Ed Tech World on Notice: Miami U disability discrimination lawsuit could have major effect

This week the US Department of Justice, citing Title II of ADA, decided to intervene in a private lawsuit filed against Miami University of Ohio regarding disability discrimination based on ed tech usage. Call this a major escalation and just ask the for-profit industry how big an effect DOJ intervention can be. From the complaint:

Miami University uses technologies in its curricular and co-curricular programs, services, and activities that are inaccessible to qualified individuals with disabilities, including current and former students who have vision, hearing, or learning disabilities. Miami University has failed to make these technologies accessible to such individuals and has otherwise failed to ensure that individuals with disabilities can interact with Miami University’s websites and access course assignments, textbooks, and other curricular and co-curricular materials on an equal basis with non-disabled students. These failures have deprived current and former students and others with disabilities a full and equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from all of Miami University’s educational opportunities.

The complaint then calls out the nature of assistive technologies that should be available, including screen readers, Braille display, audio descriptions, captioning, and keyboard navigation. The complaint specifies that Miami U uses many technologies and content that is incompatible with these assistive technologies. Continue reading

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Worth Reading: Use of adjuncts and one challenge of online education

There is a fascinating essay today at Inside Higher Ed giving an inside, first-person view of being an adjunct professor.

2015 is my 25th year of adjunct teaching. In the fall I will teach my 500th three-credit college course. I have put in many 14- to 16-hour days, with many 70- to 80-hour weeks. My record is 27 courses in one year, although I could not do that now.

I want to share my thoughts on adjunct teaching. I write anonymously to not jeopardize my precarious positions. How typical is my situation?

The whole essay is worth reading, as it gives a great view into what the modern university and the implications of using adjuncts. But I want to highlight one paragraph in particular that captures the challenge of understanding online education.

I have taught many online courses. We have tapped about 10 percent of the potential of online courses for teaching. But rather than exploring the untapped 90 percent, the college where I taught online wanted to standardize every course with a template designed by tech people with no input from instructors.

I want to design amazing online courses: courses so intriguing and intuitive and so easy to follow no one would ever need a tutorial. I want to design courses that got students eager to explore new things. Let me be clear, I am not talking about gimmicks and entertainment; I am talking about real learning. Is anyone interested in this?

Continue reading

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LMS Is The Minivan of Education (and other thoughts from #LILI15)

During yesterday’s K-20 learning platform panel at IMS Global’s Learning Impact Leadership Institute (the panel that replaced the LMS Smackdown of year’s past), Scott Jaschik started the discussion off by asking “what is the LMS?”. As I have recently complained about our Saturn Vue that replaced a Chrysler Town & Country, the answer I provided was that the LMS is the minivan of education. Everyone has them and needs them, but there’s a certain shame having one in the driveway.

The Car Committee

It’s popular to gripe about minivans, but in reality they reflect what we (the family set with kids still at home) actually are and what we do. Sure, the minivan encourages us to throw everything in the car and continue soccer mom lives, but they do offer great seating, storage, smooth rides (on boring roads at least). Likewise, the typical LMS is in actuality still a Course Management System (CMS), which reflects how courses are organized and managed in large part.

We’re done with the boring minivan and have moved on to SUVs, but the SUV has morphed into a minivan with bad gas mileage and poor seating. It feels so nice to call it a different name, but it’s still a CMS minivan at its core.

There are new innovations in the car market, like the Tesla. The risk we face in education is falling back on our RFP-driven habits. Great car demo, but the committee is using a family-driven process.  Item #142 includes having more than 5 seats, with a place for little Kenny’s sippy cup in each. You know what, let’s just make it taller and add a hatch in the back. Item #275 requires ethanol percentages (and we read an article that batteries are risky), so  could you add in an standard engine? Two years later . . . “dammit, the LMS”.

Put it together, and the LMS is important and ubiquitous, but we all know we need better options. Despite this, take away the LMS and see if students like a different method to submit assignments or check grades for every class. Continue reading

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The ETV Personalized Learning Series: What We Hope It Contributes

It seems like there has been an avalanche of high-profile books about the future of education lately—Kevin Carey’s The End of College, Jeff Selingo’s College Unbound, Anya Kamenetz’s The Test, Michael Crow’s Designing the New American University, and Fareed Zacharia’s In Defense of a Liberal Education, to name a few. The fact that so many of these books are being written now by high-profile authors and are getting so much attention indicates that there is a sense in the public consciousness that we may be at some sort of inflection point. But it’s possible to read a bunch of these books—whatever their virtues may be—and still have only a cloudy notion of what is actually happening on the ground in classrooms right now, for several reasons. First, many of these books are written by non-educators. Second, it’s hard to paint a complete picture while also marshalling examples to support a thesis about tectonic cultural change. But maybe most importantly, it’s just hard to convey a visceral sense of what’s going on in the day-to-day educational lives of teachers and students with the written word.

Which is one reason why we’re pretty excited about the release of the first two case studies in our new e-Literate TV series on the trend of so-called “personalized learning.” We see the series as primarily an exercise in journalism. We tried not to hold onto any hypothesis too tightly going in, and we committed to reporting on whatever we found, good or bad. We did look for schools that were being thoughtful about what they were trying to do and worked with them cooperatively, so it was not the kind of journalism that was likely to result in an exposé. We went in search of the current state of the art as practiced in real classrooms, whatever that turned out to be and however well it is working.

These first case studies set the tone for the series. One is on Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, and the other is on Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey. The wide differences between these two schools is indicative of the kind of breadth that we have aspired to achieve for the whole series. Each case study is 30 minutes of video, broken into 10- to 15-minute segments, very little of which is us talking. (We will be releasing some analysis episodes that bookend the series, but those were filmed last and will come out after all the case studies.) And as we had hoped, each case study yielded some lessons and surprises for us.

Continue reading

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Release of e-Literate TV Series on Personalized Learning

Today we are thrilled to release the initial episodes in our new e-Literate TV series on “personalized learning”. In this series, we examine how that term, which is heavily marketed but poorly defined, is implemented on the ground at a variety of colleges and universities. What does it really mean in practice? What problem is intended to solve? And how well is it working?


We have initially released case studies of approximately 30 minutes each from two very different schools – Middlebury College and Essex County College. You can see all the episodes (either 2 or 3 per case study) at the series link, and you can access individual episodes below.

e-Literate TV, owned and run by MindWires Consulting, is funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. When we first talked about the series with the Gates Foundation, they agreed to give us the editorial independence to report what we find, whether it is good, bad, or indifferent.

As with the previous series, we are working in collaboration with In the Telling, our partners providing the platform and video production. Their Telling Story platform allows people to choose their level of engagement, from just watching the video to accessing synchronized transcripts and accessing transmedia. We have added content directly to the timeline of each video, bringing up further references, like e-Literate blog posts or relevant scholarly articles, in context. With In The Telling’s help, we are crafting episodes that we hope will be appealing and informative to those faculty, presidents, provosts, and other important college and university stakeholders who are not ed tech junkies.

We will release three more case studies over the next month or two, and we also have two episodes discussing the common themes we observed on the campuses. We welcome your feedback, either in comments or on Twitter using the hashtag #eLiterateTV.


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