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Online Learning Featured at ITHAKA Conference

Last week, CCNMTL staff attended ITHAKA Sustainable Scholarship 2012, a conference in New York City that featured a number of presentations on issues around credentialing, online learning learning, and their affect on universities.

The session, "Credentialing: Diploma, Certificate, Or Badge?," explored whether the value of a traditional diploma is being challenged by other forms of certification. Sheryl Grant, Director of Social Networking, HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media & Learning Competition, discussed the chipping away of the credentialing monopoly enjoyed by universities, demonstrating examples of alternative credentialing systems, such as the Mozilla badges initiative and the Purdue Passport. She also described similar efforts in programming circles, such as the StackOverflow badges which publicly displays badges earned by contributors and is already a source of credentials for some employers.

Larry Bacow, former president of Tufts University, moderated a session on online learning featuring Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, and Douglas Fisher, professor at Vanderbilt University. Their lively exchange covered MOOCs, business models, and student engagement in online programs. Koller commented of some of the unintended gains such as how large students groups help each other out very quickly, noting that most students' questions get answered in minutes rather than hours and at times that she would not be available. Koller stressed that Coursera is motivated by the fact that the courses available on the platform would otherwise be almost impossible to offer in many parts of the world where expenditures per student are quite minimal.