Say What? Buzzfeed follows up on D2L story with solid reporting

In a post last month I questioned the growth claims that D2L was pushing to the media based on their recent massive funding round. A key part of the article was pointing out the lack of real reporting from news media.

It is worth noting that not a single media outlet listed by EDUKWEST or quoted above (WSJ, Reuters, Bloomberg, re/code, edSurge, TheStar) challenged or even questioned D2L’s bold claims. It would help if more media outlets didn’t view their job as paraphrasing press releases.

I should give credit where it’s due: Education reporter Molly Hensley-Clancy at Buzzfeed has done some solid reporting with her article out today.

In response to detailed questions from BuzzFeed News about figures to back up its claims of record growth in higher education and internationally, the company released a statement to BuzzFeed News, saying “As a private company, D2L does not publicly disclose these details. The past year has been one of record growth for D2L, culminating in the recent $85 million round of financing.” A representative declined to make the company’s CEO, or any other executive, available for an interview related to the company’s growth.

The stonewalling didn’t come as a surprise to former employees with whom BuzzFeed News spoke.

“The picture they’re painting of growth is not accurate,” said one former employee, who left the company within the last year and asked to remain anonymous, citing his confidentiality agreement with the company. “If you look at actual metrics, they tell a different story. They’re very likely not seeing growth in higher education.”

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Unizin Updates: Clarification on software development and potential new members

In a recent post on Kuali, I characterized Unizin as a community source initiative. Brad Wheeler, CIO at Indiana University and co-founder of Kuali and Unizin, responded via email (with permission to quote):

Unizin is not a Community Source effort in the way that I understand Community Source as we started applying the label 10+ years ago. Unizin is better understood, as you have reported, as a cloud-scale service operator somewhat like I2. It does not plan to do lots of software development other than as needed for integrations. No biggie, just a nuanced observation from the end of the story.

Brad is correct, and I note that Unizin document has been fairly consistent in the lack of plans for software development, as seen in Unizin FAQs:

Is Unizin another open- or community-source project like Sakai or Kuali?
No – those endeavors focus on building software as a community, for use by individual institutions. Unizin strives to foster a community more concerned with creating and sharing content and improving outcomes.

I have already revised the Kuali post to add a clarification on this point. I asked Brad whether this means that Unizin is ruling out software development. His reply:

Unizin is working on its roadmap for each area. If we do need to head down some development approach that is more than integration, we’ll give thought to the full range of options for best achieving that, but there is no plan to begin an open/community source effort at this time.

All public indications are that Unizin plans to source existing technologies (as they have done with Canvas as the LMS) for content repository and learning analytics functionality, focusing any software development on integrations.

Potential New Consortium Members

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Cal State Online: Public records shed light on what happened

Last month I shared the system announcement that the Cal State Online (CSO) initiative is finished. Despite the phrasing of “re-visioning” and the retention of the name, the concept of a standalone unit to deliver and market online programs for the system is gone. Based on documents obtained by e-Literate through a public records request:[1]

  • The original concept of “a standardized, centralized, comprehensive business, marketing and outreach support structure for all aspects of online program delivery for the Cal State University System” was defined in summer 2011, formally launched in Spring 2013, and ultimately abandoned in Fall 2013;
  • CSO was only able to enroll 130 full-time equivalent students (FTES) in CY2013 despite starting from pre-existing campus-based online programs and despite minimum thresholds of 16,700 FTES in the Pearson contract;
  • CSO was able to sign up only five undergraduate degree-completion programs and two master’s programs offered at four of the 23 Cal State campuses;
  • Faculty groups overtly supported investments in online education but did not feel included in the key decision processes;
  • Pearson’s contract as a full-service Online Service Provider was in place for less than one year before contract renegotiations began, ultimately leading to LMS services only; and
  • The ultimate trigger to abandon the original model was the $10 million state funding for online education to address bottleneck courses.

That last one might seem counter-intuitive without the understanding that CSO did not even attempt to support matriculated Cal State students in state-funded programs.

Terminology note: CSO measured course enrollments as “one student registered in one online course”, such that one student taking two courses would equal two course enrollments, etc. Internally CSO calculated 10 course enrollments = 1 FTES.

Below is a narrative of the key milestones and decisions as described by the public documents. I’ll share more of my thoughts in a future post.

2011

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  1. CSU officials did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story. The offer is still open if someone would like to comment. []
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Numbers: Administrative Costs Soaring? Maybe not

August 27, 2014

There’s just a mind-boggling amount of money per student that’s being spent on administration

Andrew Gillen, quoted in “New Analysis Shows Problematic Booming Higher Ed Administrators,” Huffington Post, August 26, 2014

 Administrative growth drives up costs at state-owned universities

Debra Edrleu, TribLive, July 28, 2013

 Across U.S. higher education, nonclassroom costs have ballooned, administrative payrolls being a prime example.

Wall Street Journal as quoted by Phil Hill, e-Literate, January 2, 2013

 Administrative costs on college campuses are soaring.

J. Paul Robinson, quoted in “Bureaucrats Paid $250,000 Feed OutcryOver College Costs, Bloomberg News, November 14, 2012

 Administrative Costs Mushrooming

Georget Leff , John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, September 15, 2010

 

Are these true, or generalizations that lack the rigor of research? What does the data say?

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Community Source Is Dead

As Phil noted in yesterday’s post, Kuali is moving to a for-profit model, and it looks like it is motivated more by sustainability pressures than by some grand affirmative vision for the organization. There has been a long-term debate in higher education about the value of “community source,” which is a particular governance and funding model for open source projects. This debate is arguably one of the reasons why Indiana University left the Sakai Foundation (as I will get into later in this post). At the moment, Kuali is easily the most high-profile and well-funded project that still identifies itself as Community Source. The fact that this project, led by the single most vocal proponent for the Community Source model, is moving to a different model strongly suggests that Community Source has failed.

It’s worth taking some time to talk about why it has failed, because the story has implications for a wide range of open-licensed educational projects. For example, it is very relevant to my recent post on business models for Open Educational Resources (OER).

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