“Worth Reading” is a hand-picked weekly collection of new, not-so-new articles and downright old ideas, events and other items for higher education professionals.


UMUC: The Future of Learning An animated promotional video from UMUC outlines what its vision of the future of online higher education. The vision includes, notably,

  • competency-based assessment
  • use of mentors as the primary contact for the student
  • direct assessment
  • prior learning assessment
  • student portfolios
  • open educational resources mixed with university licensed materials;
  • extensive predictive analytics


So Bill Gates Has This Idea for a History Class …

New York Times Magazine cover story (no less) on the “Big History Project”.

“As Gates was working his way through the series, he stumbled upon a set of DVDs titled “Big History” — an unusual college course taught by a jovial, gesticulating professor from Australia named David Christian. Unlike the previous DVDs, “Big History” did not confine itself to any particular topic, or even to a single academic discipline. Instead, it put forward a synthesis of history, biology, chemistry, astronomy and other disparate fields, which Christian wove together into nothing less than a unifying narrative of life on earth.”


Not insignificant news. A major university, Purdue, is interesting a competency-based program.

“The national interest in competency-based education, also called direct assessment, comes on the heels of U.S Department of Education guidelines released last year for institutions wanting to provide federal student aid to enrollees in such programs. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives also passed legislation that further enables institutions offering competency-based degrees to participate in federal student aid programs.”


Article in The Atlantic that encourages us to look past the low completion rates of MOOCs, and to focus on the significant volume of learning taking place.
” . . . focusing on the tiny fraction of students who complete a MOOC is misguided. The more important number is the 60 percent engagement rate. Students may not finish a MOOC with a certificate of accomplishment, but the courses nonetheless meet the educational goals of millions.”

A Norwegian government policy document that outlines the use of MOOCs for credit. Thin edge of the wedge. (Thanks to Kris Olds for pointing this out.)


Economist article that points to research detailing rising grades at elite US institution.
“In 1950, Mr Rojstaczer estimates, Harvard’s average grade was a C-plus. An article from 2013 in the Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper, revealed that the median grade had soared to A-minus: the most commonly awarded grade is an A. The students may be much cleverer than before: the Ivies are no longer gentlemen’s clubs for rich knuckleheads. But most probably, their marks mean less.”

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