their courses online. MIT has around 200 lecture halls. With online learning, the need to increase the number of physical spaces (or reduce this space and use it for other academic purposes) could vastly change by the year 2025.

We need to capitalize on the strengths of online learning, make it more accessible, more effective and more affordable for the human race than every before.

Tomorrow: Alberto Cairo’s MOOC Course and my review of one of the graphs used in the Time Magazine report.

How We Learn, Online Education and MOOCs, Time Magazine Graph Critique – Part 1

Time MagazineOn my trip home to Arizona from Paris yesterday, I read the Special College Report article in the current issue of Time Magazine (October 7, 2013). It is titled Class of 2025 How They’ll Learn and What They’ll Pay.

I am always interested in they ways different groups (i.e., Government, educators, parents, etc.) perceive what the best way to learn is. Time Magazine points out in their article that 36% of college graduates in a 2011 study did not show any significant cognitive gains over the four years they spent in college. I ask myself, how can this be?

Time goes on to discuss the debates going on over traditional education with a core curriculum and other academics who would rather have students attend a more specialized set of courses that allows them to set their curriculum. It seems, however, that all parties involved are most concerned with students having the skills to do critical thinking upon graduation which will make them more successful in the work force.

Drawing myself into this discussion, I draw on two personal experiences I had during my life-long learning adventures.

The first was when I was at Texas A&M University during the early 1980s working on my undergraduate degree. I had dropped out of college in 1978 after two years to work as a computer programmer. I was restless in college and not very attentive. I loved my computer programming classes and an opportunity presented itself for me to get a real job with real money.

I worked for 5 years as a COBOL programmer when I began to realize that a degree would be important as the Computer Science field became more formalized and education, more specifically a degree in Computer Science, would help determine what types of opportunities would avail themselves to you in the future.

I chose Texas A&M University for its family like atmosphere and my initial discussions with my department before I decided on a school. I also was able to find full-time employment as a computer programmer in College Station which made the choice a lot easier. My boss was also willing to let me take classes during the day and shuffle my work schedule accordingly.

I decided to work on a History degree with a minor in Computer Science. I always loved history and felt the ability to write and put your thoughts on paper would be highly beneficial to a person in computer science (later, I would realize how correct I was in this decision).

The course I want to focus on was a History of Napoleon class I took from the late Shirley Black. Dr. Black provided great narratives of Napoleon’s time in power using great story telling. She seldom focused on a date unless it was highly significant like the Russian Campaign of 1812. Her exams were always pen and paper with challenging questions like “Compare the reigns of Napoleon and Hitler and discuss their similarities, successes and failures.” Since Napoleon and Hitler both made the mistake of entering into Moscow with Winter coming where they would have to endure the cold, harsh winter months ahead, it was a oppportunity to discuss each of their military strategies in terms of this. Her exams usually were along these lines where she would offer us a couple of questions to choose from and address that question using pen and paper. Like it or not, she made us really think about the question; not some multiple choice questions about dates and fill in the blanks.

Rosetta_StoneAnother thing Dr. Black made us do was draw the map of Europe  and Africa and indicate key locations of events relating to Napoleon. She said to us, “If I teach you one thing before you graduate, it will be to know how to find the cities discussed in this class on a map of Europe.” For example, one key location was where Napoleon found the Rosetta Stone upon his entry into Northern Africa.

On Napoleon’s 1798 campaign in Egypt, the expeditionary army was accompanied by the Commission des Sciences et des Arts, a corps of 167 technical experts (savants). On July 15, 1799, as French soldiers under the command of Colonel d’Hautpoul were strengthening the defences of Fort Julien, a couple of miles north-east of the Egyptian port city of Rosetta (Modern day Rashid), Lieutenant Pierre-François Bouchard spotted a slab with inscriptions on one side that the soldiers had uncovered. He and d’Hautpoul saw at once that it might be important and informed general Jacques-François Menou, who happened to be at Rosetta. The find was announced to Napoleon’s newly founded scientific association in Cairo, the Institut d’Égypte, in a report by Commission member Michel Ange Lancret noting that it contained three inscriptions, the first in hieroglyphs and the third in Greek, and rightly suggesting that the three inscriptions would be versions of the same text. Lancret’s report, dated July 19, 1799, was read to a meeting of the Institute soon after July 25. Bouchard, meanwhile, transported the stone to Cairo for examination by scholars. Napoleon himself inspected what had already begun to be called la Pierre de Rosette, the Rosetta Stone, shortly before his return to France in August 1799.

I find some symmetry in the fact that I would revisit Napoleon again when I took Edward Tufte’s one-day class in 2005 where he discussed Minard’s map of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812. I already had an interest in this battle and Dr. Tufte exposed another layer, the data visualization flow map prepared by Minard, to my understanding.

Tomorrow: On-line Learning, MOOCs, and Alberto Cairo

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